MARMARIS, Turkey (VN) — It has been a long five years for 28-year-old Kevin Seeldraeyers. The veteran Belgian cyclist, who once showed great promise at the turn of the decade in the midst of his five-year run with Quick-Step, has ridden for three teams in as many years and now finds himself out of the WorldTour and riding for Turkish Continental team Torku Sekerspor.
Once touted as a future general classification contender after he recorded several top-10 finishes, including fifth at the Tour de Georgia (2007), seventh at Paris-Nice (2009), and eighth at the Vuelta a Catalunya (2011).
While the majority of Seeldraeyers’ success came half a decade ago, the rider who has finished third in two Giro d’Italia stages (2011, 2012) did return to Austria four years after his 2009 success and claimed two stages and third on GC.
“The problem for me was that the last few years I was always sick,” Seeldraeyers told VeloNews. “Maybe five or six times per year and the doctors said I had no more resistance in my body because I used antibiotics too much over the last five years.
“Every year I just took more and more antibiotics and my resistance in the body just went away. It’s easy for us to get sick as we always pushing our bodies into the red and at the end I was getting sick every six weeks almost.”
According to Seeldraeyers, his doctor advised against using any further prescriptions and suggested Seeldraeyers allow his body to fight illnesses naturally.
“I was only sick one time this year and that was after Tour du Maroc,” said Seeldraeyers, referring to the African race in April. “You can still here it in my nose a little bit. The good news is that I’ve only been sick one time this year compared to this time last year where I was on my third or fourth round of medication.”
When asked whether or not the fall from the WorldTour impacts him mentally or emotionally, Seeldraeyers quickly admits that it has indeed.
“It does play on you,” the former Astana and Wanty-Groupe Gobert team rider said. “I had a lot of stress last year, especially in the winter trying to find a team. Now I feel like if it’s like this, then it’s like this. I try not to make myself nervous because if you are nervous it usually changes nothing. It’s better to take it easy and not stress.”
Now healthier in 2015, Seeldraeyers hopes to return to his WorldTour roots, but admits making the journey back to the top level will not come easy.
Seeldraeyers was the best young rider at the 2009 Giro and was bumped up to 10th overall after Italians Danilo Di Luca (second) and Franco Pellizotti (third), Slovenian Tadej Valjavec (ninth), and American Lance Armstrong (12th) were all stripped of their results due to doping violations.
One year later, French newspaper L’Équipe leaked the UCI’s “Index of Suspicion” list of potential dopers from the 2010 Tour de France, which ranked the riders from zero (no suspicion) to 10 (very suspicious). Seeldraeyers was one of the 11 names listed with a ranking of eight out of 10, but to his credit there have never been any doping allegations or infractions linked to him during his nine-year professional career.
“My issues were all health-related,” clarified Seeldraeyers prior to the stage 3 start at the Presidential Tour of Turkey in Kemer on Tuesday. “I feel better now and I am looking realistically toward the future.
“First, I need to perform in races like this to get noticed, but it’s not easy. I see a lot of guys go to Pro Continental and Continental teams and only a few guys get back in [the WorldTour] — but not many.”
While Seeldraeyers enjoys renewed health and a fresh start, his new team Torku Sekerspor does come with additional baggage.
Torku has had a string of doping problems in the past. Both Ivailo Gabrovskiy and Mustafa Sayar tested positive for EPO after winning the Tour of Turkey in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
However, Seeldraeyers is convinced the team is clean and on the right track under new leadership.
“Everyone supports me and that gives me great confidence in myself,” said Seeldraeyers, who believes Turkey is one of the races on his program that suits him this year. “I feel extremely confident in our organization, and I strongly believe our new manager Lionel Marie is doing really good work with the team — it’s been perfect.”
Aaron S. Lee is a cycling and triathlon columnist for Eurosport and a guest contributor to VeloNews.