How To Join The Pros In Europe: An Interview With Bernard Moerman of The Cycling Center
PCN- So how did the Cycling Center originally start?
BM – Paul Naessens (retired sales-engineer of New Holland) asked us to house an American rider for 6 weeks. We did that and then 2 guys came and then 3 etc. We found out that there was more needed then a bed and a bath to let the riders develop to their best, that’s why and how we started the Cycling Center.
PCN- Were you involved in cycling before you started the Cycling Center?
BM – No, I was a pro-soccer-player. I knew who Eddy Merckx and Roger De Vleaminck were but that’s about it.
PCN- What were your first impressions of American cyclists coming to Belgium?
BM – That they were very brave and determinated to leave their home-ground and loved-ones to get their ass kicked. Also we found out that they needed a lot of guidance because racing and living here is so different then in the States. Everything is different, even the water tastes different.
PCN- Development seems to be the theme for the Cycling Center. What support does the Cycling Center provide for development?
BM – Yes, it’s all about development. We first check the individual level of every rider and according to that level we start building up a program and monitor all what happens. Our staff is very strict but we can show results and all the riders do understand what we do and why. According to their level we bring them to the kind of racing they need at that moment to develop points like, endurance, race tactics, intensity, teamwork etc. All races, whatever kind, we enter with a purpose. We don’t allow riders to ride as a ‘tourist’. Racing over here is a serious business. The range of race we attend goes from local ‘Kermesses, over hard-core kermesses, 1.12 and 1.6 UCI-races to stage-races against the top-amateur-teams in Europe and UCI 1.5 pro-am races (sometimes done in cooperation with the National Team).
PCN- How is the development of the riders coming along this year?
BM – Pretty good, we are a little ahead of schedule. We let every rider train hard and race to his limits and until now it looks like they all swallowed it well. They don’t get sick, they don’t get fatigued. So it looks very promising when you know that we still think that everybody can still grow 15 to 30 % this season. Also mentally it looks like they all know this is very serious and will take more than one season to reach the top of their potential. Also the National Coach Noel Dejonckheere is very pleased with the appearances of our riders in the National Team so far. By all this we are already able to expose some riders in the bigger top-amateur-UCI-races in Europe.
PCN- What are the selection criteria for the Cycling Center?
BM – Since this program is about development my main selection criteria is the mentality of the rider. We want to help those guys who want to reach their limits and who are aware that they still need to learn a lot. We invest our time and our sponsor-money in those who are ready to invest in themselves. We do not look for those who think they are the king because they had some results or wore a certain jersey for whatever reason. A good result is never an end, it is always the beginning of even harder work. So to select the guys we send questionnaires with tons of questions about a lot of stuff. Also we try to check those riders via our network and we try to see them in our pre-season trainingscamps held in the states. We do not necessarily pick all cat1-riders. I figured out that this system is not water-proof. For me a cat 2 or even sometimes a cat 3 that really wants to go all the way makes more chances of making it to the CC then a cat 1 who thinks to be one little step away from glitter. After all, racing is a never ending story. You always want to reach the next higher level.
PCN- A program like yours takes a lot of hard work. Who are the people who help make the Cycling Center a place of development?
BM – Indeed, it takes a lot of hard work and patience, like said before it’s all about development. Therefor I built a staff of people who think the same way as I do. They all want to help, the honest, clean and straight riders to reach their potential. Ann, my wife is the ‘mum’ for the riders, My statement here is simple: “Without her would be no Cycling Center.” The way she brings the ‘home away from home’ atmosphere is just fabulous, Just ask the guys,… when somebody is sick, a birthday, a victory, a crash, whatever…, she is always there. We are married for over 20 years and we do not have children, but every season she has more than 10 big kids.
Dr. Dag Van Elslande and USCF-licensed-coach Corey Hart together with me make the personalized programs for the individual riders according to their needs and possibilities. With this combination I cover medical control, scientific knowledge, experience, European and American trainings and all on the spot because our coach lives with us and our Dr. comes every 14 days to check the guys in person. Our physiotherapist Stephanie is also a sport-addicted person who loves to help us out. Also with all the hard work we give the riders we want to make sure their position on the bike is correct, therefor we work together with Frans our Bike-fit-guy who is just great and a big professional, ask Eddy Merckx, Peers, Mathan. They all go there.
Together with this staff I may not forget to mention the network of people in the states that help me find those guys that really want to find their limits. People like: Danny Van Haute, John Eustice, Barney King, Bill Haris, Dan Possley, Benjamin Sharp, Chris Baldwin, Kirk Willett, Craig Slaughter, Jim Miller, Dirk Friel etc etc. You see, I built our staff to make sure we can cut all the variables out. That means that we provide a fertile ground for development and there is no place to hide or to make excuses. That means each rider becomes responsible for his own development. With our staff we always try to tell the guys what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.
PCN- So what is the ABC-AITOS cycling team?
BM – Every member of the Cycling Center rides for the ABC-AITOS team, and it is a total American team. This allows us to enter all the big amateur UCI-races.
PCN- What races will the ABC-AITOS cycling team be doing this year?
BM – ABC-AITOS-team does about 35 UCI day races. We are scheduled to do 3 stage-races in Belgium, Luxembourg and France. We also schedule about 30 ‘kermesses’ and a pre-season trainingscamp in Phoenix. This season we do Univest and Bear Mountain at the end of the season. We are invited in more races but we only pick what we think is good for the development.
PCN- Do you have a website where our readers will be able to find out more information about the Cycling Center and the ABC-AITOS cycling team?
BM – Yes, www.cyclingcenter.com. In the first 10 weeks we are online we got over 117,000 page views. This proves that a lot of guys want to know what’s going on over here. This also motivates our guys to maintain their diaries. They know people are not only watching them in the race, but also from the home front they are followed. Thanks for your interest and your questions. If you have more questions, shoot.