At Lidl-Trek, De Jongh works with stars like Pedersen and Nys, but he also offers recreational riders great "Tour experience" Cycling

At Lidl-Trek, De Jongh works with stars like Pedersen and Nys, but he also offers recreational riders great "Tour experience"

At Lidl-Trek, De Jongh works with stars like Pedersen and Nys, but he also offers recreational riders great "Tour experience"

"Do you still live in Essen, Steven?" Oops! Turns out, he hasn't lived there for three years... Before the Dauphiné, yours truly spoke with the 50-year-old sports director for about ten minutes, primarily about Lidl-Trek's big names like Giulio Ciccone, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Mads Pedersen (though some details seem to have already been overtaken by current events). Afterward, at the hotel in Moulins, there was time for some more small talk. My somewhat clumsy question, however, led to an interesting glimpse into De Jongh's life as he began to talk about his 'Ride The Elevation' project in Andorra.

De Jongh is organizing this cycling project together with his partner, Renee Meijer. "Experience an unforgettable cycling week, filled with beautiful miles and challenging elevation gains, under the guidance of former pro and current Lidl-Trek team director Steven de Jongh," the website says. "Ride with us on several breathtaking routes in Andorra. Experience our unique Tour de France Experience, with no less than 5,247 meters of climbing in a single day. Enjoy the hospitality and good care of Renee, the luxury of a support car, sports nutrition to fuel you with the necessary energy during the ride, and stay in a comfortable hotel after each demanding day." As De Jongh is explaining all this to me, a broad smile appears on his face.

Team director at Lidl-Trek, but also an organizer of cycling clinics: De Jongh is a jack-of-all-trades

"During one of the trips, a man from near 't Gooi (in the Netherlands, ed.) participated," he casually threw in an anecdote. "He was about two meters tall and weighed around 98 kilograms. He had lost ten kilograms especially for the trip because he really wanted to participate. He had really trained for it. It was his first time riding a climb of more than 2,000 meters. The climbs in Limburg (province in the Netherlands, ed.) were the longest he had done before. A man like that is of course really happy afterward that he has done it. In the end, he conquered about six hors category climbs. He was rightly very proud of that. He had really pushed his limits. That's a beautiful thing."

In short, De Jongh is an enthusiast. We might also describe him as a jack-of-all-trades. Is organizing cycling trips compatible with being a team director at Lidl-Trek? "Once I know my race schedule for Lidl-Trek, I then plan the dates to give cycling clinics around that," he explains. "Based on my team director schedule, I determine the Andorra dates. Normally, for example, if I'm not doing the Giro d'Italia, we can do one in May. And usually, there is one after the Vuelta. The last time, two people participated. So they really got personal attention. As of now, six people are listed for September. So that's also a nice little group. Over the next few years, we want to expand a bit, but then we really need to rely on word of mouth."

De Jongh offers recreational cyclists a personal Tour de France experience

"For us, it's obviously cycling at a whole different level, but for the people who participate, it's like a personal Tour de France," emphasizes De Jongh. "I think that's really wonderful. When we do the well-known Three Countries route (through Andorra, France and Spain, ed.), they really love it. Once, however, the participants were unlucky. We started off with beautiful weather, but as we went on, it started to rain more and more. At one point, it even started to hail. Luckily, I had put enough jackets in the car, so they could descend with jackets on, haha!"

De Jongh himself is also a more than decent cyclist. Take a look at his Strava account and you'll see one bizarre average speed after another pass by. Rides with an average speed lower than 36 kilometers per hour seem to be the exception to the rule. It appears to be the chronicle of a still very busy bee. Good luck with your endeavors and thanks for the time, Steven!

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