Kurt Roose is a senior mechanic with the Quick-Step Floors team. And his 20 years in the business has allowed him to work with cycling legends such as Johan Museeuw, Paolo Bettini and Tom Boonen. Currently, he is with the Belgian team at the Giro d’Italia, where Quick-Step Floors dominated the first week of racing, winning two stages as well as holding the pink leader’s jersey.
Words and images by James Startt, European Associate to Peloton Magazine
Peloton Magazine: Kurt, you are at the Giro d’Italia. How many have you done?
Kurt Roose: Oh, I think this is my eighth Giro and my 22nd grand tour.
Peloton: What is harder for a mechanic, the Giro or the Tour?
Roose: Well, with all of its transfers this year, the Giro. We’ve already had three boat transfers, first to Sardinia, then to Sicily and then to the mainland. That’s a lot of extra organization and it’s not easy. But it gets easier when the there are victories and jerseys!
Peloton: Well, you have had plenty of those so far in the Giro. How did you get into being a mechanic?
Roose: Well, I raced for 10 years as a junior and as an amateur. After 10 years I understood that I didn’t have a big enough motor to go pro. But I always loved working on my bike and then through a friend I got a job in a bike shop. Then, in 1997, I was contacted by the Dutch TVM team to sub for a mechanic that had an accident. I did 30 days of racing that year and they offered me a full contract in 1998. So my first full-time pro job was in 1998. I remember promising my wife that I would just do the pro team job for five years. And now it has been 20.
Peloton: How many days of racing do you do each year?
Roose: I would say I have about 130 or 140 days on the road at races or training camps and the rest at the team’s service course. I really like the service course ambiance. I just love getting everything prepared for the guys so when they go to the race everything is set in place. But it is good to go out and get to the race. At the races, things are always different.
Peloton: I know at Quick-Step the team often designates a mechanic for a certain rider. Do you have any rider or riders you look after in particular?
Roose: No, not really. In the beginning I worked very closely with Johan Museeuw because I lived very close to him. But now I’ve been on the team for like 16 years, the most of any of the mechanics I think. And I prefer not to have just one rider.
Peloton: What was it like working with Museeuw?
Roose: Oh, that was special. And even now, 10 years later, I would say it is more special because we are still friends. My son Matteo is racing now and Johan was with him at a training camp giving him advice. Already to be his mechanic was special, but now to be his friend is even more special.
Peloton: Does your son have a bigger motor than you did?
Roose: Oh, I don’t know, but I don’t push him. What is important for me is not that he races bikes but simply that he does sports.
Peloton: What was Museeuw like to work with? Was he very meticulous when it came to equipment?
Roose: Well, he knew what he wanted, especially in the classics. When it came to the classics he was always checking everything from the tubulars to the tire pressure to the seat height, just everything. A couple things were particularily important. First, he had a special saddle made for him by San Marco with extra gel in it. And then he was always checking his tire pressure. Johan came from cyclocross so he understood how crucial it can be. Tire pressure in cyclocross can make up for nearly half of the bike’s performance sometimes…200-300 grams of tire pressure could make all of the difference.
Peloton: Of all of the champions you worked with over the years, who was most particular about his equipment?
Roose: Oh, I would say Paolo Bettini. Whenever he started to get into shape he was always very specific, always changing the seat height or the handlebar height by one millimeter. But then a couple of days later he would win a really big race. It was incredible.
Peloton: Who was the easiest to work when it came to his bike?
Roose: Oh, that would be Richard Virenque. When it came to Virenque, if he had air in his tires, he was happy…ha-ha!
Peloton: What was the greatest day you ever had as a mechanic?
Roose: Tom Boonen’s first victory in the Tour of Flanders back in 2005. He was so young and so strong. Looking back, that victory was just a sign of all the great things to come. Of course you never know at the time, but Tom confirmed all of the promise that that day instilled.
Peloton: What was the hardest day for you?
Roose: Oh, that would be the day Wouter [Weylandt] died back in 2011. I will never forget. I was driving home from the service course when I heard the news and I missed my exit. Wouter started out with us. And even though he was riding for Team Leopard that year, he still lived close by and would still stop by. He was one of us! I’ve been to his grave several times. I still have a photo of him inside my house. It’s still with me.
Peloton: What is the best part of your job?
Roose: The freedom. When you do your job well, nobody complains and everything goes smoothly.
Peloton: What is the hardest part of your job?
Roose: The travel. You know a lot of people just see the race. But there is much more. There is the to-and-from. There are the transfers. There is just a lot more traveling than you actually see in a race.