|From amateur to competing at the worlds. Seven words to mark down what has happened to Paul van Schalen this year. After 40.4 k. he finished in the men elite time trail as 53rd, with a gap to winner Santiago Botero of 2.32.11". It was not so much the result what counted, it was the competing. Being in his thirties Paul does not think he is to old to compete amongst the pros. "I am not 'already thirty', I am thirty!!! Some of the better pros nowadays only started to do great from this age on. Like for instance there is Ludo Dierckxsens. Not that I am saying I have or have not the class of him, I am just saying all things are possible."
When the present press were trying to talk him down in admitting he was just a rider at just a trade team three, he pointed out to being without a contract earlier this year when the deal with the Spar-team did not come through. He really thought of quiting then, but still had so much fun in racing he decided to give it the next go and go on.
"I had some money savings in the bank, my girlfriend has a good job, she backed me up in trying again and so I did. I did for sure invest a lot in myself, a lot of money, a lot of training a lot of efforts. But I just love this sport too much to just quit. So I kept on training, I kept on believing in myself. Did I ever come close to really leave cycling? Sure you think about it, it crosses your mind. But I consider myself no quitter. So I kept on doing training runs with a good friend of me, Jan van Velzen of the Bankgiroloterij-team. We often trained, often trained together with Bart Voskamp and Rudie Kemna and Bobbie Traksel too."
When Paul appears at the warming up area in Hasselt both his mom and dad are there. Both equally proud of their son. Mom is making photos, so does the brother who is too present there. Dad keeps on telling how proud he is of what Paul has achieved. "When it had not been for him living in Arnhem near where Van Velzen lives but still living at our place, he would not have had that stimulus to go on. Jan calls him, he calls Jan and they go training. Where we live there are almost zip other riders to go training with, almost zero extra motivitation to keep you going. And I guess that was just what Paul needed when the deal with that Belgian team fell through. He all the same could have said I go not further, but that he kept on racing it says a lot for him. And yes, now that he is competing here at the worlds, not that far from home it's his win. He made this happen, it is all due to himself. It finally pays off. For sure I am nervous about how he will be doing. We and he too do not expect miracles, just hope he is doing the best he can and that he sort of in a way satisfied when he finishes. Some weeks ago he received the phone call from headcoach Gerrie Knetemann that he was substitute for the Worlds. That had a great deal to do with his results at the national timetrial championships. He finished third and now with Erik Dekker giving his forfeit for this timetrial here in Zolder he just have to put his vacation off a little more."
"We all have it planned," a proud dad continues in explaining. "I parked my car just outside the major road around Hasselt, the other roads are all blocked one way or the other. So I will watch him start here, then my wife and I take off on our bikes too to watch Paul pass by at the Stokrooie-bridge, then we hurry ourself to the car, drive the fastest we can to Zolder, take our bikes again and try to reach the finishline before Paul does." With his dad blabbering proudly about all he think his son has achieved, Paul just keeps on warming up like he never did something else before. Like he always belonged at the Worlds. He has an all new bike with him, tried it out earlier this week, adjusted some minor things and looks his confident self. Looking back at this year he for sure can be confident.
Just after he re-started as a pro in the Axa-team he won the first big race he started, in Midden-Brabant. He did well in the races that followed, with his best result a bronze medal on the national timetrail championships. "I aimed there at a spot in the top ten." So very true is the third place in the final ranking, behind national champion Erik Dekker and Servais Knaven. When asked why he is not that much seen in results and so on he explains: "Well, I am more a guy who really likes working for others. I like riding head on for the first hours of the race working for our man in the race and then be totally worn out after say 150 kilometres. Thats what makes me feel satisfied."
This tactic suited him well in the OZ-Tour Beneden Maas. In the first part of this race in windy Zeeland, Holland, he rode his butt off for Mark Vlijm, the sprinter in the Axa-team. But he noted down some fine results himself too, finishing third in the Dutch semi-classic Henk Vos Memorial, doing well in another semi-classic, Groningen-Muenster, and kept following the pace well too in the Ster Elektro Toer. He admits he is not that much seen in the front for people who do not watch that much cycling or just watch it on TV.
"At most of the races we do there is a lack of press presence. So if I ride such a hard race for the first part of it nobody outside the ones present knows about it, no press to write about it, no TV to broadcast it. My legs just did not have that bit extra today, I did the best I could. Before the start Knetemann told me to have some fun too. At the race really I did not... When your legs hurt like hell at 20 k. and you still have the same amount of metres to go, it's no fun. But now, afterward, yes, I'm glad, I think it is really an honour to be able to ride here. What I am going to with this national suit? Don't know yet, guess I will wash it first...."
"When I first started out as a professional I raced with Batavus (now Bankgiroloterij). Stayed there two years, the team was just starting out then. Like I think every team in their early years it is more or less difficult to find your way in the peloton. And so after that period I decided, due to a lot of reasons, to leave the team. If I regret that decision now, seeing how Bankgiroloterij is doing nowadays? Regret that decision, no, but I think it was not the right one...when I had known all then what I knew just a few weeks after I left the team... Then they signed both Bart Voskamp as a rider and Johan Capiot as a teamleader. When I have the opportunity I certainly want to go back to that team, I know the riders would want me to come back too, Voskamp really would like to have me in the team. Also talked to the manager Arend Scheppink about it, he did not give me a specific reason, but up to now the answer is no. And he is the one to decide who comes or not. He is the one who hands over the contract. Sure there have some things been in the past why I left the team, but that is all in the clear now, I do not have any problems with whomsoever about whatsoever.
"When my deal with Spar did not come through, when I decided I regardless of that to give it another go, I myself called the team manager of Axa. I know Bjoern Cornelissen well, he is the one who got fired by the team due to a 'doping case'. Asked him if it was all right by him that I would make that call to the manager and try to take his place in the team. He was fine with it, I called and two days later I signed, for two years.
"My goals for next year, do well in for instance the Belgian semi-classics like there are Omloop 'T Volk and Gent-Wevelgem. In that last race I in the past did do well and finished top 20. Those races are my favourites. When you start out as a pro, you certainly want to reach the highest level possible. At first that's riding amongst the pros, then it is riding the classics. Having not reached that level so far, true, but here I find myself competing at the men elite timetrial at the World Championships... Seem a pretty high level to me. And who knows, when I do well in a bigger race next season, what bigger team is eager to sign me on. But right now I am pretty happy in the team I am in now. Like I said I love to ride my butt off until my legs hurt like hell...!"