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Apr 1, 2016 – This Sunday the 100th Ronde van Vlaanderen will take place. Such an anniversary is the perfect moment to look back on all those previous editions. At Lotto Soudal that can’t be done by anyone else than sports manager Marc Sergeant and sports director Herman Frison, who both finished on the podium of the Ronde. Marc Sergeant finished third in the Ronde of 1983, when Jan Raas won the race for the second time. Herman Frison was second in 1989, in the edition with the iconic image of an emotional winner Edwig Van Hooydonck on the podium.
This week Marc and Herman reminisced about those two editions. In the Ronde of 1989 they even rode the finale together.
1983 – Third place for Marc Sergeant
Back to 1983. On the Koppenberg, 120 kilometres before the finish in Meerbeke, a first selection was made. After the Taaienberg, five kilometres further, ten riders got in front and one of them was Marc Sergeant. This group remained together until the Muur. The final decision was made afterwards when Jan Raas decided to go solo with twenty kilometres to go. Nobody could stop him from winning the Ronde for the second time. In the last kilometres Marc Sergeant jumped away from his companions. Ludo Peeters, teammate of Raas, joined him. Peeters sprinted to the second place, while Marc got third.
Marc Sergeant: “I have lots of beautiful memories of the Ronde. I finished on the podium once and that performance is the one I cherish the most. Jan Raas, the winner that day, was part of the Raleigh team of Peter Post, that team was too strong. When I attacked his teammate Peeters got in my wheel. He claimed the second place and I was third. I wasn’t 24 yet, had started cycling quite late and still I could battle for the victory, so that was a real honour. That moment I thought maybe I can win here someday.”
1983 was the second Ronde van Vlaanderen for Marc Sergeant. At his début the year before he was already ninth. After his third place he finished five times more in top ten (5th in 1987, 6th in 1988, 6th in 1989, 10th in 1991 and 4th in 1993).
1989 – Second place for Herman Frison
Marc Sergeant achieved one of his seven top ten places in 1989, the year that current Lotto Soudal sports director Herman Frison was second. With thirty kilometres to go a group of seven with Herman Frison and Marc Sergeant had gone clear. Unfortunately Marc Sergeant had problems with his gear on the Muur. On that legendary climb Lauritzen and Van Hooydonck left the others behind. At the moment that their former companions would join them again on the Bosberg, Van Hooydonck accelerated. He arrived solo at the finish. Herman Frison secured the second place, Marc Sergeant was sixth.
Herman Frison: “This week I saw images of the Ronde of 1989 on TV and I got goose bumps. I will remember that second place for the rest of my life. I didn’t ride the finale of the Ronde each year. When you finish second in a race you often think you could have won, but the best rider in the race won that day. It’s extra special that Marc and I were both part of the same group. When I watched the images this week I noticed I didn’t react when he accelerated. As riders we already had a good bond.”
Marc Sergeant: “I’ll never forget the Ronde of 1989. That day I thought this will be my Ronde, until we turned up the Muur. At that point my gear blocked. There was nothing I could do about it. Still, I was third at the top, but I was so tired. Nonetheless, I was in the running for the podium till fifty metres from the finish. I had mixed feelings after the race.”
The Ronde van Vlaanderen in the team car
In the meantime Marc Sergeant and Herman Frison have several years of experience in the team car. Marc Sergeant became sports director of the Lotto team in 2003 and afterwards he became manager of the team. Herman Frison is sports director in the team since 2005. How do they experience the Ronde from that position and which tips do they pass on to their riders?
Herman Frison: “It’s still a special feeling at the start in Bruges, but it’s a huge difference being there as a rider or as sports director. As a rider other people do so much for you and you don’t realize it. As a rider you have to eat, train and set results. As a sports director you have more responsibility, you have to arrange practical issues and make sure the organisation runs smoothly. But that’s part of the job, I don’t feel more pressure for the Ronde. I got used to these circumstances in my first years as sports director. I prepare every race in the same way, but for the Ronde and Roubaix you notice that the riders are more nervous. But for a sports director it’s more hectic the days before the Tour de France.”
Marc Sergeant: “In the team car it’s mentally harder than as a rider. You want to inform your riders as much as you can. As a former rider you can share your experience with your riders. Of course that is the usual route information or guidance about where to position themselves, but according to me the most important advice is that a rider has to make sure he doesn’t end up on cloud nine during the race. Some riders become too keen in the finale and want to perform better than ever, encouraged by the crowd and the specific atmosphere along the roads of the Ronde. My advice to the riders is that they have to make sure to stay alert during the race.”
Herman Frison: “It’s of course important to let the riders now what they can improve. We are here to teach them something, that’s why we do recons and we have a team meeting before the race. At the end the riders are in the race of course. Sometimes it’s frustrating when we watch TV in the team car, but it can also happen that riders tell us things after the finish that we had missed.”
In all those years in the team car there must have been several unforgettable moments. What are those for Marc Sergeant and Herman Frison?
Marc Sergeant: “The most beautiful Ronde van Vlaanderen as sports director or manager was in 2003, when Peter Van Petegem won. It was a privilege to be his sports director at that time. Afterwards there were several other unforgettable moments. Leif Hoste who finished second twice, that’s a disappointment for rider and team at that moment of course when you’re so close. Philippe Gilbert got third in 2009 and 2010 and Jürgen Roelandts was third in 2013. The Ronde van Vlaanderen is emotion, especially because I loved to ride it myself. I will always be connected to the Ronde.”
Herman Frison: “My most beautiful moment in the Ronde van Vlaanderen is the third place of Jürgen Roelandts. That was really intense and rewarding, him being so close to a victory in one of the monuments. It’s a dream to win the Ronde van Vlaanderen with the team. I believe that’s possible in the near future. For Tiesj Benoot this Ronde comes too soon, but I am convinced he is able to win the Ronde van Vlaanderen in his career. Hopefully with Marc and I in the team car.”