“It’s my dream job,” Qhubeka-Assos team assistant Valerie Vermeirsch said as we rolled out before the start of Liège-Bastogne-Liège towards the first feed zone of the day.
A former kindergarten teacher, Vermeirsch has only been working in the sport for a handful of years, but she loves the diversity of her job.
And while Liège-Bastogne-Liège may be one of the world’s most celebrated races, we saw a very different side of one of cycling’s monuments, as we spent this past weekend inside the Qhubeka-Assos team.
Team leaders like Fabio Aru or Sergio Henao may well be known to cycling fans around the world, but Qhubeka-Assos is made up of dozens of staff members like Valerie, who simply love what they are doing.
Liège-Bastogne-Liège is known as La Doyenne, or Dean of classics, as it is the oldest of the great one-day races. For the riders, Liège is nothing short of a daunting race. Nearly 260 kilometers long, it is feared in the peloton by its relentless repetition of climbs. And while the ride out to the turn-around point in Bastogne may be relatively relaxed, as they race back towards Liège tackling climbs like the Stokeu, Haut-Levée, La Redoute or Roche aux Faucons is simply brutal, as there is nowhere to hide for any rider having a bad day.
It is an exhausting day for the staff as well. The wake-up call comes early, with many staff members knowing they will not return home until well after midnight. Nevertheless, the mood was upbeat throughout the weekend.
With the sun shining on Saturday, team mechanics enjoyed preparing the team bikes while the riders did a relaxed coffee ride. Much of the staff had been living and working together for weeks throughout the classics campaign. And as for the riders, Liège was the final big objective before shifting their attention to stage races. But while the mood was light, it was clear that everyone remained focused on their own task at hand—that of preparing for one of the world’s biggest bike races.
Simon Clarke and Fabio Aru chat and laugh during Saturday’s pre-race spin. Aru is wearing a special Bicycles Change Lives jersey. The design was selected from an open competition with more than 200 entries.
The team cruises down the quiet back road around the town of Genk, near the Dutch border.
American Sean Bennett relaxes behind his Qhubeka-Assos teammates. The 25-year-old made his Liège-Bastogne-Liège debut this weekend.
Even during Covid, the team managed to find coffee on the pre-race coffee ride.
After several years with the EF Pro Cycling team, Bennett quickly felt at home on his new African-based team.
Team mechanic Kevin Suarez readies a BMC race bike for the Dean of Classics.
Ready for action!
Rob van den Brand, loves working on bikes, when he is not traveling around the world looking in search of the perfect wind-surfing spot.
The early start of L-B-L means and early wake-up call for mechanics and the entire staff.
Veteran Belgian mechanic Christophe Desimpelaere positions the race bikes on the team cars before rolling out to Liège.
Team captain Simon Clarke readies for one of the biggest races of the year. The Australian came to the team this year and respected throughout throughout the peloton for his ability to lead by example.
It’s sign-in time guys!
Australian Rob Power just moments before heading to the start.
Valerie Vermeirsch and Ricardo Pereira prepare for the day’s first feed in Bastogne.
Musette bags ready for action.
Lunch on the run…Liège style.
Former racer Ricardo Pereira enjoys his time on the road with the team, when he is not hanging out in his hometown of Porto, one of Portugal’s most attractive cities.
For Belgian assistant Valerie Vermeirsch, working with the team is nothing short of a dream job.
Italy’s Fabio Aru grabs his musette after passing the day’s second feed zone just outside of Stavelot.
Italian climber Dominico Pozzovivo, who is coming back from an operation, suffered plenty in Liège. But with the Giro d’Italia in sight, he did not hesitate to add the race to his schedule.
Race over, numbers off…until the next time!