Playing the Wild Card
As the spring is tempting the flowers and trees to show their crisp new colours, a new flock of young Belgian riders seems to be blooming as well. Vansummeren, Boonen, Devolder, Nuyens, Gilbert, Van Huffel... their names are popping up everywhere in the Belgian Cycling press, and most of all, in the results. Kevin Van Impe is one of them.
The nephew of the last Belgian Tour de France winner Lucien Van Impe is only 23, but determined to confirm his promising talent this season. A solid start in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, where he finished second, has given Kevin renewed credibility and he is eager to show more. Cyclingnews' Sabine Sunderland met up with this congenial Flandrien, in the lead up to the Ronde Van Vlaanderen.
Somewhat hidden away from the busy traffic in between Oudenaarde and Aalst, in the small town of Bambrugge, I'm welcomed by the warm smile of Sally Van Impe-Van Oudenhove. The interior of their freshly painted cottage is very much Laura Ashley/Flamant style, romantic and extremely homey.
"We live here with my parents," Sally explains "Our house will be built in the not so distant future. But as a young couple we have to save our pennies and it's great to be able to share my parents' place as long as we don't have our own nest."
Kevin smiles shyly, "I'll need to show my face this season and get a bigger contract next year, building a house here in Belgium costs you an arm and a leg!"
Racing bikes is something deeply ingrained into the Van Impe family. Uncle Lucien was one of the biggest climbing talents ever; the ex-winner of the Tour de France took the polka-dot jersey home six times. But Kevin's father Frank also knew how to ride a bike. He was pro for 7 years and is still very much involved with the sport as director of the Belgian Keukens Redant amateur team.
"You can say cycling is in my blood," Van Impe admits. "It's all I know. It's everything. I don't have a big degree; I live to ride that bike. I tried soccer for a while, but it was clear pretty quickly that I should stick to the bike."
Click here to read the full interview