Karl Vannieuwkerke: “I love watching the women’s race just like the men’s race”

Karl Vannieuwkerke: “I love watching the women’s race just like the men’s race”

an interview

The end point of the Tour de France was last Sunday on the Champs-Elysees. But that wasn’t the case for Vive Le Velo. The talk show crew stayed in France and added an extra week to it with their first female tour. “The same logic,” says show host Karl Vanneukerek. cycling flash He went to Diksmuide just before the start of the tour to have an intense chat with one of the faces of VRT.

Karl Vannieuwkerke has been given an additional assignment at VRT this year. Due to the forced retirement of Michelle Wittes, 51-year-old West Fleming was asked to take on his role as commentator in the spring. Although Vannieuwkerke did not immediately give up when he received the offer.

“I wasn’t expecting that either,” he says. “In 2001 I was really hanging out, then with Mark Uytterhoeven. I was still green behind my ear then. After that I was in some competitions with Michel, but not much. For a while I was a co-host with Renate and Michel on a number of big tours. I thought my strength It lay in the submission. That was one of the reasons I didn’t immediately jump out of my seat when Peter de Wendt (Sporza editor-in-chief, editor) made the proposal to me a year and a half ago.”

one of?
Plus, I already had a fairly complete agenda. Another question was whether my decision had consequences for what would happen to Michelle and Waits. It seems that this is not the case. Michel had to retire, and if I didn’t, Peter would knock on other people’s doors. He also had a clear plan: Robin (Van Gucht) women’s competitions, and Renate (Shot) grand tours. They also split the cyclocross season. Then I will be outperformed in the big one-day races with Jose. “I think you can and you’ll be the only one who won’t be compared to Michelle‘ seemed.”

Which quickly approved?
“The question came in March 2021. I let him drown for a month. In April, after the broadcast of a Vive le vélo, long live RondeI spoke about it with Jose de Coeur. He didn’t know anything yet. I told him the story and asked for his opinion. He didn’t say anything at first, but he grabbed me and gave it to me pager (red kiss). “You will do that, right? I knew enough of that. “

did you love her?
“We had fun, yes. And received a lot of great feedback, also from the riders. It turns out that the interaction between me and Jose was a success.”

Did you consciously or unconsciously adopt things from Michelle Yates? or not?
Each commentator has his own style. And you don’t really want to Michael’s stamp They are glued, but subconsciously things creep in anyway. Michel has provided colorful commentary all these years. Things remain in the collective memory. Personally, I have a less persuasive style than Michelle, I think. It is also my strength at the table.”

“Show empathy, listen and capture what’s going on. I’ve never sat at a table with a written setup. In 25 years, I’ve never used an autocue. But keywords and topics. Then my editor expects. He notices I’m following a conversation and moving a block. Then moving in the direction.”

How important is De Cauwer staying on board to you?
“Maybe I wouldn’t have done it without Jose. We’re the same two, right? We see something quickly, we know where it’s heading, we understand each other. And the interaction works. We also notice it in the reaction of the viewers. Jose has been given more space than before because I More practice listening by moderation at the table. There is more interaction.”

What are De Cauwer’s greatest abilities for you?
“First of all is his memory. This is very noticeable. You think, as I get older… but he doesn’t leave anything behind. Both his long and short-term memory are almost intact. I am even jealous of it. Sometimes my short-term memory disk is full Very quickly. He also has strong opinions, but he does it without dropping anyone. He is respectful of that. As a sports director, he was a people managerHey. He brought this experience with him in his role as co-commentator.”

Sometimes you are accused of being overly chauvinistic…
“I don’t have a problem with that. Is participation important? If the Red Devils are playing against France, why not the commentator with the Devils? If Wout van Aert leads the way in the Tour with Mathieu van der Poel, that’s another thing. But when he goes out with Benoît Cosnefroy, shouldn’t you support him? You have to have that experience with people.”

“That’s relative, by the way. Fans hear what they want to hear about the passenger. I remember commenting on the tennis matches between Kim and Justin. Then I got emails from Camp Clijsters saying I like Justin a lot, but I got almost identical messages from Camp Hénin.”

