He’s turning 40 in October of this year, and he rides for
Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, among guys that could be his sons. Johan Museeuw, 12
months younger, is quitting in April, but Ludo just keeps on riding. Now that
Marco Pantani has left the temporary for the eternal, there has to be at least
one “pirate” in the peloton, aye?
That big smile of his never fades; his mouth ready for a fresh bite into yet
another cycling season. Ludo Dierckxsens is a symbol of a time that will never
2004 Team presentation. By cyclingpictures.de.
The news of Les Gray passing away, earlier this week, is something Ludo
Dierckxsens probably has reflected on for a while, albeit on his own. Because
the horde of young guns that populate the Landbouwkrediet-Colnago team has most
likely never heard of the singer of the seventies-band Mud.
(He laughs) "Hey, you’re not trying to make me look like a granddad, are you?
I’ll have you know that I can keep up quite well with the young guys! I even
like the music those youths listen to. In some way, my profession keeps me young
of spirit. I get along just fine with guys like Boonen, who are almost two
decades younger than me. And when I run into a former classmate of mine there’s
a noticeable difference.”
GVA: So, there’s no generation gap, at all?
Ludo Dierckxsens: Of course there is. It often shows that I have a
surplus of life-experience, but maybe only for now. Because I notice that my
colleagues are rapidly passing me by. A sign of the times, that.
My son Jochem is the best example: he’s 12, and when I look at him it seems
that there’s not much left for me to teach him.When I was his age I never even
had sex ed. (grins) That’s one father-son talk I won’t have to go through. But
mind you, I wouldn’t want to be in their place either. It’s all chatting,
pc-games and texting these days. I don’t want to sound like an old fart, but I
was born in a time in which you simply approached a girl you liked. And I’m not
even talking about how I spent my youth on the street, or rather, could spend.
Nowadays you’d get run over by a car in no time.
GVA: You got married again in 2001. Thinking of expanding the family?
LD: Yes. I’m not ruling anything out with regards to that. And no, I’m
not afraid of the fact that I’d be an “old dad”. Being one of the “aged” is
something in your head. 30 years ago, people regarded someone of 50 years old as
if they had one foot in the grave. Nowadays society sees them as full persons,
and rightfully so, obviously.
GVA: Someone who’s approaching 40 isn’t exactly gonna improve anymore,
athletically speaking. Don’t you ever wonder what you could have achieved if you
had turned pro when you were younger?
LD: It’s a double-sided blade. If I had turned pro when I was 22 I
might not have been riding anymore at this age. Being a pro rider is demanding
on both body and mind. I wanted to try it much earlier, but because of my
ex-wife I waited until I was 30. If she had been more understanding of my
ambitions, my career might have been totally different, who knows. She wanted me
to cling to my job at Daf, while I badly wanted to build a career in sports.
Why, you ask? She preferred to have someone who’d sit by here at the fireplace
at the end of the day, she couldn’t cope with the a pro’s absence at home. It
showed later on, when our marriage went off track.
GVA: Well, a thirty-year old giving up a steady job for an insecure
existence as a pro rider, for a much lower wage at that, is not really a
LD: No, but what would you expect, when cycling is all you think
about…besides, the risk wasn’t that great. I took 3 years of unpaid vacation, in
order to make it big as a pro rider. Admittedly, Jochem had only just been born
so there were mouths to be fed, but if things would have gone wrong I could have
taken up my old job as a spray-painter anytime I wanted to. Making the final
decision wasn’t hard either. In 1997 I’d won the GP of Denain and came in 2nd in
the national championship. And there was an offer from Lotto waiting for me to
GVA: …the team with whom you broke a running contract after your first
season, in order to sign for Lampre. You surprised a lot of people with that
LD: True, it’s not how I like to solve things. Believe me, I would
still be riding for Lotto if it hadn’t been for Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke. He might
have been a good manager, but he was a worthless DS. But really, I thought a lot
on making that step, lost a lot of sleep over it. But I turned my heart ice cold
for a moment, and in time it showed that I made the right decision.
GVA: That doesn’t quite live up to the “good old Ludo” image.
