Throughout the Tour de France, VeloNews will be speaking to some of the unsung heroes of the peloton – those riders who fight every day without the recognition that big GC favorites or sprint stars receive.
Jonas Rickaert was a bit of a joker as a teenager.
The Belgian, who rides for Alpecin-Fenix and makes his Tour de France debut with the team this year, liked to have a bit of fun with his teachers when he was at school.
Everything to avoid teaching a lesson.
“I wasn’t really a good student, I liked to play sometimes. And let’s say we were playing pranks with the teachers and okay, so it was a good time, but maybe it could be better, ”Rickaert said. VeloNews with a laugh.
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“I don’t know if it’s a good prank, but once we did something with the teacher. We put all his things away and he couldn’t teach us the lessons. It was funny then, but afterwards he was really angry, and we had to go see the principal. But yeah, that’s a stupid thing. We still laugh about it. “
Rickaert still likes to play pranks now, but he performs a little better as a professional cyclist. He might not have gotten everything he wanted from school, but he developed a friendship that is still going strong now.
The 27-year-old went to school with Tim Merlier, who was a few years ahead of him. Although they weren’t in the same class, the couple bonded around their mutual love for cycling and didn’t look back, despite the fact that they had coexisted at races during the three last years.
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“I still live with Tim Merlier, I have been thinking for three years now. Okay, if we’re on the run together, I always stay with him. So, but we have already known for a long time since we were in school, so yes. He’s actually a good roommate, ”he said.
“We were actually cyclists at school. When you are at school, you might say to a friend like yes, he is also a cyclist. And then at some point you get together, you talk to each other, and then you practice together. Now we’re on the same team since Corendon, I think it’s the third year now, and it’s still going well, we’re still friends.
Success on the road and change of track
Rickaert no longer cohabits with Merlier on this year’s Tour de France after the sprinter, who won stage 3, left the race in an attritional stage 9. Prior to Merlier’s departure, Rickaert had played a key role in his lead.
Rickaert didn’t expect his friend to perform at such a high level – with two Grand Tour sprint stage wins so far this year – but he enjoys it and working with someone you know. for so long is fun.
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“When we were younger we never thought he was so fast, like winning a Giro. But yes, he did. And he continues to improve and surprise himself in these kinds of races, ”said Rickaert.
“You understand we say wordlessly, I think if I look at him I know how he feels and it’s the same for me.” Maybe this is the positive point where you know each other so well and without any words you can understand.
Rickaert also helped train Mathieu van der Poel, who left the Tour de France on Sunday after winning a stage and wearing the yellow jersey for six days. Despite being a ProTeam, the pressure of waiting is still high for Alpecin-Fenix, but van der Poel and Merlier are easygoing leaders.
“They never complain about something or if it goes wrong, it goes wrong. And then they try on another day or like they’re really kind and grateful for everything you do, ”Rickaert said. “I think it’s most important that a team that can be honest with each other. But yeah I would say we never fight and after a race you can talk about it.
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Rickaert has been racing on the road since 2014, but his early years in the discipline were shared with track racing. He was a very promising talent on the boards as a junior and won national titles in the team and the individual pursuit.
However, he made the decision to leave the track because he saw a more successful future on the road.
“I really like the track. At some point you have to make choices, or you go on the road, or you continue on the track, ”he said. “I think there is more to the future on the road than on the track. That’s why I like the track for what it is, and it was a good time, and I did it for maybe seven years. Now I have found myself in a good job on the road and want to do it as well as possible. “
His progress on the road led him to the Tour de France. His inspiration to transform from track star to grand tour driver came from Bradley Wiggins, track driver turned Tour champion.
“As a child, we always look forward to the Tour de France. And you admire the riders rolling over there. I am happy to be here and I can say that I have done at least one Tour de France in my life, ”said Rickaert.
“I think the most or the thing I remember the most is like Bradley Wiggins winning. Because he was a track cyclist like me. And then he kind of turned into a grand tour rider. It’s the most beautiful thing I remember from the Tour de France. I’ll never be a GC rider, but it motivates me to do a good job on the road.