What's Cool In Road Cycling

Gent Six Flower Girl: Lien Crapoen Gets PEZ’d!

If watching a bike race is the cake, then watching the beautiful podium girls must be the icing. So how tasty is the whole gateau – held in one place for six days? Lien Crapoen was “Flower Girl” at the Gent 6, we tracked her down for some words on cycling, life and …boyfriends!

Lien is a busy girl, between working at bike races and studying, she also finds time for cycling, going to football and seeing her boyfriend, Garmin Pro Martijn Maaskant. So we are lucky and honored that she’s spared us some time for an interview and to send some great photos.

PEZ: Tell us how you got the job as podium girl at the Gent 6 days. I hear it wasn’t just an interview?
Lien Crapoen: Actually I have been watching since I was a child. My uncle was a pro-rider and did a lot of 6 day races. I loved to go to them. My uncle stopped racing more than ten years ago now. After a couple of years without any races, my brother started racing. He didn’t become a pro, but again, I went watching a lot of his races. After he quit racing, I missed the feeling of being at a race. The atmosphere was always great. So 5 years ago I went watching the Gent 6 days again and after that I definitely wanted to watch more…

In 2005 I was thinking that it would be great to work at the Six Days, so I saw an advertising of the organization and searched for them on the internet. I contacted them and in 2006 I started working on other sport-events they organized. By the end of 2006 they just asked me if I was interested in becoming the Gent 6-day flowergirl. Of course I was really excited about that!

In 2008 I worked for the 3rd time as a podium girl in Gent.

Lien holding the bell at Gent.

PEZ: What were your day to day duties, apart from looking great, at the track?
Lien: Maybe I shouldn’t really call my job as a podium girl “working.” I just love to be at the track and I can meanwhile watch the whole race.

I have to start every day around 5PM (on Sunday at 11AM). Then there is a briefing about special things that are planned that evening. Like in November 2008 there was Erik Zabel’s last race in Belgium. I have to be aware of those things and keep an eye on everything that happens on the podium. It’s also very important for me to welcome the sponsors. Every race is sponsored by another company and those sponsors congratulate the winners of their race. I have to explain what they should do on the podium. This is very important on Sunday, when the race is live on television. Then we have to follow a strict time schedule.

Lien with the one and only Erik Zabel.

PEZ: Do you go to other 6 days? Which would you say was the best, for the racing and for the other “activities”?
Lien: In January I went to Rotterdam 6 day. Until now, that is the only “foreign” 6 day I visited. I liked it but it was a totally different atmosphere than in Gent.

Gent is a tradition, it is known as a tough race and visitors come to the Gent 6 to watch the race (except on Thursday, where everybody is so drunk that they can’t even remember who Patrick Sercu is… Entertainment is less important, that is what I heard is the big difference between Gent and other 6 day races. e.g. in Germany it is more about the shows and singers than about cycling. I prefer a 6 day like Gent (maybe because I’m used to it), but I wouldn’t mind some more party in “Het Kuipke”.

PEZ: You were podium girl at other races too?
Lien: I’m also, for the 3th time, flowergirl at Hasselt 6 Days, that starts this month. In 2007 I was one of the podium girls of the Tour of Flanders and in 2008 I did Tour of Belgium and Paris-Brussels. It is one of my favorite jobs and, I really hope I can become a podium girl at the Tour de France one day…

She’s not just a Six Day girl.

PEZ: Tell us about your cycling and do you ride the track?
Lien: Last year I bought my own race bike. Just for fun, I wouldn’t have the character to compete against other women. Racing can be really tough. I prefer to ride in the “Vlaamse Ardennen” and watch the surroundings on a sunny day.
Although I want to do better this year and ride some tourist rides that are organized here in Belgium. And I would like to train a bit more with my boyfriend! At this moment there is no way that I can follow him…

As I watch a lot of racing on the track I was curious about how it would feel to ride on a track. So I wanted to try it myself… I started riding on the track in 2007 during a women’s day. Since then, when I can find some time for it, I go riding on the “Eddy Merckx” track in Gent. There aren’t a lot women riding there, so mostly I’m riding in between older men that want to show themselves off… That’s what we call, the Belgian tourists!

PEZ: As well as cycling you follow football, Anderlecht I believe?
Lien: I adore cycling but I love other sports too. I have been working for 5 years for RSC Anderlecht. One of the best Belgian football teams. I work at the Fan shop each match day and I have had a season ticket for 5 years now. The President of the team is a member of my family. So actually, cycling and football have been in my life since I was born. That doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in other sports. I almost like all sport, except from Formula 1 and car races.

