Sports director of AG Insurance – Soudal Quick-Step, Jolien D’hoore here gives a fascinating insight into her life and work, as she balances her role at races and her pregnancy. Her words give an honest account of what it means to be a working woman, preparing for motherhood while also bearing the professional responsibility off her role within the team.
Jolien says: “Your role as a sports director can change in some ways during a special period, such as pregnancy. In my case, fortunately, not much changed. I was lucky to experience few discomforts during my pregnancy, allowing me to continue my daily tasks perfectly. The awareness of carrying a living being made it a unique experience, which made it easier for me to put things in perspective when race results were less than optimal.
A typical workday as a sports director at AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step during this period can be best summarised as long days and short nights. However, this is nothing new; this rhythm has long been a part of my life as a sports director. I always want to be ready for the staff and riders, which means getting up first on race days and ensuring everything is ready for the following day, often in collaboration with my fellow staff members. The day is always filled with race preparations, such as the final weather check, reviewing the course, and much more. Additionally, there are meetings with fellow sports directors, riders, and staff. It’s all about others, not yourself, and ensuring everything runs smoothly on race day.
The role of a sports director is vital for the team’s success. A well-thought-out tactical plan in advance is crucial, and I always coordinate this with the riders. Once everyone is on board, it’s about giving the riders confidence and motivating them to make the plan work. During the race itself, I need to be able to react to the situation. That’s why mutual trust between the rider and sports director is of great importance. Every race is different, and each rider has unique qualities. It’s precisely this variation that makes my role so fascinating because I always want to get the maximum out of it.
During my pregnancy, I didn’t set specific goals for the team. It was a special period for me, but it didn’t change my approach as a sports director. My future plans and ambitions as a sports director remain unchanged. In 2024, I will have to make well-considered choices in my schedule, with a priority on parenthood. As for my ambitions, they remain the same: trying to achieve the best possible results in every race with the team. The riders will certainly have an extra supporter next year!
A job in the world of cycling always requires flexibility, and sometimes it comes with uncertainty, which is not ideal when expecting a baby. Dealing with these uncertain situations is and remains a challenge. But if you do what you love, everything will eventually work out in the future.
The response from the riders to my pregnancy was heartwarming. During the spring races, I had to keep it a secret for a while, which wasn’t always easy. Riders and I often have personal conversations that go beyond just cycling. Topics like ‘babies’ and ‘becoming a mother’ frequently came up. When I could finally share the news, they were all incredibly happy and excited. Since then, they have been very concerned and have shown great support for the situation. I sometimes already felt like a mother to my riders, and that feeling has only grown stronger in recent months.
The warmth and compassion I have experienced from the riders and fellow sports directors have been the highlights for me. During the race, for example, a fellow sports director threw a Snickers bar through the car window to keep my blood sugar levels stable. They always made sure I had enough to eat and drink. The personal gifts I received from some riders were also heartwarming.
My advice to other women trying to balance work and pregnancy is simple: don’t let your dreams of becoming a mother hinder your career, and vice versa. It is possible to achieve both, and now it’s up to me to prove that. I’m already looking forward to this new chapter!”