“Lowlands is off. You’re not serious!” The disappointment echoes for a moment through the soberly furnished house of Taco van der Hoorn and Jan-Willem van Schip. After a turbulent year of cycling, including the Giro d’Italia and the Olympic Games, the cycling friends had been looking forward to it for weeks. Blow off some steam.
But the music festival was canceled again due to the new corona wave. “Now what? Kiev? Why not?!”
At the end of October, Van der Hoorn and Van Schip traveled to the Ukrainian capital. They visited local markets, the famous Monastery of Saint Michael, the red main building of Kiev University. And they danced into the wee hours, rolling from techno party to techno party.
The streets they walked on are now empty. The markets and the clubs are closed permanently. Devastation everywhere. “Unreal”, says Van der Hoorn. “There was such an incredibly cool, modern, pleasant atmosphere. I enjoyed myself immensely and thought that I would certainly like to go back. We also kept in touch with a few people, people who fled. you can’t imagine.”
When Van der Hoorn is not in the early morning flight, his mind wanders to Kiev. To the devastation. To the refugees. “Cycling is a kind of escapism. I don’t think about the war on a bike. But as soon as you cross the finish line, you immediately look at your phone.”
Van der Hoorn is one such rider who tickles the imagination. Blushing cheeks, blond locks. No trace of the flashy sunglasses that are common in the pack. An attacker pur sang.
In the Tour of Flanders he was, as so often, in the early break. With a grin from ear to ear, he rode as the frontrunner through the frenzied crowd on the Oude Kwaremont. With each kick he took, the sound increased. Until a Slovenian flew by at rocket speed; Tadej Pogacar.
“Well, that wasn’t a grin”, Van der Hoorn helps us out of the dream. “Just call it a grimace. If I go really deep, it looks like laughing. But there on the Oude Kwaremont the light went out quite a bit.”
The season is still young, but Van der Hoorn has already proven himself as the smartest freebooter in the peloton. He has already been in the early break six times this year, from Strade Bianche to Flanders. In Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, the first big appointment of the year for Van der Hoorn, he even seemed to be crowning his flight.
He dived into the last kilometer with Luke Durbridge and Christophe Laporte. “Of course I was never going to beat Laporte. But the podium was in it. Unfortunately, the peloton got over it at 400 meters.”
And to think that four years ago he thought he would never be able to cycle again. In November 2017, he fell hard on his head during a training session. Normally a concussion should have recovered after a few weeks, but with Van der Hoorn the headache did not go away.
“At first I did nothing at all, but it only got worse. When I got back on my bike, it got even worse. There was a time when I no longer even doubted whether I could still cycle, but whether I could still live normally.”
Slowly but surely the pain disappeared. After almost a year, Van der Hoorn started racing again. And after the third stage of the 2018 Binck Bank Tour, his broad smile radiated through the screen. Even then he surprised the peloton from the early break.
Via Jumbo-Visma, Van der Hoorn ends up at Intermarché-Wanty-Groupe Gobert and his sporting highlight follows in the third stage of last year’s Giro. After a flight of 190 kilometers on the way to Canale, Van der Hoorn manages to hold off all his pursuers. A victory that immediately appeals to the imagination, among cycling followers and also in the peloton.
“Since that victory in the Giro, riders have been listening to me”, Van der Hoorn chuckles. “I like to set out the lines a bit in such a leading group. It’s about the balance: you need each other, but in the end you want to win from each other.”
Van der Hoorn is a mathematician. A sports scientist who includes a speed suit, aero helmet and inward-turned shifters as standard equipment. This spring, for example, he did some extra aero tests at the Amsterdam velodrome with Biniam Girmay, who promptly wrote history in Ghent-Wevelgem.
His blue Volkswagen van is famous, with which he went to explore the classics on his own. This winter, Van der Hoorn was still looking for a place for a training internship. “I actually wanted to go to Rwanda, but that’s where quite a lot of riders with food poisoning come from. Annemiek van Vleuten, our neighbor in Wageningen, always talked about Colombia and how cool it was there. She was right.”
In Colombia he met Tom Dumoulin, soon he will be able to make his training rides with men like Robert Gesink. Van der Hoorn is exchanging the house in Wageningen for Andorra, in order to be able to train at height more often. Everything for those few percentages.
Langeveld fan club
But above all, he is a fan. In fact, he may be the only pro rider to be a member of a colleague’s fan club. “Sebastian Langeveld comes from our neighborhood and when I started cycling he was of course the big man. I went to the Dutch National Championships a few times with the fan club to encourage him. I actually know whether I’m still a member not. It could be.”
Van der Hoorn shares his dream course with Langeveld. “Paris-Roubaix, for sure. Normally the only monument in which I can participate in the final and drive a big result. Last year that didn’t work, then I was on the ground twice and I never got to the front again.”
Of course he has already spoken to Langeveld, who was third in the Hell of the North in 2017. “Sebas participates in the final of Roubaix almost every year. If I’m still close to him at Carrefour de l’Arbre (the last heavy cobblestone section at 17 kilometers from the velodrome, ed.), I’m participating nicely. “
“From the early flight? Could be. But it can also be done differently.”