PEZ: What are your thoughts on the condition of professional cycling at the moment?
Lien: I think professional cycling is going through a tough time at this moment. How can a team convince its sponsors that it is a good thing to support them when there is yet another doping scandal? There is a negative atmosphere around cycling and sponsors don’t want to put their brand names in that atmosphere.

It would be a pity if more teams disappear because of some riders who don’t follow the rules and that’s why I’m happy to see that people are working on it. Teams have their own anti-doping programs, UCI and WADA are doing a lot of tests and that is “positive”!

If they keep working on this over the next years, then I’m sure we can turn the negativity around cycling into a healthy, absolutely beautiful sport.

Following the Tour de France with the Carlos Sastre Fan Club isn’t the worst thing in the world.

PEZ: What about the return of Lance Armstrong?
Lien: Lance Armstrong is a legend. But I would prefer to keep it like that…

PEZ: Your boyfriend is Martijn Maaskant, how did you meet and how complicated is it to have a relationship when he is racing and training etc?
Lien: A friend of me works as a soigneur for the Garmin-Slipstream team, and that’s how I got to meet Martijn. I saw him the first time during Omloop Het Volk, a couple of months later, we were a couple.

The happy couple: Martijn and Lien.

It is not always easy to have a relationship with someone who is away most of the time. There are a lot of times when I’m alone at home. But that’s just his job and I know what his job is all about. I support him with that job, and he supports me with my studies and work. As I combine studies, work and living on my own, I’m very busy too. That helps me to get over periods when Martijn is not there. When he’s home, he’s training. But that’s only a couple of hours a day. I can spend the rest of the day with him. It wouldn’t be like that if he had a nine-to-five-job!

PEZ: What did you think of his 4th place in Paris-Roubaix?
Lien: Paris-Roubaix is for me one of the most beautiful races. It is one tough race and you’d better have character to win in such a race. The fact that Martijn was 4th in PR proves that he is really a strong rider. His 4th place gave him a lot of self-confidence and he needs that. I don’t think it was a co-incidence, as he got 12th in the Tour of Flanders the week before. I’m sure he will show himself off in 2009. Be prepared!

Look for much more from Martijn in 2009.

PEZ: Which road races do you manage to watch and which is the best?
Lien: As much as possible! Last year I went watching almost each Belgian Spring-Classic live. My number one race is and will always be the Tour of Flanders. What a beauty! The feeling, standing there, on the Kwaremont, in between thousands of people screaming for their hero is indescribable! That day is one big party in Belgium, all day long. Last year I even had a BBQ on the Kwaremont, while it was snowing, freezing and raining, all together!

Lien enjoying the big party on the Kwaremont last year.

In July there was the Tour de France. I was almost three weeks in France with the “Carlos Sastre Fan club” from Belgium. They knew I wasn’t there to support Carlos, but I had a great time. The best day was at Alpe d’Huez. I went to the famous “Dutch Bend” where the Dutchmen were singing all day long.

The Tour is a monument and France is a beautiful country. It was one of my best holidays ever.

Lien at the famous Dutch Corner on Alpe D’Huez.

PEZ: When you’re not at bike races or watching football what do you do?
Lien: This month my internship starts. I will work for three months at the office of; believe it or not- the organization of “Omloop Het Nieuwsblad” and Tour of Flanders. In September I will get my degree in Communication management. Then I finish my life as a student and will look for a job. The past years I have been working as a hostess on several events. I hope I can continue doing that as much as possible. It is a nice job where I can get to meet a lot of people.

PEZ: And next year, will you be at the Gent 6?
Lien: I hope I can work as long as possible at the Gent 6. But I know it will be more and more difficult each year. It will depend on the job I have…and if my boss is cycling-minded or not 😉

PEZ: Is it part of the job to be bothered by mad Scotsmen wanting photos and your phone number?
Lien: Ha ha, I don’t call it “being bothered”. It’s always nice to meet new people and that happens a lot at the 6 Days. Although it’s not a good idea to meet people on Thursday, because they don’t remember their own names anymore!

As far as I remember, the Scotsmen weren’t that mad! But I’m sure they enjoyed their “pintjes” 😉

Thank you Lien! Good luck with your exams and let’s hope there is a job for you on the podium for a long time. Thanks again to the “Gent 6 Two” John Anderson and David Martin for asking her for her phone number!

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