Karl Vanokkerke preparing for his tour with our RIDE magazine – Photo: © Nico Dick

Do you take into account that part of your audience is Dutch?
“Yes. If the Belgians and the Dutch are up front, we focus on both. That also applies to Vive le Vélo by the way. A lot of the Dutch are involved.”

To start with yourself. Is this necessary? Nothing against Marijn de Vries or Bram Tankink, for example, but no Flemish alternatives?
“We’re always looking for chemistry on our table. Eddie Merckx recently asked me this question during a dinner. We have 28 episodes this year, which means 84 guests. I asked Eddie to fill in the names. He didn’t stray too far. It’s not that clear, while we’re open to names New “.

“Instead of two guests, we switched to three a while ago, and one of them is always a real analyst. If you have two guests who are not directly related to the race, it is difficult to analyze the stage and that limits my questions as a presenter. After all, you don’t want to denigrate your guests.”

What criteria must the analysts and other guests meet?
“We have to reach a wide audience for four weeks, but without really taking away from the race. Indeed, Marijn de Vries and Bram Tankink are good examples. Bram is very charming and funny at times, Marijn shines on screen. They can express her beautifully, give an opinion and guarantee Interaction, which is also important. They also understand how it works.”

In addition, analysts must also commit to following the course throughout the year. Also something you don’t find with everyone. In short, there are many aspects that come together and there are few people that bring them together. Eddie Blankart? You can say whatever you want about Eddie, but I’m still a fan. Sometimes he’s too excited, but he does it well.”

Do you determine the choice of guests?
“I have my opinion on it, but our core editorial team is made up of six people: two editors, three editors and me. Each of us makes our lists and then brainstorms. With every analyst there should be a second and third guest, not necessarily having Lots of course.From there it grows more and we try to make perfect combinations.I have an important voice in it.Who I see on my table, according to possible topics.Although you should know that we have the perfect combination only in 40 percent of cases.And that in turn has his relationship to our guests’ holiday plans or professional agendas.”

New this year: the women’s tour. It’s great that VRT keeps up with this story and stays on site for another week of Vive le vélo. She looks like a female sports champion anyway.
I don’t want to allocate those credits. I squeezed that in a little bit, first with tennis, then into cycling. But that went slowly. I’ve always found that to make sense for myself, but it took time to grow. I soon realized that the more interest in women’s cycling was, the more professional it was to work and the more money it would make. Today we got to the point where I love to watch a women’s match as much as I love to watch a men’s match.”

“Look, cycling is a sport where the physical difference doesn’t really show when you see men and women riding separately. It’s about the tactical game. I’d like to point out this year’s Tour of Flanders, where Lotte Kubicki leads the final where the men were going to play in the final. Don’t notice. At that moment it is going at a slower speed of a few kilometers per hour.”

Vannieuwkerke presenting the Dwars door Vlaanderen – Photo: Cor Vos

Isn’t this true of all women’s sports?
“It’s just a matter of time. I have a daughter who plays football in the first division. If I could, I would support, but that’s because she’s my daughter. The level is not yet what it should be. But the European Football Championship – like this summer – broadcast live on TV helps. The girls started in getting to know themselves.

How did that develop in VRT?
“This has also been a process. But I can say the current administration is fully committed to it. Everyone realized we couldn’t go home straight after the Champs Elysees ride on Sunday night. That’s not the case anymore. No, VRT certainly can’t be wrong with the women’s story.” As long as it is about quality. As I just said, the Belgian women’s soccer Premier League is not ready yet. Some sports owe it to themselves to expand the upper tier first.”

around you. I understand you had a number of offers outside of VRT last year.
“I can’t deny it, although it doesn’t have to be an item right away. But I worked for the public broadcaster for 24 years and changed to independent last year. So I was already available in the market, and a number of other major media parties came in – without Name names – to talk to me.”

But you stayed loyal to VRT. From a financial point of view?
“Honestly? I could have earned so much anywhere other than VRT, but I basically wanted to make my subject choice. Vive le Vélo is my child. I drew that out of a blank sheet of paper. I didn’t want to just give it up. Also in terms of Content: When I pitch for a football match, I don’t want to be limited to three minutes during the first half because of the big publicity blocks. Now it’s thirteen minutes. Then you can go deeper into something.”

Vive le Vélo, tonight at 9.15pm on One.

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