How did VMCT come into being?
Erwin: Well, the Waasland Cycling Team was left without a main sponsor in 2014. Around that time, Brent Van Moer (son of Jo & Anne and currently a professional cyclist with Lotto DSTNY) was also in our team. That’s how we got to know Jo, and we started talking. It essentially began with providing some vests for the team. A year later, in 2015, he became the main sponsor and the team’s namesake.
An old ‘wreck'
Did that make a big difference?
Erwin: Oh, absolutely! You should know that before Jo’s arrival we had to make do with 1 van and 2 squad cars and that was it.
Jo: That was an old ‘wreck’ with over 200,000 km on it!
Erwin: Indeed, it was barely holding up. But mind you, it’s not like we went to Jo asking for a wheelbarrow full of money and gear.
Jo: That’s right, we started off modestly.
Erwin: Thanks to Jo’s efforts over the years, we have grown into a full-fledged team that competes for top honours in Belgium every year. We’re among the top 5, perhaps even the top 3 in the country.
You’re indeed not a small team anymore, right?
Erwin: We have 138 members and are represented in all youth categories.
Trial and error, but mostly error…
Jo, how did you get involved in cycling?
Jo: Well, partly because of Brent. He started playing soccer at the age of 6. He wasn’t the most technically skilled, but he was a fighter. I mean, in terms of mentality, of course 😊. Even when they were 5-0 down with 2 minutes to go in a match, he kept going. He kept pushing himself. At the age of fourteen, many of his friends were moving on to the ‘national competition’, and … he wasn’t allowed to join. He came home in tears and said, ‘I’m quitting, I’m becoming a cyclist.’ So, I bought him an old bike…
Did that suit him better?
Jo: Well, I remember his first race vividly. They were small local circuits, up and down viaducts. After 3 laps, he was off, completely shattered, tears in his eyes. We told him to stop, but he stubbornly kept cycling until the end. Completely exhausted. Those early years were marked by trial and error, but mostly error! Well, not the most graceful cyclist 😊 (laughter). But later on, he really blossomed into a very talented rider and moved up to the U23s.
Erwin: We thought for a moment that we might lose Jo too 😊. We had already had some great years together. So, it was a tense wait to see if we could continue…
The Van Moer Village
Jo, why did you continue?
Jo: We had a fantastic time. Going to races together. It was always a wonderful atmosphere. We built a close bond with the team management and the parents of all those riders. They were all local people from the area.
Erwin: We really built a reputation in that youth circuit. During the Tour of Flanders, we turned it into a real event, with all our motorhomes and vans in a circle, with a BBQ and all. People really started calling it the ‘Van Moer Village.’
Jo: Honestly, Brent didn’t always like that. He absolutely wanted to avoid it looking like he hadn’t earned it himself.
Erwin: In the second year of juniors, Brent had a top year. His stats spoke for themselves. He was winning prizes everywhere, there was no doubt about it.
Jo: You know, I’m really grateful for that period. Besides Brent, that generation that raced back then produced at least 5 professional cyclists. To have so many pros come out of the Van Moer Cycling Team in just one year was unprecedented.
‘Giving back to the local community’
How important is that sponsorship for the team?
Erwin: It’s crucial. Since Jo came on board, we’ve been able to shift up a gear. Not just financially, but also logistically. Two years ago, for example, we were in a tight spot with a sponsor who had promised us a van, and that’s when I cautiously approached Jo…
Jo: He knows how to do it! (Everyone laughs). Sometimes he comes in, and I have to say, ‘no way’. But when he walks out, it’s like he’s got it all figured out 😊. (General hilarity)
Erwin: We explained our problem to Jo, made a clear presentation. Then we had a drink together and continued chatting, and then had a few more pints … (laughs)
Erwin: No, seriously. We received a brand-new van from Jo back then. We've had so much fun with it. It's really crucial for our operations.
And does that sponsorship yield anything?
Jo: Definitely! It presents our company and brand in a positive light and sometimes in the news too. But it’s also about giving back to society. ‘Sustainability’ isn’t just about installing solar panels or making your fleet more sustainable; we also like to anchor our company locally and engage positively in the community life of our region.
You know, it doesn’t directly bring in new customers, but it’s an important showcase for us in the area. We are always looking for good workers. At Van Moer Logistics, we fill between 15 and 20 vacancies per week. Of course, we prefer to hire people from the local area. The visibility we achieve with VMCT helps with that.
And you have a big sports lover’s heart too?
Jo: Absolutely, personally, I believe that sports should be a significant part of life. It teaches you a lot, especially as a young person. You can gain a lot of value from it…
Not letting the ‘spirit’ drop!
What is your main goal with the Van Moer Cycling Team?
Erwin: Primarily, we want to teach young people character, perseverance, and… When they make mistakes, or when things aren’t going well, we motivate them not to let their spirits drop. On the other hand, we are also ambitious as a team. Essentially, we want to foster as many talents as possible to progress to professional cycling.
Tom: Even those who don’t make it to the pros have had a great character formation with us. They often become top performers in the business world. We consider all our members as our own children, and we try to guide them as well as possible, also in their personal growth.
How about women’s cycling within your team?
Erwin: It’s gaining popularity every year. We have heavily invested in it over the last 3 years. We have sought good guidance. That’s how we got to Tom Hesters. He asked if his daughter could ride with the team. It didn’t take long for us to see that Hélène could really ride a bike well 😊.