LD: Ah well, sometimes people tell me that I’m not enough of a bastard
to win races. So be it. I wouldn’t want to live my life as a bastard. Look, I’ve
had very few racing days like the Tour of Flanders of 2001, the one Bortolami
won. I was powering so hard in the race that Erik Dekker (who was in the winning
group of eight together with Ludo) came to me at 70 kilometres before the end
and asked if I couldn’t slow the pace down a bit. “Ludo”, he told me, “I won’t
participate in the sprint if you do so”. Who came inches short of winning
Flanders in the sprint? Dekker. And who came in 7th? Right. Me. It could be that
I’m a bit too naïve in those situations.
GVA: Coming from the man who consciously prevented friend and training
companion Wilfried Peeters from taking away Paris-Roubaix, one week later.
LD: I was even stronger than in the Tour of Flanders, that day, if
that's possible. And I believed 100% in my own chances. Do you think I
felt any joy when I caught Peeters (who escaped right after the forest of
But I had to defend my and my sponsors’ ambitions, darn it! I don’t think
that the persons that pay my paycheck would have found it very funny if I
consciously gave away a classic victory to an opponent, even if he’s a close
friend of mine. “Fitte” was angry, afterwards. He could have been on the
palmares of one the most beautiful races of in the world, so I understood his
grief; painful as it might have been for me. The whole thing didn’t linger on
too long in my mind, but I’m afraid that it’s different for Peeters. It’s a
GVA: Let’s talk a bit about that bald head and earring of yours. Do you
feel some sort of connection with Pantani?
LD: I might be a popular rider here in Belgium, but I’m far from the
divine-like halo of Pantani. I’m enjoying the fame that comes with being a pro
rider, but mostly because I still have room and time for a private life, apart
from it. That’s a luxury that Pantani never knew.
When Marco Pantani put his nose out of the door it was big news in Italy.
Sometimes I sigh when I have to give 50 autographs, but that’s nothing compared
to the masses that constantly harassed Pantani when he rode in Italy.
After a while everyone tried their best to shield him from all the attention.
Even his colleagues couldn’t go and chat with him during the races anymore,
there was no way through his “guard” of team-mates. And then you see that a man
like that starts to lose control, becomes gradually lonelier, and dies a
miserable death with no one around. (shivers) I wouldn’t have wanted to trade
places with him for anything in this world, even with all his fame and money. I
just want to be Ludo, nothing more.
Ludo at the 2003 Tour de Region Wallone. By cycling-photos.net.
Ludo Dierckxsens Bio
Born 1964, Belgium
Professional since 1994
Teams: Saxon 1994, Collstrop 1995, Tonisteiner 1996-1997, Lotto 1998, Lampre
1999-2002, Landbouwkrediet Colnago 2003
15 3 Days of De Panne
2 Tour of Belgium
3 Belgian Championships TT
4 Clasica Haribo
9 3 Days of De Panne
10 Cto. Belgica
14 4 Days Dunkerque
18 Tour of Flanders
108 Tour de France
5 Flecha Brabançona
5 Belgian Championships TT
8 Trofeo Palmanova
8 Tour of Flanders
11 GP Escalda-Schoten
13 Tour of Holland
3 GP Melle
3 GP Ninove
1 Belgian Championships
1 - Stage 11 Tour de France
8 Clasica Haribo
8 Flecha Brabançona
1 GP Deinze
2 GP Houtem-Vilvoorde
2 GP Oeste-Plouay
3 GP Westrozebeke
3 Region Walloon
3 Hew-Cyclassics Cup
4 GP Fayt Le Franc
4 E3 Harelbeke
7 GP Melle
10 Trofeo Luis Puig
13 Vuelta Galicia
34 Vuelta España
1 GP Denain
1 GP Belsele
1 GP Izegem
2 GP Vilvoorde
2 Flecha Ardenesa
3 Vuelta Colonia
3 GP Desselgem
4 C. Pais Waas
4 Flecha Haspengouwse
5 GP Wanzele
5 GP Kortemark
6 Flecha Knokke
7 GP Fayt Le Franc
10 GP Wielsbeke
10 GP Isbergues
1 GP Vilvoorde
1 GP Ruddervoorde
2 Circuito Pais Waas
3 GP Fayt-Le-Franc
4 GP Rennes
4 GP Buggenhout
5 GP Belsele-Puivelde
7 Omloop Het Volk
7 Flecha Knokke-Heist
7 GP Sint Niklaas
8 Circuito Ardenas Flamencas
8 Traves Morbihan
Original interview appeared in Gazet Van
Antwerpen. Thanks to Jan Janssens for the translation and to todociclismo.