Baptiste Planckaert Gets PEZ’d
Rider Interview: Baptiste Planckaert will be a WorldTour rider with Katusha-Alpecin in 2017 after six years as a professional, as he says: “The longer the dream holds, the better.” Alastair Hamilton was at the Katusha-Alpecin team presentation in Spain to hear what the Belgian had to say on his EuropeTour win and his future in the top league of cycling.
PEZ: So, what’s it like coming to a WorldTour team?
Baptiste Planckaert: It’s a big difference from what I’m used to. Everything: The organization, the training, just everything… you can’t imagine. I thought the teams I rode for, did a good job and were well organized, but I came here and it’s another World. We are in the same hotel as last year (in Calpe), but everything is different. Even to eat, we have a cook.
PEZ: Does that make you a little nervous?
No. For me I think every detail can make a difference. Maybe it’s a good thing, we will see this season if it makes a difference. Normally it should… I hope! But now I will have no excuses, I can’t imagine an excuse I can use.
PEZ: What about changing bike, has that been a problem?
I have had one problem to adapt because I’ve ridden for seven years with Shimano shoes and Shimano cleats and now it is Look/Sidi and another bike, I have a different position. I’ve been moving things like this and like that and testing it, but I think it’s going to be fine. The Canyon is a great bike, I just need to get used to it.
PEZ: The 2016 season was a pretty good year for you. You’re 28 years old now and you’ve been a pro since 2010, so why now?
I think that really from 2014/15 I had been performing well and I had the whole team believing in me, that made a big difference. Back in 2015 everyone wanted to go to an another team and they all rode for themselves. No one would lead the sprint for someone else, the whole race you rode by yourself. Last year there was a tactic, ‘you’re going to ride and you are going to do that’ and that made a big difference. Also one year stronger and one more years experience. Also for the first time I did a winter fitness power training, which I had never done before. All those things made a big difference.
PEZ: Have you done the power training this year?
Yes, almost exactly the same.
Pez: Do you have a personal coach or does the team handle that?
I have my own coach and the team supervise. At the training camp they tell me what to do, but at home I can do what I want, but they can see if I actually train or not.
PEZ: There is no escape, these days. The team know exactly where you are and what you are doing.
Yeah. Before you could say anything, but now they only have to do this on the Garmin and it’s on the internet and they know where you are.
PEZ: Do you feel like you will be going from the big fish in the little pool to the little fish in the big pool. You were the team leader at Wallonie Bruxelles–Group Protect.
Last year I felt like the whole team really depended on me, now they are not depending on me. But that’s no problem, it’s a big team and it is normal that guys like Alexander, Tony, Ilnur, guys like that are the leaders.
PEZ: But they still depend on you though.
Yeah they depend on me, but not in the same way. That’s fine for me, it’s a big team.
PEZ: What will your job be?
I’ll do a lot of the spring Classics, working for Alexander Kristoff, that’s normal. Then I’ll do some smaller races, some point one races where I can do my own sprint, I think. Then afterwards we’ll see how it goes and see if I can do a big Tour.
PEZ: You won the Tour of Normandie, that’s a seven day race, maybe that’s the sort of race that suits you?
Yes, but it was the first time I had gone for the General Classification, so it’s not really my thing. I love more the one day races, so I can explode in one day and that’s it, and not have to calculate for the next days.
PEZ: Do you know your schedule for 2017?
I start with the Tour Down Under and the Cadel Evans Road Race and then into the Spring Classics. Not all of them, I won’t do Harelbeke and Paris-Roubaix.
Oooft, I’m on the list, I would like of course. The finish line is 30 kilometers from my house, but also Roubaix is 15K from my house, so. All the races are near-by for me, but if I can start in some of the races, that’s OK.
PEZ: Flanders or Roubaix, which would suit you better?
It has to be Flanders, but I have already done Flanders, so I would like to do Roubaix also. We’ll see, maybe I’m not built for Roubaix, I weigh 65 kilos.
PEZ: In 2016 you were up there in Marseillaise, the first race of the season in Europe (3rd) to the Nationale Sluitingsprijs, the last race in Belgium (7th), how did you hold your form all that time?
Yeah, I just had a minor month in June with the championships, every year I’m like that, I can go all season.
PEZ: You won’t have to do that at Katusha-Alpecin?
There are more riders and maybe I can look for a form peak, maybe that could be better that I peak there (Spring Classics) and then take a rest. At the end of last year I really felt I was on maximum, I was tired, I was sleeping too much, so things will be better. Last year, the whole time I was 85%, if I could be at 100% that would be better to get some nice results in big races.
PEZ: Your family name (Planckaert), is that a problem?
For me it’s not a problem.
