After 50 years of directing professional cyclists from the team car, Intermarché-Circus-Wanty Sports Director Hilaire Van der Schueren has decided to quietly end his run in the role.
The 75-year-old was never a professional cyclist but got his start with the team of Dutchman Jan Raas, a winner of Tour of Flanders twice, Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo in addition to 10 stages of the Tour de France.
Since then, Van der Schueren has mainly worked with scrappy underdog teams with smaller budgets. In 1996, he joined the Collstrop organisation and remained with them through rebranding as MrBookmaker – Frank Vandenbroucke’s team from 2004 until 2006 after he confessed to doping – and onto the ill-fated Unibet.com, the centre of the UCI’s battle with the Tour de France organisers ASO.
Van der Schueren joined Vacansoleil in 2009 and, when the team ended, he moved to Wanty-Groupe Gobert in 2014. He has remained with that organisation since, leading the team into the WorldTour and fielding up-and-coming stars like Biniam Girmay.
Along with successes came a terrible blow in 2016 when Van der Schueren was driving the team car when Antoine Demoitié was struck by a motorcycle and killed during Gent-Wevelgem in 2016, and Van der Schueren was one of the first to the scene.
“Antoine had just called on the radio asking for a bidon. Those were his last words,” Van der Schueren said at the time.
“In my career, I’ve been on races where riders have died, but it’s never been one of my own. It’s so much more difficult to come to terms with it.”
According to Wielerflits, Van der Schueren might remain with the team in some capacity.
“My last race in the car as team leader has passed. But I will probably stay with the team,” he said. “We still need to talk about it properly, but I’m certainly not gone yet. The team is going to make me an offer, but there is no rush. We still have plenty of time.”
Van der Scheuren suggested that Steven De Neef, who rode for him on Collstrop, would be a successor.
“Steven De Neef was already with the team when I joined in 2014. And he is still there now, so his track record is great. And then we have younger team leaders such as Pieter Vanspeybrouck and Dimitri Claeys. I think we are well-equipped for the future. I’m not worried about that.”
Van der Scheuren kept a low profile about his retirement, not even telling the riders until after his final races, the Zwevezele Koers and Omloop van het Houtland.
“I didn’t want the whole race to revolve around me. What made me very happy is that we won the last two races with myself in the car,” Van der Schueren said. “Gerben Thijssen was the best of the peloton in both … That made it a nice farewell.”