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Jelle Wallays: “After all, there is also a life next to and after procycling”

The 30-year-old Lotto-Soudal rider presents a great example to follow. The 2-times Paris Tours winner (2014, 2019) and Vuelta stage winner (2018) is one of the no. 1 riders in the World Tour Team of Lotto-Soudal.

Photo: Photonews

The Belgian showed a promising talent as a Junior cyclist in the very selective youth races of the Benelux countries.
However next to his successful cycling career, popularity and gold medals, Jelle Wallays never wanted to put all his eggs in one basket.

2 years ago he started with the plans of his Bed & Breakfast Guest House in Belgium: the KOOON (www.kooon.be).

Bikemag:
Hi Jelle, thank you for accepting our invitation for an interview.
We heard about your injury in the winter. How is your knee at this moment?

Jelle Wallays:
Luckily, everything is perfect with my knee by now. We worked very hard on the rehabilitation to return to racing as fast as possible.

Bikemag:
The professional race calendar is changing nearly day by day. How is your preparation going for the race season? Which race will be your first one normally?

Jelle Wallays:
It is difficult to predict at this moment which will be my first race. I prefer to start the season with a shorter stage race, to gain quickly a top shape.

Photo: Photonews

Bikemag:
What is your daily routine in this quarantine period?

Jelle Wallays:
I ride every day according to my training schedule and keep doing the rehability trainings for my knee and core strength. I also have plenty of work at our new Bed & Breakfast Guest House, the KOOON.

Bikemag:
Do you communicate with your teammates? Who are your close friends in the peloton?

Jelle Wallays:
Yes, we hear each other weekly by video chat. I also train sometimes with my good friends Jens Keukeleire and Gianni Vermeersch. They are my best friends in the peloton.

Bikemag:
We heard Lotto-Soudal riders gave up a part of their salary from the team. What is your opinion on this matter? Can you tell us how many percentage did you give up from yours?

Jelle Wallays:
Yes this is true. It is logical, since the sponsors can’t see us now on TV. This is much less publicity that we can give in return to them. It is not easy to tell how much is this amount exactly. I don’t have problems with this fact, since there are no races. The sponsors made us always perfectly possible to ride a fantastic programme, now it’s our turn to give back something since there are no races for a long time this year.

Jelle Wallays and his girlfiend

Bikemag:
Why did you stay all these years with Lotto-Soudal?

Jelle Wallays:
This is a proteam that feels like a second Family to me. I stay with the team because I love riding in Lotto-Soudal colors.

Bikemag:
How often do you communicate with the team management of Lotto-Soudal?

Jelle Wallays:
Weekly by the phone. Normally we always see each other on races but of course at these times it is necessary to make a call regularly and to discuss the situation.

Bikemag:
Have you seen the movie of Stig Broeckx? What is the most important memory for you from his documentary / from his professional cyclist career? Did his story give you something special to remember in your everyday life?

Jelle Wallays:
I saw the movie of Stig. I lived also by this motto because of him, to “Never Give Up”.
Since his accident as my team mate I am much more concerned about my life next to professional cycling and after the race career. The miracle of Stig Broeckx had a great effect on my life, too.

Bikemag:
In Hungary everything in HORECA needs to be closed. The tourism was forced to stop since 13 March. Can you reach any income at these times with KOOON Bed & Breakfast? Do you have bookings for the summer period?

Jelle Wallays:
It is a very difficult period for our new Bed & Breakfast. We have a few reservations, but not too many. We hope to open our doors from the 16th of May.

Bikemag:
What extra services and excitement can you offer in KOOON for the amateur cyclists who come to you for a holiday?

Jelle Wallays:
When I’m at home the guests can cycle together with me. If I’m not there, I give them the nicest routes to follow and also my favourite trainingloops, of course.

Bikemag:
How do you deal with the insecureness at this moment?

Jelle Wallays:
This is the moment to work on my weaker points, so I’m busy with this. There is also a race programme planned, so I can focus. I am highly motivated for the future.

Jens Keukeleire, Thomas De Gendt, Jelle Wallays (Calpe 2019)

Bikemag:
For many riders the cycling sport completes 100 % their life. When did you decide not to be fully focused only at your professional rider contract?

Jelle Wallays:
After the crash of Stig Broeckx in 2016 at Baloise Belgium Tour. Losing Bjorg Lambrecht, my young and super talented team mate last summer resulted a second confirmation in my choice. I fell once on my face very seriously in a race, too. (In Vuelta a San Juan 2019)

Bikemag:
What do you think about young talented cyclists who only want to be a cyclist and with no other interests or responsabilities?

Jelle Wallays:
I think there is much more in life than only top sport and cycling.
It is so important to take care of something else that you are also passoniate about. For example, I invented my own coffee blend.

Bikemag:
Have you ever visited Hungary?

Jelle Wallays:
No, I haven’t been to Hungary yet!

Jelle Wallays favourites
Favourite cycling destination (for a trainingcamp): Calpe
Holidays destination: Curaçao
Favourite race: Paris-Roubaix
Favourite sports legend: Hard question. For me, it is Johan Museeuw
Favourite women cycling team: Lotto-Soudal Ladies
Favourite women cyclist: Thalita de Jong
Favourite type of coffee: My own blend
Favourite meal before a race: Pancakes
Favourite meal after a race: A good pasta
Favourite drink after a victory: West-Vlaanderen beer 🙂

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