Thibaut Van Damme, Flandrien of the Future among the newcomers: “Sven Nys was my first big idol and put me on the bike”
Thibaut Van Damme has become the Flandrien of the Future among the newcomers. For the third year in a row, the laureate in the youngest age category is a rider from Avia Rudyco Cycling. “I am quite proud of this trophy,” says the second-year student from Kruisem, who does not know exactly whether he has won twelve or thirteen times. “It’s not about the number, but about the quality of the competitions,” says the natural sciences student at the Topsportschool in Ghent. “I won two stages of the Top Competition and also became the final laureate and also won three time trials, including the Belgian title, which was the most important victory. The only downside is fourth place in the time trial of the European Youth Olympic Festival in Maribor. I was the only one in the top ten who had to ride in stormy weather. I was ten seconds short of the gold and three tenths of a second short of the podium. That was quite disappointing.”
“On the other hand, I came second twice in two climbing races behind climber Edouard Claisse, who, like Yoram Knaepen and first-year Mauro Keppens, were strong opponents this season. Last year climbing was my weak point, but I worked on it successfully. At the moment I like a very difficult race with a short, steep climb at the end on which I can punch,” says Van Damme, who does not come from a racing family. “I started playing football, but then Sven Nys came on TV. As a little boy I enjoyed cyclo-cross the most. I have been cycling since I was six, doing cyclocross and BMX, but then I moved to the road and track.”
At the end of last year he broke Gert Steegmans’ 26-year-old record in the two-kilometre pursuit. He then won all the disciplines in which he participated in the Belgian championships. “I am already watching the world championships that will be held on the track in Apeldoorn in 2025. I hope to be on the podium there as a second-year junior,” said Van Damme, who has Evenepoel and Van Aert as great examples. “And that’s not just because of their athletic ability, but also Wout van Aert’s mental resilience appeals to me. He was dropped in the Tour of Flanders, but I really liked the way he fought back. Although the road is still long for me. As a second-year junior, I hope to compete again for the ‘Flandrien of the Future’.”
Fleur Moors, Flandrien of the Future among the juniors: “Lotte Kopecky is a source of inspiration for many girls”
Four years after Julie De Wilde, the Flandrien of the Future trophy among the juniors again went to a young woman: Fleur Moors ended the season on the road with two medals: she took bronze at the World Championships and gold at the European Championships. Among the boys, there was only the bronze of Sente Sentjens in the European Time Trial Championships.
“Did I also beat the boys? That makes it even more chic,” says the Limburg second-year. “It’s really nice to win this trophy. It is nationally recognized. In August I was already celebrated as Sportswoman of the Year following my national cyclocross title in Lokeren at the beginning of 2023, but this is different. I performed well at the World Championships in Glasgow. The French Julie Bego was simply the strongest of the day, the rightful world champion. That European jersey on the VAM mountain finished it off.”
Fleur Moors’ career has otherwise progressed over the past calendar year. “That’s true, I never expected it to happen so quickly. Especially since I haven’t been cycling for very long. At the beginning of 2020, I – like the whole family – was still playing handball at Achilles Bocholt. It was all because of the corona pandemic. Otherwise I might not be a rider now. It’s a blessing in disguise. My eldest brother was already a bit involved in cycling with comrades. I first started with a second-hand mountain bike. That’s how I got the hang of it. I don’t play handball anymore, although I still watch a lot, but cycling is more fun. It’s an individual effort and you’ll get everywhere. I just think it’s a nice sport,” said Moors, who has been out with a bruised kidney since the Beringen cross. “I’m still recovering. I feel fine, but I’m still not allowed to cycle outside, which is a bit annoying. I have to have another check-up on November 13th. If everything is fine, I will normally be allowed to race again. Because I have now missed the first part of the cross season, I will focus on the BC and World Championships, although I am now a first-year promise.”
