Sven Vanthourenhout and Axel Merckx rumoured frontrunners for Belgian coaching job

Belgian press reporting possible job share for national road coach role

Axel Merckx and current Belgian cyclo-cross national team coach Sven Vanthourenhout may share the vacant national road coach role, according to reports in the Belgian press.

Het Laatste Nieuws reported on their website on Monday that an arrangement may be made whereby Merckx would look after the pro riders and Vanthourenhout would take care of the amateur and younger riders.

The available part-time role as national coach is essentially one of national selector, choosing the riders to represent the nation at road events such as the World or European Championships, and sharing the role might allow both Merckx and Vanthourenhout to continue in their other roles as boss of the Hagens Berman Axeon Pro Continental team in North America and as the national cyclo-cross coach, respectively.

As reported last month, Axel Merckx had said he was "honoured" to be considered for the job, but had reportedly tried to assure the Belgian federation that he'd be capable of continuing to run Hagens Berman Axeon at the same time.

Director of Belgian Cycling, Jos Smets, confirmed to Dutch website Wielerflits.nl in October that both Merckx and fellow former pro Peter Van Petegem were "two names on a list of 20" – a long list that may also have included former cyclo-cross pro Vanthourenhout.

While talks are still ongoing, according to hln.be, Vanthourenhout would continue as the Belgian cyclo-cross coach while also coaching on the road, and would act as an assistant to Merckx when it came to the pro riders.

The national road coach role was vacated by Kevin De Weert after the UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria, at the end of September, as De Weert will begin a new job as performance manager at WorldTour team Lotto Soudal in January 2019.

It was a disappointing road Worlds in Austria for the Belgain national team, other than Remco Evenepoel's victories in the junior men's time trial and road race.

Vanthourenhout, meanwhile, oversaw gold medals for Sanne Cant and Wout van Aert in the elite women's and men's races at the 2018 UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships earlier this year, as well as Eli Iserbyt's win in the under-23 race.

Van Aert and Laurens Sweeck also took silver and bronze at the UEC Cyclo-Cross European Championships at the weekend, and there was silver for Iserbyt in the U23 race, and silver and bronze in the junior men's event for Witse Meeussen and Thibau Nys.

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