Edited by Hans Strijbosch
Interview Jos Hayen – ‘motard’
Motorcyclists get the blame for accidents in the race that is what veteran Jos Hayen notices. Since the death of Antoine Demoitié he has been hissed at. Then I feel powerless.
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It happened in the Tour of Flanders. Jos Hayen parked his motor cycle at the side of the road. The photographer he had on his back seat went to take a photo of the atmosphere. While Hayen stood there waiting he heard the crowd yelling boos. And then shouting. Hayen took a closer look. The boos were aimed at him.
Some month ago the Belgian rider Antoine Demoitié fell during Gent-Wevelgem. A motor-cyclists riding behind him could not avoid him; a fatal collision followed. Since then the attitude towards “motards” has changed, says Hayen. “The public sees us as killers”.
He is even stopped in the streets. Then people ask: “Hey Jos, was it you who killed that cyclist?” Then I feel powerless. People should realize that we – in all weather conditions – do our jobs for them too. They too want beautiful pictures of the race.
Hayen also rode in Gent-Wevelgem, as a motard fora n Italian photographer. As late as after the fanish he heard of the fatal accident. He did not the man who collided with Demoitié. But Hayen knows one thing for sure: it could also have happened to him.
For nearly 30 years now he has been hired as a motard by photographers, press agencies or television. Recently he rode in the Amstel Gold Race for the Dutch television, on motorcycle 3. In the jargon: the vacuum cleaner. This camera films everything that is left over by motorcycle 1 (the leading group) and motorcycle 2 (the peloton). From the rider who disposes of his raincoat to a pile-up in the rear.
In this field Hayen – a former amateur cyclist – is well thought of for his insight in the race. He has never – he knocks on wood – fallen. The motards form a separate but really close group in the world of cycling. “We are the cowboys of the race.”
Recently Hayen sold his car damage repair company, now he is a fulltime motard. The beautiful aspect of his trade is according to him being part of the race. Jean Nelissen always said: “I envy you, Jos. We are just sitting here in a small cabin commenting on the race, but you are in the very heart of the race. In the race I feel one with the cyclist. In a descent, e.g. in the Tour, he focuses on your brake light. Then it feels like a dance you do together.
He who wants to ride in a cycling race should have a KNWU licence. For World Tour races a UCI certificate is required in addition. According to Hayen they have but little value. A few evening classes teaching hollow phrases like “respect the cyclists”. We know as much without lessons.
The point is according to him: you learn the trade in the races, not in a class-room. The cameraman wants to be close to the cyclist, I want to serve my client, the cyclist wants safety and meanwhile you are being watched by the jury. It is all tension. The feeling how to deal with these circumstances is developed while doing it.
The best motards come from France, says Hayen. Some of them live in the mountain villages in the Pyrenees. The know every pebble in the descent of the Tourmalet. They are real pros.
The one who taught him most was tv- director Martijn Lindenberg. After the race he called everyone into his hotel room where you reviewed the race. Poor you when the cameraman accidently filmed a bit of rearview mirror. In that case you were really in for it: “Bastard, was it really necessary to film yourself?”
Demoitié’s death has changed much, “There is a certain tension among the motards” The accident was not the only one. In the Vuelta Peter Sagan was bumped off his bike by a motorcycle. The same happened to Greg Van Avermaet in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and Stig Broeckx fell thanks to a motorcycle.
There are too many motorcycles in the races, is the most important complaint. Hayen agrees. “Of course the race could do with fewer motorcycles”, he says. “But then everyone must take his responsibility. And that is not happening.”
He says it is all about status and money. It is all fine; that jury. But is it really necessary that there are so many? And all those press agencies, what is that good for? But then, you can sell a good picture world-wide, so photographers will always try to save their living. All those sponsors in the race? You cannot refuse them; they are important for the sport. It is a circus and everyone wants to be part of it.
It would be best, Hayen thinks, when the teams had fewer riders. The bigger the peloton, the greater the danger of accidents. But there it is again: you speak about the money of the teams. The more jerseys of the sponsor are seen, the better. Nobody cuts in his own flesh.
And so Hayen has settled with it: there will always be accidents. It might sound cruel but Anoine Demoitié’s death has taught us nothing. If you do not want accidents to happen: stay at home.