One day he would like to wear the rainbow jersey, just like his childhood hero Tom Boonen. But first he wants to make his way through the WorldTour peloton with his new team Intermarché - Circus - Wanty. Meet Dries De Pooter, the next rising star from the ‘Kempen’.
Hi Dries! You just completed the team camp in Spain. Did you feel a difference between this year's and last year’s camp, which was your first one with Intermarché?
"I spent 7h30 on the bike on the last day so I’m pretty tired. I'm having a better winter than last year, when I crashed in my last race. The feeling is definitely a lot better now."
You signed for Intermarché in 2021 but waited to become a pro. Why?
"It was always the plan to join the team in 2023. I was only 18 years old when I signed. It was my choice because I felt like I could use an extra year with the U23. It’s important not to take the next step too quickly."
Why did you choose Intermarché - Circus - Wanty?
"When I signed with Intermarché in the summer of 2021, there were a few more teams who wanted to sign me but Intermarché was the fastest. They gave me a great feeling so I didn’t even listen to other teams. Performance manager Aike Visbeek played an important role. I already knew him from my time with SEG Racing and he always believed in my abilities. He came up with a plan I believed in. At the time I signed the contract, Intermarché was still a small team so I had to trust the management. One and a half years later, I think I made the right choice."
I already knew Aike Visbeek from my time with SEG Racing. He always believed in my abilities and came up with a plan I believed in
In the U23 category you performed well in both Flemish and Ardennes races. Have you already decided which path you will follow or do you want to explore both?
"I don’t think I’ll ever be able to win a race like Liège-Bastogne-Liège. In the past the best GC riders hardly cared about these races but today riders like Pogacar and Evenepoel target Liège too, so the level is very high. My focus is now on the cobbled classics. The Flemish climbs suit me a little better and my heart is there."
What’s your racing weight? The internet says 61 kg for 1m81.
"Haha, the internet is wrong! That’s a bit too low. I don’t know how they got there. I aim for 65-66 kg."
That’s still in the category of climbers.
"That’s right, but my watts above 20 minutes will never be good enough to become a climber. I’m just realistic. I know in which type of races I’ll be among the best and I’m quite sure it won’t be the GC category."
Which races are included in your schedule next season?
"Actually the team and I haven’t decided yet which specific races I’ll ride in 2023. You’ll see me at some semi-classics in Flanders for sure, whether to help the team or maybe aim for more. I have to learn a lot in these races before I ride the Tour of Flanders and Roubaix."
You'll see me at some semi-classics in Flanders for sure, whether to help the team or maybe aim for more
If you could win one race in your career, which one would it be?
"As a Flemish rider the answer should be the Tour of Flanders, and that would be great too but I'd go for the World Championships. To wear the rainbow jersey for a whole year is a dream. I’m always trying to aim for the highest but at the moment I would be happy if I just win a pro race."
You were born and raised in Geel, a city between Herentals and Balen, which are the cities of Van Aert and Boonen. Do you see yourself as the next big thing from ‘de Kempen’?
"That would be great. If I can ever place myself in that list, I’ve done very well. Tom Boonen is my childhood hero. He lives only 5 kilometers from my house."
Did you fall in love with cycling because of him?
"In fact it started with my father and grandfather as they’ve always been cycling tourists. They paved the way for me to explore cycling, but watching Tom Boonen on the television really impressed me. He’s surely a reason why I’m a pro cyclist now."
In the podcast ‘Wiel aan wiel’ you told that other riders were looking strange at you when you asked for ketchup and made a croque monsieur. You don’t weigh your food. Is that something you want to keep doing?
"I think some riders are going too far when it comes to weighing food. I don’t understand why riders torment themselves in the winter when you know you have to hold on until October. I don’t want to go the extreme way and that’s why I keep up the whole season and stay happy. During the season I pay attention to what I eat, but less than others because my weight will never be a struggle for me. I did a lot of parties this winter and I’ve gained 3 kg, but I’m lucky these kilos disappear immediately when I go back training. My biggest goal is to have a long career where I enjoy cycling at its best and my biggest fear is to quit unhappy after a few years of pro cycling."
I think some riders are going too far when it comes to weighing food. I don't understand why they torment themselves in the winter when you have to hold on until October
Last week, Xandres Vervloesem decided to quit cycling at the age of 22. He lost his motivation and complained that data determined his life. He felt like he also lost connection with his friends and family. Is that something you are vigilant about?
"It was very sad to read his story. I certainly watch out for these kind of struggles. One of my strengths is that I'm mentally strong. During the season I can turn off cycling, which many riders cannot. I think it’s important to maintain your social life. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. You don’t need to get drunk, just being together with friends and family is necessary. They are very important to me. It’s dangerous if you become isolated and I hope all the current riders are aware of it."
Merry Christmas, Dries. We wish you all the best for 2023.