Rider Interview: The biggest race in the World is this Sunday in Belgium, to be exact; Flanders. Californian, Eamon [van] Lucas is based in Brugge and rides (and wins) kermis races, the backbone of the Belgian cycling scene. Ed Hood caught up with Eamon to talk of the ‘Heartland’ of cycle-sport.
What do the sun kissed shores of Monterey, California and the rain slicked cobbles of Flanders have in common? That’s easy; Eamon [van] Lucas, surfer and Brugge-based kermis killer. In 2019 he was burning up the kermises with wins in Maldegem-Kleit, Izegem, Oostrozebeke, Osstkamp, Langemark, Marke and Eermegem but last year was a Covid wash out and this year didn’t start for amateurs in Belgium until July. And whilst it’s plain ‘Eamon Lucas’ on the beach, there’s a ‘van’ in the middle when he’s in Flanders; “all those Flemish dudes are called ‘van something’ so I figured I should be a ‘van’ too!” We last spoke to him back in April so thought it was time we got his latest take from deep in the Heartland.
PEZ: How do marriage and the Flatlands mix, Eamon?
Eamon Lucas: It’s a good life man, you have to give and take, good communication is important and she’s taking to life in Flanders; learning the language, teaching English, doing her writing. . .
Win for Shifting Gears
PEZ: How has the season gone for your Shifting Gears team?
We’ve had a pretty good year, around 10 wins and another 10/15 podium finishes. There’ll be the usual comings and goings from the team over the winter but there’s a ride for me with the team in 2022 if I want it.
PEZ: How’s the kermis scene?
It’s never been stronger, in my experience. Back in 2019 race average speeds were in the 44/45 kph range but every race is faster than that now – the race I rode the other day we did 51 kph for the first hour, crazy! And the fans are still turning out in their numbers, hanging over the barriers, drinking pils, eating frites and betting on the races.
On course betting
PEZ: How have the results gone for you?
Let’s say that I’m satisfied with how my season has gone, I’ve had three third places, one second place, a win and another six or seven top 10 finishes plus maybe 24/25 races in total where I’ve been in the top half of the field.
PEZ: Is there a stand-out result for you this year?
The thing I’m most pleased with this year is my consistency, there was no one single race with a ‘wow factor’ but this year I’ve always gone well, in 2019 I was either winning or nowhere. And I’ve learned to race smarter than I used to.
Win in Oudenburg 2021
PEZ: How goes the quest for a pro contract?
I have two possibilities, one at Continental level and one at ProTeam; I don’t have an agent as such so I do a lot of the spade work myself but I have guys who help me with contacts and the like.
PEZ: I noticed on social media that you’ve been scaling some of those big passes in la Bella Italia?
Yeah, that was during our training camp at Livigno, I have a coaching business and one of my clients organised training in Majorca with me as his, ‘live in’ coach and he also organised an altitude camp in Italy for us. We did the Gavia, Stelvio, Motorilo, Forcola. . . But I have to tell you, climbing those mountain passes ain’t easy!
2nd in Izegem Bellevue 2021
PEZ: When do you call, ‘time’ on season 2021?
I head back on October 1st so have a couple more weeks, when I get back to the States I ride the Sea Otter circuit race at Laguna Seca near my home town of Monterey, I won it in 2017 and would like to be up there again. It’s usually much earlier in the year but has been put back due to the situation with the virus.
PEZ: Will the off season involve surfing?
For sure, I can’t wait, my birthday comes in the middle of my off season and we always arrange a surfing trip to coincide with it. When you’ve not seen your friends for six or nine months it’s cool to get reacquainted and there’s a usually an Indian Summer so the weather is good. We may go to Pebble Beach, Lovers Point or Santa Cruz – and there are good surfing beaches all along Big Sur.
3rd in Marke 2021
PEZ: And your coaching gig keeps you busy over the winter?
Yes, my clients aren’t racing but the winter is when you make gains for season 2022 – base miles, gym work, core. I have a lot of masters clients and their big goal is the Masters Worlds in October. It’s impressive how serious some of those guys are; one of my clients is a surgeon, he’ll put in a 12/13 hour day but still do his work out after it.
PEZ: Did you ever consider a pro career in the USA?
Before I came to Europe I raced that scene and won races, I daresay I could get a contract and go back to it but I just think that I have bigger fish to fry.
Bring on 2022
PEZ: Your hopes for season 2022?
Hopefully I’ll have a full race programme, I didn’t ride my first race until July 3rd this year due to constraints imposed by the virus. When I had my big season in 2019 I came straight from a very good winter in the California sunshine and was in great shape to start winning straight off. Last year didn’t happen and whilst I got here in great condition this year the racing didn’t start until July so I didn’t have that big advantage I’d had for the start of my 2019 season. But I’ll be back here on 28th February 2022 and ready to race.
PEZ: Final question, is Wout going to win the Worlds?
I’d love to see that, WVA winning on home soil but I think he’ll be marked out of it. Colbrelli is my tip, he’s flying right now and not just winning sprints – his ride to win the Benelux Tour was quality.
# Always a pleasure to chat to Eamon, we’ll get that beer with him one of these old days. #