Friday the 13th: Farewell interview with 42-year-old Eileen Van Looy


It starts this winter cycling flash New chapter: Friday the Thirteenth. Every Friday at 1.13pm you can read an interview with a cross or cyclocross racer who has finished 13th the weekend before. This ranges from little girls to elite men, from C2-cross to the World Cup. what’s the story This time the thirteenth number of the cross in Otegem is among the women’s elites: Ellen Van Looy.

This week there are no emerging talents that we get to know better in this section. An established value, which is still competitive at age 42 (!) “Obviously, what was my strength is no longer for me,” says Van Looy of her 13th place in Weversmisdagcross at Otegem. “A lot of heavy logs. I couldn’t go further and saw riders passing me on all sides. Which is not a shame, of course, given my age.”

The day before, she finally achieved a feat for herself in the BC in Lokeren. Van Looy crossed the line in eighth place, but was the club’s third rider on the score. She was allowed on stage again with Jana Dupilari and Julie Brewers. “Out of all the riders who were on the podium this weekend, I was probably the happiest. I felt like all the riders, fans and people behind the scenes wished me a good bye. The respect I get from everyone is very special. Even though it was still Tough fight.”

Together with Sani Kant, the main figure in the Belgian women’s cycling race – Image: Cor Vos

Open late
So Van Looy had a career of her own, which we’ll look at with her again. It is not inconsequential that she still finds necessary cyclocross fun at the age of 42, because the woman from Herentals took her first steps in the world of cyclocross quite late. “I’ve been a volleyball player all my youth,” says Van Looy.

“Until I met my boyfriend, who is now my husband, when I was 21. In addition to playing volleyball, he loved cycling. Thanks to him, I started doing that too. Between the ages of 21 and 28, volleyball became less important to me, while I the opposite motion in cycling.

“At first I cycled more recreationally; I went on a bike holiday or rode with local cycling tour groups on Sunday afternoons. Via an intermediate step into triathlon, I only started riding my first real races in 2008. It’s when I noticed during the triathlons that Cycling was clearly my strongest point, I applied for my first permit to race.”

A whole new world opened up for Van Loy, one that brought her unexpectedly to the sub-top of the cross. “So unexpected that I never considered giving up my job as a cyclocross educator. I’ve always loved being a teacher, and that—especially in my early years—was my only certainty. At the age of 28 I didn’t know what cyclocross would bring me.”

“I knew I could earn a pretty penny using it, but giving up my job wasn’t a problem at all. Only when things were going well did I start working part-time (19 hours a week). The team – then Telenet Fidea – paid me a flat fee that I didn’t Be generous. But that way I got a great extra job, in addition to my regular job.”

Gavier is one of the biggest wins in its comfort – Image: Core Voss

De Kempense has won classics like Gavere and Diegem in her career, but couldn’t she be more if she focused entirely on the occasional? “Looking back, I sometimes waited a long time before making choices. I probably should have made the move to work part-time earlier. But you should know: Being 28, I fell from one surprise to the next. It all went fast.” And smoothly, so I was sometimes easier than necessary.

“My workouts were often just a commute, with a little extra. You ride in the top 10, you go to the World Cup, and that was so much fun. It wasn’t until I was 34 that I really took it seriously.” And I thought: maybe I should start training hard or buy an wattage meter.But physically, the best years of my life were behind me, which also made me wonder: do I still want to invest in it?

A career like Van Loy’s probably won’t be possible in 2023. “He’s become so professional in such a short time that if you’re only into spin-offs half the time, you’ll never get to the top. But I also have to admit that, even in a while My peak, I would never compete in a top 5 in cyclo-cross today. My advantage was that the peak was less wide then.”

“Well, you had Daphne van den Brand, Thallita de Jong, Marianne Vos, Sane Kant. But without that she was often less occupied. You had to fight for your place in the first three tournaments, but you could hold it until the end. Now you sometimes get into the last lap with ten.”

Bicycle instructor
Is that broad crest also the reason Van Looy finished it off after this season – in the closing Oostmalle Prize? “My age is the biggest reason. If you look at the participant lists, you’ll see that I’m the oldest. Often the second oldest contestant is in her late 30s, and that difference is pretty big. I’ve been passed by girls half my age. It’s no shame, of course, because sometimes I end up “I can finish well in the peloton or on the same lap as the winner. But because of the high level, I sometimes have to look far at the result.”

Van Looy at the Valkenburg World Cup – Photo: Cor Voss

“So my biggest goal over the past few weeks has been clear: to finish as many races as possible. It has sometimes fallen short in recent weeks, because of the 80% rule that takes riders who fall far behind their lane. I admit it feels terrible. There are girls who experience that every week, But I’m not used to it and lose motivation because of it.”

“I don’t have a proper starting position, so I’m on the big drums in the early rounds. I can’t lead my own career until late, and by then the best is already over. Fortunately, many people have a warm heart for me, so – even if He was struggling – finish the races b a smile. “

De Kempense will start a new chapter in her life from March. But cycling will never be far away. “Cycling is over. But I’m adding another road season, because I think I can play a role for the girls on the De Ceuster-Bonache team. Also in the long term, I’d like to continue supporting the girls as youth coaches. Cross is currently dominated by Dutch ladies, but I’d like to give I do my best to prepare Belgian girls for international violence.”

How Van Looy will do that is yet to be determined within the team. But she already has some ideas of her own. “Don’t ask me to make training schedules. I know a lot from experience, but what works for me, I can’t just show it to other girls. That’s why I see myself more as a moderator. The coach is the messenger he says: Do this.”

“But I can effectively take the girls out on the road and communicate with the trainer: This works with Racer X, that’s very heavy. You can call it a kind of control-motivational function. In addition, I can also explore courses and give tips on technique and choices for certain lines. I want to I do everything I can to help young people.”

Ellen Van Looy Profile

Photo: Cor Vos

Noun: Ellen Van Lowe
nation: science be Belgium
Omar: 42 years old
category: elite women
plow: Ceuster Bonache Cycling Team
Favorite cross: Names. A very difficult cross, but thanks to the natural obstacles on the castle, it was also very beautiful.
If I weren’t a motocross racer, I would be: Jam
superstitious: number. My competition day always looks the same, timing and nutrition-wise. But this is not superstitious, but because I know it works for me.

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