Gerry Van de Schoot has been with the Belgium National Team for more than 10 years, working for both cyclocross and mountain bike riders. Stars like two-time World Champion Sven Nys or UCI World Cup rider Wout van Aert have benefited from his professional bike mechanic skills. How difficult is this profession and how did it evolve with new technologies entering the sport?
How did you get to your profession and which teams did you work for in the past?
In the beginning, I started working for an individual rider and once he joined a professional mountain bike team, they asked me to come with him. Before that, I used to work for an amateur motocross team. My first Belgium MTB team was called “Versluys Pro Mountainbike Team”. It was not the biggest one, only a few Belgian riders, but during the 6 years spent with them, we had three riders in the Olympic team who were making good results, as well as many Belgium national titles and the World Cup win in the ‘under 23’ category. Since our national team rider group has been constant, I was asked to work for them as a full-time member.
What do you like the most about your profession?
It’s a nice job because you can help riders to make their dreams come true. It’s also attractive because you work in the team, which makes it easier to reach the same goals – the best possible results.
And what is the most hated part? When things become really difficult?
The only unpopular part is when the riders and the staff try to make everything perfect but, because of bad luck, the results are far from expectations. But this is also part of the game.
The bike industry is evolving. Was it better fun fixing bikes in the past or is it now? What has changed the most?
For me, it doesn’t make any difference which bikes I’m about to fix. Every bike, every component has its advantages and disadvantages. For me, it’s fun to work on a variety of bikes and parts. All the components are getting to be lighter now, so it’s even more about fine-tuning than it had been in the past. You can also find a lot of electronic shifting parts nowadays. Again, this has its advantages and disadvantages.
Is it different to work for an MTB or a cyclocross team? Which bikes are more complicated?
Fixing and tuning the modern cyclocross bikes and mountain bikes are closely related than they used to be. In the past, both bikes used to have completely different brakes and gears but now, they both use disc brakes or single chainrings that were typical for the MTBs just a while ago. There are plenty of mountain bike-specific things finding their way to the cyclocross. The cyclocross represents a smaller market next to mountain biking so it’s natural that it adopts many of its technical innovations.
What is the most useful advice for racing team mechanics?
The most important thing is staying cool and relaxed. Even if you have to fix something complicated during the race, you should take it easy because the stress makes the work worse and in the end, steals the time.
Have you experienced a rider winning surprisingly just because of your last-minute assistance?
In the Tour of Belgium a couple of years ago, we started with a mixed team of pro riders and under-23 riders. One of them had troubles with the electronic gears of his time trial bike. I and the other mechanic worked all night till 4 AM to fix it. The day after, the rider was so happy that he made an exceptionally good result. He wasn’t the best time trial rider of the team but the time trial success got him a yellow jersey that he kept until the end of the race. It’s one of the best moments in the history of the team.