In the field, Moors drives for Baloise-Trek Lions, but in the meantime she also signed a contract with Lidl-Trek until the end of 2025. “It shouldn’t be too bad as a first-year prospect in cross-country, but on the road it is a big transition. These are longer races and you end up in a larger and stronger field of participants. After the Cyclocross World Championships I will take a break and then I will hit the road. I still have a lot to learn. I learn new things every cross. From Sven Nys, from the teammates, from the competitors. I still have a large margin there,” says Moors, who started studying nutrition and dietetics at Vives University of Applied Sciences in Kortrijk. “I am following the online program. I only have to go there for practice. The intention is to become a dietician.”
Somewhere she also dreams of a career à la Lotte Kopecky, but Moors realizes that the road is still very long. “The new Lotte Kopecky? No, let me be Fleur Moors. It will be extremely difficult to imitate her record. Lotte is a great example for me and many others. It is extraordinary what she has achieved this year. Moreover, she is still able to cope mentally with the setbacks she has experienced. That just makes her even stronger. Lotte is an idol for many girls. Because of her they grab the bicycle. She is a source of inspiration for many,” concluded the Flandrienne of the Future, who turned eighteen in October.
Alec Segaert, Flandrien of the Future at the U23: “Next year I will make a new bid for gold at the World Time Trial Championships in Zurich”
Alec Segaert received the trophy for the Flandrien of the Future for the second year in a row in the Kursaal of Ostend as a U23. It was actually the third consecutive time that he won a prize because as a second-year junior he also won this youth trophy. “I was quite satisfied with my season, but this is confirmation,” said the student cyclist.
The still only twenty-year-old West Flemish had to be satisfied with silver in Glasgow, but then won the European Time Trial Championships for the second year in a row. “It is a championship that suits me exactly. I really had a great day. I rode one of my best time trials ever on that course in terms of values. It was a very nice one to add.”
In Scotland, on the other hand, the Lendeledenaar had to make peace with the silver. “I went for the gold. Point on the line. But I bumped into an opponent who was stronger. Lorenzo Milesi is a very strong driver that I have encountered in the past. He deserved the gold just as much. I rode the time trial I had in mind there. It’s not like I left it somewhere. Then you have to be able to admit that there is someone better.”
The U23 World Time Trial Championships are still unfinished business for Segaert. “I still have an outstanding bill. Zurich 2024 is a big goal. In principle, I can still have a shot at the world title with the U23 team two more times. Also in Rwanda 2025.”
Segaert started the season with Lotto-Dstny Development, but quickly switched to the ProTeam, even though he rode more races with the promises than with the pros. “Everything went according to plan. With the U23 I tried to run a program with races in which I played to win. I had hoped to win one, but I came second in the Youngster Coast Challenge. I had bad luck in Paris-Roubaix, but with the regrettable Tijl De Decker we achieved a fantastic victory as a team. I think that fighting for victory among the promises is also important for later. So that you don’t forget winning and make the right choices in the finals.”
Segaert won the prologue of the Giro Next Gen and also wore pink for three days in the small Tour of Italy, where he laid the foundation for two fantastic professional championships. Second behind Wout van Aert in the time trial and second behind Remco Evenepoel on the road. “That week was one of the highlights of this year. Two times silver, I never would have dared to think that. I maintain: this was because I rode finals with the U23s earlier in the year.”
Next season almost exclusively the professional races beckon. “The intention is that I get a taste of the smaller spring races. Maybe Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne to roll in. Possibly Le Samyn, the Tour of Drenthe, Denain, Nokere, maybe Waregem. I want to build up gradually. We have been working on a plan for a number of years. Maybe next year I’ll do some one-week rounds with a time trial. So I can see where I end up in the rankings. Genre Four Days of Dunkirk,” says the university student who is pursuing a degree in civil engineering in Leuven. “I’m on the schedule I had in mind. By the time I finish this semester, I will have completed a year and a half of my studies. It took me two and a half years. That diploma? It is inevitable that it will take me about ten years because the studies will automatically decrease in the following years. For the time being, I still enjoy being a student sometimes. In the long term I would also like to participate in those typical Flandrien races. I hope to also be considered for the ‘big’ Flandrien of the Year trophy within x number of years,” Segaert concluded.