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An interview with Tristan Hoffman, July 27, 2005
Into the team car
After a career spanning 13 years, CSC's Tristan Hoffman's retirement wasn't an easy step to take. But a broken leg in this year's Omloop Het Volk persuaded the Dutch veteran to call it a day, and instead of tending to the proverbial rose garden, Hoffman has decided he's not finished with the action yet. Cyclingnews' Sabine Sunderland caught up with the now former classics rider to discuss the future.
In an interview before Paris-Roubaix, Tristan Hoffman explained what it felt like to experience "his" races watching them on tv. After suffering serious injuries during a crash in the Omloop Het Volk, the 35-year-old Dutchman was facing a rehabilitation process no-one considered a walk in the park.
But "Hoffie" kept his cool and the smile on his face.
The CSC classics man had to adjust his goals and training schedule, and was looking at returning to the pro peloton in 2006. He remained focused and worked hard with a demanding daily rehabilitation program. During those months Hoffman was looking at the team's successes from the sidelines, and while keeping in close contact with everyone, Tristan noticed that maybe his ambitions in cycling were shifting from being a rider to taking up a function within the management.
Five months later, with the accident still a little fresh in his mind, Hoffman has decided to turn the last page in his cycling career; and while one stage of his cycling is coming to an end, another challenge is unfolding as we speak. On the 16th of October Hoffman will ride his last race for fans and supporters, and everyone's invited to come and cheer him on in Dwars deur Grolle.
Cyclingnews: Tristan, tell us how the last few months have been.
Tristan Hoffman: Things have been a process of ups and downs. Until April my rehab was going well and there was hope I'd be back riding in the peloton soon. During the Amstel Gold race, I made a visit to my teammates at the hotel in Lanaken and spoke to Bjarne Riis about my comeback, but also about a future with the team off the bike. Bjarne was very positive and he said he was happy that I considered different options.
In May I reached a plateau in the healing process; it wasn't going as consistently as I was hoping for and I had to accept a few setbacks. There wasn't progress to be noticed anymore and I realised pretty quickly that there was no way I'd be riding again this season."
TH: My interest was triggered for a position as PR officer or even Sporting Director. Then, Bjarne and Scott were coming to Eindhoven for the Pro Tour Team Time Trial event. Scott gave me a call to ask if I'd like to come and stay with the team, and Bjarne said we should have a talk! The timing was perfect. He said that he would have a look at the budget and try to fit me in as a team director when I was ready for it."
CN: " Do you regret that your career was stopped so brusquely by that crash or have the last few months given you the time to come to terms with that?
TH: "I always said I would stop cycling around the age of 35; the only thing I didn't know was that a stupid post would put a full stop on that chapter of my career. I'm satisfied with what I have gotten out of it, I've squeezed the maximum out of my body and talent. A win in Paris-Roubaix would have been the icing on the cake, but I wouldn't have stood a chance against Boonen anyway (laughs)."
"During the training camp in Austria last week, Scott asked me to join him in the car. When I saw the boys riding up those big hills, I knew: I definitely don't feel like doing that anymore! (laughs, louder). No, I think I'm ready for a change. Don't think I will miss the suffering during racing at all."
CN: "Do you think you'll make the progression from rider to team director easily? You know the team well, so I guess that's going to be a bonus."
TH:"My position in the team has been changing over the years. I'm a veteran now, and I look at things from a different angle than younger riders. I noticed that I was thinking more and more in terms of what would benefit the team, not just myself. Besides that I also started passing on my experience to the youngsters and loved being able to do that.
I've grown to love the "nomad" lifestyle too. It's difficult of course to be away from home weeks on end, especially with the kids... but coming home is always something special too; the happiness, the emotions, they're addictive.
"I see this team directorship as a new challenge. And a very special opportunity you don't get handed to you every day. Not everyone gets the chance to have a shot at fulfilling his ambitions, and these types of jobs aren't often up for grabs! I'm feeling very honoured that the team management has shown their trust in me and I think it's great to stay in cycling.
"There's no doubt that learning the job will be difficult at times; but I'll go for it 200%. I know that it might be a task to maintain a distance from the riders at first; I mean, I was their teammate until now! But I think I'll be able to adjust quickly, and it's not like I'll be thrown in the deep end right away; I'll be working a secondary program at first and allowed to learn from the other team directors"
CN: "When will you be joining the team in the director's car?"
TH:"I'm now taking time to get myself organised. My licence needs to be turned into a director's licence, but there shouldn't be a problem there. I hope I'll be able to get to the Benelux tour as an assistant team director. Then I'll be going to the Tour of Spain where I'll be shown the ropes some more."
Over the years, Tristan Hoffman has profiled himself as an easy-going very sociable guy. But which of his personality traits does he consider a benefit in his position as a team director?
TH:"I get along with just about everyone in the peloton. I know the riders, know the structure of the team and the philosophy Riis holds high: don't look at what the team can do for you, look at what you can do for the team. I don't see a problem with me fitting in really; I mean, I'm a good guy, no?" (laughs again)
That, he sure is!