Eeckhout video: Being around young riders keeps me younger, but this is for sure my final season
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Thursday, April 04, 2013

Eeckhout video: Being around young riders keeps me younger, but this is for sure my final season

by Shane Stokes at 9:16 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Video
 
Former Belgian champion says the clock is ticking on his career

Niko EeckhoutAt 42 years of age, Niko Eeckhout is one of the oldest riders competing in the peloton, yet he continues to race well and to be one of the most aggressive riders when on form. The An Post Chainreaction Sean Kelly rider was clear in long distance breaks on stages two and 3a in the recent Driedaagse De Panne, and also placed second in the Omloop van het Waasland this year.

Eeckhout’s intention is to continue building form and to chase results this season, with the rider one of the hardest working at the team’s pre-season training camps. “He’s still got huge motivation,” general manager Kurt Bogaerts told VeloNation earlier this year. “He’s got the ambition and drive of a much younger rider.”

Eeckhout’s persistence pays off; last season he won the 1.1-ranked Schaal Sels and the 1.2 Omloop der Kempen, and was also second on a stage of the Etoile de Bessèges. However after mulling over the idea of retirement several times in the past, he believes that once this season is done, that it will finally be the time to call it a day.

“For sure it is my last, for sure it is my last,” he told VeloNation in the video interview below.

Eeckhout’s been a big part of the team since 2009, guiding its riders and also clocking up some of the team’s top wins in that time. Those results include victory in the 1.1 GP Stad Zottegem, Memorial Rik Van Steenbergen and on stages of the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen and the Étoile de Bessèges.

Once he hangs up his wheels, he confirms that there is a chance that he would remain involved with the team. “We talked already with Kurt. Maybe there is a possibility when the sponsorship is going on,” he said. “We will see if I can do something in the team”

Before then, though, Eeckhout has plenty of targets. He knows he’s still able to challenge, looking at 2012 as an example. “[Last year] I won three races, two nice races. At the end of the season I had a crash, so I couldn’t finish the season. Otherwise I might have had some more victories,” he said. “It was already okay, I had a good season. The most important was in September… Schaal Sels was nice.”

This season, he said that all the Belgian races are big targets, not least because of the good media coverage of those events. The team will also ride races outside Belgium and where the parcours suits his riding style, he’ll be on the attack.

Asked to explain how he’s been able to keep motivated, he’s clear. “They say it is fun to do what you like to do. I still like to ride my bike, so I will go for another year.” Being around younger riders is also a factor, but not the most important one. “If you live always with young people, they say it makes you younger. Maybe that is right, but I am already motivated, not just because of the young guys. But young people do make your mentality younger.”

In the video below Eeckhout discusses his attitude to the sport and to racing into his forties, speaks about the team and riders such as Sam Bennett who he believe can potentially do big things in the sport, and talks about life after his pro career.

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