PEZ: No extra pressure?
No, no, not at all.
Baptiste wins stage 5 of the Tour de Normandie 2016
PEZ: But you are not related (cycling brothers Eddy, Willy and Walter, plus Eddy’s sons Jo and Francesco)?
No, I’m not related, no. I have two brothers who are cyclists, obviously I’m related to them, but not to the Eddy/Walter Planckaert family.
PEZ: Is Planckaert a common name in Belgium?
Not that much, but I do get asked if I am family or not quite a lot, because it is not that common. Eddy is a cool guy, he has his own thoughts on things.
PEZ: Those Plankaerts were all good riders.
They were, so maybe it would be better of I was related.
PEZ: You are now 28 years old, do you think that maybe that’s a bit late?
Now that I see how they work (WorldTour teams), I think it’s a pity I didn’t get here two or three years earlier. I would be even stronger and maybe had a faster improvement, but well now I’m here…
PEZ: You see riders like Bystrøm who is 24 and Marco Haller who is about the same age but been here longer.
You see those guys have been in big races, they are really strong and they have experience. For me it would have been good, now at 28 I will stay as long as possible. It could have also been possible that I would have stayed in Continental teams at my age. 21 or 22 is maybe a little young, 24 would be a nice age to go WorldTour. Now if you have the experience in the big races when you are 22 or 24, you will be able to use that when you are 28 or 30. I’m 28 and most of the races I’m going to have to discover. That is a bit of a disadvantage.
PEZ: Also most riders say that their body changes after they have ridden a three week race.
Yeah, that’s the thing, you become a complete rider, that’s why I want to do one this year, as soon as possible.
PEZ: When you were a stagiere with Landbouwkrediet in 2009, you were successful straight away.
Yes, but I was in the flatter races that suited me very well at that time. Going to Landbouwkrediet was good, they had a fine program, but the organization was not so good for a young rider. You were really on your own, you had to research everything. It was a good team to learn things, but maybe not the best team to go as a neo-pro. I’ve only had one minor year in 2011, because of knee injuries and stuff. But those Belgian and French races suited me well in those days, I like the more hilly races now.
PEZ: What kind of rider would you say you are?
Oooft! I think I will discover that this year. Last year in the French point one races, I’m better when they are not totally flat, but with hills, but not too hard either. It’s down to maybe 20 or 30 guys, and all day war, hard, that’s perfect for me. It’s hard and guys are being dropped out the back.
PEZ: So a bit of a rouleur, a puncheur with a good sprint?
In those races I have a pretty good sprint. They are all good riders in the WorldTour, so lets see if I’m still with the 30 or 40 guys who go to the finish.
PEZ: You won the 2016 EuropeTour, was that the plan from the start of the season?
No, not at all. Until August I didn’t think about it, and then in August I started to think I had quite a bit points and there was quite a lot 1.1 races, so that became a target and at the end I really went for it. As I said I was really tired, but every way I went full gas to get it and thankfully it worked.
PEZ: Do you think the EuropeTour win helped Katusha take notice of you?
Apparently they had been following me from the start of the year, so it doesn’t really make a big difference, they maybe had more trust in me to sign.
PEZ: Did you have other offers?
Yes, from two ProContinental teams and one other WorldTour team, but this was the most important.
PEZ: Do you thing winning the EuropeTour swung it?
Maybe, I thought it would be more, but it’s not easy to say who won the EuropeTour, say from three years ago? You don’t have a prize for it, it’s just a title on paper. It just has no value, there are not many guys who can say who won it. It doesn’t have the big value, there isn’t a jersey, it’s a shame. I know a few years ago if you were leading the Continental Tour you had a white jersey, so everyone saw you had the jersey, now nobody knows. You have to look on the internet to find out.
PEZ: What will you be doing in 2 years or 5 years time?
I hope I’m still here talking to you, in 5 I’ll be 33 years old and I hope to be here as long as possible. The longer the dream holds, the better. Kristoff is one year older than me and I see now that there are plenty of riders over 30 years old, so maybe I’ll do the same. I’ve made progress every year, so maybe I’ll still be here at 40 years old.
PEZ: Do you ever think about after your pro career?
Sometimes I think about it, but don’t have a plan ‘B’ yet. I know if I crash now and I break something and can’t do racing anymore, I will see. Maybe something in cycling; sports director would be really nice, but you see how many sports directors there are in the World. Yeah, but OK, maybe something not related to cycling. We’ll see.
PEZ: So where are the best podium girls?
The best podium girls? I think in Norway they were pretty fine, yeah, nice girls in Norway, so they could be the best. But then I’ve seen the podium of the Giro on television, not bad at all. But when you go to Norway…