Sebastian Langeveld’s last race

The Dutchman will retire after Paris-Tours. He will continue with EF Education-EasyPost as a Sports Director

October 7, 2022

After 17 seasons in the professional peloton, Sebastian Langeveld will pin on a number for the last time this Sunday at Paris-Tours.

Once he has torn through the vineyards southwest of Paris with his teammates, his family and friends will be waiting to celebrate with him at the finish in Tours. When he crosses the line, he will call it a career. A new adventure awaits him: Sebastian will work as a sports director for our team next year. But first, Sebastian wants to enjoy his last race and help his teammates navigate mad dash after mad dash down the French wine growers’ tracks.

Never say never, but Sebastian’s career probably won’t end with a fairytale victory like it started. He won his second ever race. At 37, Sebastian can no longer quite find the form that made him one of the best classics riders of his generation. He will never brag about his list of results, but it includes a victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, a podium at Paris-Roubaix, and fifth at the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Sebastian is an Olympian. He has represented the Netherlands ten times at the road world championships, ridden De Ronde 15 times, Roubaix 14 times, and done six Tours de France. Sebastian was Dutch champion. He has raced for our team since 2014 and contributed to many of our best results. The role he played in the finale of Alberto Bettiol’s 2019 Tour of Flanders victory is just one example of the stellar work he has done for us in recent years. That Sebastian’s career has lasted as long as it has is a testament to his professionalism. Next year, our riders will listen to every word he shouts over the radio, because he has been a role model for them right up to his last race.

Sebastian’s best advice for them now is to enjoy bike racing.

“I now realise how special it is to do this,” he says. “I started cycling as a kid and it was just a hobby. I just liked riding my bike, and then it got more serious and I was making a living out of it, but I think you always have to remind yourself about the basics; what makes you happy on the bike and can you keep doing this? In 17 years, I have met so many people and seen so many things, being on the road with a great bunch of people. But if you’re living alone like a monk for three months at a time at altitude, and you don’t really enjoy it, that is going to make it pretty hard to have a long career.”

Sebastian has always tried to find ways to make the travel and training that come with life as a professional cyclist fun and sustainable. It takes enormous amounts of dedication and hard work to win top-class bike races. During his time as a racer, Sebastian has seen the sport become more and more competitive. It’s not that the best riders have got faster. The champions Sebastian raced against early in his career would still win the great races today. But the quality of the riders in the peloton has improved, especially in the spring classics that Sebastian loves most.

“The game is the same. It is still bike riding, and you have to be the first to get from A to B,” he says, “but the level of the field is higher. Ten years ago, in Flanders or Roubaix, you were maybe fighting to get to the front with 80 guys. There were 80 good guys for the classics. Now, all of the teams have their best riders there, and you are riding with 170 guys who are all in top shape, thanks to the nutrition knowledge everyone has, altitude camps, training camps, bikes, materiel. That makes it much harder to fight for position, and makes it a bit more dangerous. That’s cycling.”

Young riders now come into the sport with skills and knowledge that they would only have gained in their first couple of years as professionals back when Sebastian was starting out. Most of them have been training with power meters since they were kids and already know how to eat properly and rest properly and look after their bodies, thanks to the knowledge on the internet.

Bike racing is not just a test of fitness though, especially at the top-level. The rigours of racing up to 80 days per year under pressure are hard to handle. Sebastian has learned how to deal with those pressures and perform season after season.

He was a phenom in his first year as a pro. He won the GP Pino Cerami in his second professional race and finished second at the Dutch championships that season. The world’s biggest teams were knocking down his door. He went to the top pro team in the Netherlands. Although he missed the classics the next spring due to a broken hand, he won the Ster Elektrotoer and was second again at the Dutch championships. The next spring, he was flying. He finished second at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and was racing for the win in the finale at the Tour of Flanders. Every cycling fan in the Netherlands expected him to become the country’s next classics star.

“All of a sudden, I was doing the races I used to watch on the television,” Sebastian says. “I’d always supported the big names, Museeuw, Van Petegem, and there I was in the final of Flanders myself, which was sort of unreal.”

Sebastian’s team expected him to win those races. In his early twenties, Sebastian sometimes struggled with the weight of those expectations.

“I was one of the leaders for the classics then,” he says. “And I always felt an immense amount of pressure on my shoulders, in a way that I almost didn’t enjoy it, which wasn’t a super nice period. You don’t win 95% of your races in cycling, and if you’re expected to win bike races… if I didn’t deliver, I sort of struggled with that. I didn’t really enjoy cycling for a little while.”

It was when he re-found his joy in cycling that Sebastian was at his best. Going to the Olympic Games in London and representing his country so many times at the world championships will always be some of his favourite memories. He’ll never forget the day Albert Bettiol won De Ronde or climbing onto the podium at Paris-Roubaix. He is proudest of his win at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, because that was one of the races that made him fall in love with cycling as a boy.

“That was one of my biggest victories,” he says. “Beating Juan Antonio Flecha, an old teammate of mine, in really terrible weather conditions was special. I haven’t won a lot, but that is probably the biggest one. I’m never going to be the guy who says, ‘I did this, won whatever, attacked here or there’, but in a few years, when I have to tell my children, your father was a bike rider, to be able to say to them that I won Het Nieuwsblad is a big thing. I am pretty proud of that race.”

Many of Sebastian’s favourite cycling memories weren’t victories though; it’s the trips on the bus, travelling around the world with good friends that he really treasures. When the vibe was good, he and his teammates raced well and kept racing well.

“If I look at my career, and the amount of joy it has given me, being on a bike, being on the road, with teammates, with staff, it is something that is pretty special. Back then, I didn’t really have the time to realise that it was something so good,” Sebastian says. “We all started cycling because we like it, because we enjoy riding bikes. It’s important to remember that.”

Now, Sebastian will ride his own bike less. He is really looking forward to spending a lot more quality time at home with his wife Tessa and their two sons Dylan and Dean who are three and six, without having to go off training.

“I am super grateful that I can make my own decision to stop my career now,” Sebastian says. “The time is right. Luckily, I am not one of those athletes who all of a sudden has to retire because they don’t have a contract or they are injured. I am still going to be on the road with a great bunch of people.”

It is going to be strange to see Sebastian climb into a team car at the classics next spring, and not roll off on his bike, ready to lead our team to the front of the peloton whatever the weather, through thick or thin. But we know he will embrace his new role with all of the dedication he has shown during his 17 years as a pro, share his wisdom with our young riders, and help keep the races fun.

“I am really keen to put the same amount of passion and time into being a good DS and helping young riders out as I did as a cyclist,” he says.

Thank you Sebastian. Race your heart out one more time. We will be waiting for you in Tours to celebrate.

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