Hélène, how did you start cycling?
Hélène: I started as a gymnast, but switched to cycling quite quickly. Once I got the taste for it, joining the Van Moer Cycling Team was a natural step since my dad was the team manager 😊.
How did it go?
Hélène: It went well; I was welcomed with open arms, and from the beginning, I could keep up quite well.
Tom (Father and team manager): It quickly became clear that she had talent. Her cornering technique was very good from the start. We saw that she naturally had a good handle on the bike.
Hélène: My dad was the team manager for the juniors at the time. I liked that because I didn’t want to be favoured.
Jo: I completely understand. That was the case with Brent too.
What’s your ultimate goal?
Hélène: (without hesitation) To become a professional!
Following in the footsteps of Remco Evenepoel!
And how about you, Senne?
Senne: I’ve only been on the bike for about a year and a half. Initially, like everyone who starts, I got dropped 😊. But that changed quickly.
Jo: Did you do any other sport before that?
Hélène: Just like Remco Evenepoel then!
He does look like him! (Everyone laughs)
Senne: The Van Moer Cycling Team has given me many opportunities. I have been able to participate in some great races and gain a lot of experience. They have prepared me perfectly for the next season. It’s going really well. I’m very happy that I ended up here.
Jo: That’s really impressive. That’s what we do it for. We also get in the press every week. Every weekend, we’re somewhere in Belgium on the podium.
Bjorn: Managing a cycling team is also very intensive. You’re involved in their world. You sit with them at the table, you ride with them. In a way, they all become like your own children.
Jo: Indeed, you get a lot of appreciation from that.
Erwin: You know what makes it so special too? When our young riders meet Jo, he brings his enthusiasm and positivity to them. It’s beautiful to see. Jo sometimes tells them over a drink how he got to where he is now. That’s very inspiring. It’s also about that.
Jo: There are many parallels with entrepreneurship. The number of times I’ve hit rock bottom… In those difficult moments, persisting and never giving up is a life lesson that I like to pass on. In life, you have to learn to deal with setbacks. Brent once called me ecstatic that he was selected for the World Championship. A few days later, he breaks his hip. Things can change so quickly. That’s when you’re really at rock bottom. But then you have to keep your head up. Keep going!
Down to earth…
It’s a physical sport, but the mental aspect is also important?
Jo: Absolutely. When you see what they have to sacrifice… You have to have a strong character … or cultivate one. Talent alone is not enough.
Erwin: That’s right, and we are also here to keep them grounded. So that they don’t get big-headed, so to speak.
Jo: Down to earth, right! Not getting carried away.
Erwin: That’s 100% true and super important in this sport … and in life.
Tom: Those are the values of Van Moer that we want to instil in our team. It fits perfectly together.
Are your cyclists actually scouted?
Tom: Definitely. The big teams go directly to our riders, both male and female. We also do that ourselves with the novices, for example. We check for example what they can do on the track. What steering skills they have.
How involved are you with the team, Jo?
Jo: I have a busy life 😊, but I follow them today, of course, through social media. There’s also the team presentation every year. It’s always done very professionally. And I make time for it when I can.
Are you all volunteers?
Erwin: Yes, 28 people are helping out. 90% are volunteers. Bjorn, for example, is not only a sponsor but also very active in the team. He’s responsible for the clothing. In a cycling team, that’s a job not to be underestimated. He does it extremely well and with a lot of passion. And then we have 27 others 😊.
Jo: Impressive! I really love that.
What drives you?
Erwin: My personal drive comes from the satisfaction I get. Look at Senne. Last year when we went to the Vosges, he was still a bit on the heavy side, so to speak. (Laughter. Senne laughs along and nods 😊) You should see him here today. He has become a well-trained athlete! Senne is really turning into a real top performer with a bright future, if you ask me… That goes for Hélène too! It’s incredibly satisfying.
Bjorn: Guiding these guys, occasionally giving them some direction, and then seeing it pay off gives me a lot of satisfaction too.
What are the ambitions of the team?
Erwin: As long as we enjoy it, we want to keep doing it. Our ambition is that anyone who wants to go cycling here in the Waasland area will ride with a blue jersey. Every year, we sit down with Jo to see if that remains possible because without sponsorship, it’s impossible, of course.
Jo: You can sleep on your 2 ears Erwin! (Erwin beams.)
And you, Hélène and Senne, what are your dreams?
Bjorn: Getting married to each other! 😊 (Everyone bursts into laughter)
Hélène: (unfazed) I would like to win the Tour of Flanders, but my ultimate dream is Olympic gold.
Senne: Give me a tough race, and I perform at my best.
How long will you stay with the Van Moer Cycling Team?
Senne: (reveals an exclusive) I will be joining a new major team next year. I can’t say which one yet, but it’s a very prestigious (professional) team. Thanks to my training at the Van Moer Cycling Team.
Hélène: And while we’re at it. Me too! 😊
Jo: Wow, that’s fantastic! What’s happening here!
That must be very satisfying?
Erwin: Absolutely, it’s somewhat the flagship of your team, right? It means that we are doing well.
Bjorn: We can be very proud of that as a team.
Jo: That’s really great! Impressive!
Erwin: Indeed, keep a close eye on them, as we will hear a lot more from them!
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