Former rider Scott Sunderland has been appointed the general race director for Flanders Classics. The Belgian group looks after the organisation of races such as Gent-Wevelgem, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and their flagship race the Tour of Flanders, among other events.
Sunderland has already worked with Flanders Classics after becoming the race director for the inaugural running of their new event the Great War Remembrance Race in 2018. The Australian believes that the one-day race was a testing ground for him, but he was still surprised by being approached for the new role.
“I’m very happy and proud to have this opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it,” Sunderland said. “Wouter Vandenhaute and Tomas Van Den Spiegel [owner and CEO of Flanders Classics respectively] approached me before, they talked about bringing the GWRR to a broader public, particularly to the US, Australia, the UK and Canada. And it was great, I really enjoyed it. Working together with the Gent-Wevelgem organisation was really enjoyable.
“I think that was sort of my initiation. If I did a good job, then this was on the table. It caught me by surprise when I was offered to take on this role as a general race director across all events.”
Sunderland’s role will be an overarching one and he will be the point of contact for anything in relation to the course, the regulations and other race-related issues. He will maintain close contact with the individual directors of each event in the build-up and running of the races.
Sunderland retired from professional racing in 2004 after a career that spanned more than a decade. In the early part of his career, he rode for Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix winner Peter Van Petegem at TVM and spent two years at Lotto–Isoglass – now Lotto-Soudal. Since his retirement, he has worked as a directeur sportif at CSC, where the team won back to back Paris-Roubaix with Fabian Cancellara and Stuart O’Grady in 2006 and 2007. He also worked with British Cycling and subsequently Team Sky in their first season, helping them to victory at that year’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
“I learned about all the insights, particularly from Peter Van Petegem,” explained Sunderland. “I learned a lot from him and how he approached the race, about the tactics. My training buddy was Serge Baguet. So, we got a lot of inside knowledge from the Flemish boys and the local guys, with both Baguet and Van Petegem coming from around Brakel. So, I got a pretty good inside run on how to run a good Classics race.”
As well as working on the Great War Remembrance Race with Flanders Classics, Sunderland has been the race director at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race since its inception in 2013. He is currently in Australia for the event, which is running this weekend. Sunderland’s first event as Flanders Classics general race director will be Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, March 2.