The start of 2015 saw Nathan Van Hooydonck – who previously rode for Bissell Development Team – begin his spell with BMC Development, where he quickly integrated in the team’s highly structured program. Although hindered by bad luck in the first part of the season, when he missed on two of his main goals of the season – Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix – the young and talented Belgian didn’t give up and took every race as a learning curve. The 20-year-old kept working hard and rekindled his motivation, and this eventually led to his first victory, which was scored in Neufvilles and signaled a turning point in Nathan’s season.
In the summer came other two solid successes – at Pollare-Ninove and Kerniel-Borgloon – which were followed, less than two weeks later, by his biggest victory up to date. On July 31st, the BMC Development cyclist put on a great ride at the U23 National Championships in Lacs de l’Eau d’Heure, where he patiently waited all day long, bluffing and watching closely his opponents, before going on to win the title from a three-men group thanks to an amazing burst of speed in the final 200 meters.
Although he is adamant that his future lies primarily in the Classics, Nathan Van Hooydonck – one of the brightest and promising talents on the U23 scene – is keen to work also on his time trial, with the National Championships one of his major targets for this year, where he’ll hope to improve last year’s second place. More about this and his season goals, in the following interview, for which Nathan made some time this week, while attending his team’s training camp in Spain.
– Nathan, 2015 is done and dusted. How was it?
It has been a really good year for me, which began with some bad luck, as was the crash in which I was involved in the Tour of Flanders at a time I was in the leading group, or the mechanicals I experienced at the worst moment possible in Paris-Roubaix. After the Tour des Pays de Savoie, which was a complete disaster for me, I pulled myself together, lost weight, trained harder and lived like a real pro. All these changes led to me winning the national title in the road race.
– Last season saw you riding for a new team, BMC Development. How did you find it?
The team is super good. We have a great group of guys and the staff was there for us 24/7. I had a great program, which was put together by Geert Van Bondt and myself. He was a very good sport director and I learned a lot from him. I think I became a stronger rider in 2015, and I’m happy for that.
– But what is it that you have improved in 2015?
I am much stronger and more confident now. I am aware that I need to get out there and to fight in order to land the win. I did it in more than one occasion last season, and now, with this beautiful national champion jersey on my shoulders, I have an extra boost to train hard and to give 100% all the time. I know I have to work hard in order to succeed and I am willing to do that.
– As mentioned, your highlight of the year was taking the victory at the Belgian National Championships. How confident were you in your chances before the race?
I was very optimistic, considering that a couple weeks earlier I won my first race against some pretty good riders, such as Tom Van Asbroeck, Stijn Vandenbergh, Preben Van Hecke, the national road champion, and Laurens De Vreese. I was the only BMC rider in the race, so I knew it was going to be a difficult race to win, but I managed to get it done. Looking at this victory I can say it will be a turning point in my career, because I showed that I can be there in the important days.
– If winning the Nationals was the best moment, which one was at the other end?
Probably my crash at the Richmond World Championships. I was feeling good, was in an ideal position coming into the last kilometers, and then it was over all of a sudden. It kept bothering me for a while, but with the help of my family and my girlfriend I’m now over it, and that moment is way in the past.
– Paris-Roubaix was one of your biggest goals for the season, but you experienced a tough day and finished 36th. How was that experience?
The race was just not meant to be. I crashed hard in the beginning and then my Di2 stopped working, so that was a real bummer. I was very disappointed, but it also gave me a huge motivation, as I want to show I’m good in such a race. That’s why this year it will be one of my major goals.
– In terms of pure racing, which was the best experience of 2015?
Stage six of Tour de l’Avenir. We were climbing with only 40 guys left in the pack, and I was the one who was pulling for my teammate Laurens De Plus. Earlier in the year I abandoned the Tour des Pays de Savoie, but now, at a much higher level, I did an amazing ride.
– Now you are preparing for this season. How are things going?
I am now currently on my first camp and the training is going really smooth. I am doing power tests and I know there is still space to improve, in the Classics and the time trial as well. I am very motivated for this season: besides my usual races – Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, the Nationals, the European Championships and the Worlds – I would like to test myself in some hillier one-day races, like Liège–Bastogne–Liège, for example. Bottom line short, I await the start of the racing calendar with maximum confidence and motivation.