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Michel Wuyts about forced farewell to VRT: ‘I expected more gratitude at the end of the ride’

“A big blow”, Michel Wuyts calls it himself. Last week he was visited by Pieter De Windt, editor-in-chief at Sporza. He came to bring him bad news. Wuyts, who will be 65 at the end of this year, has to retire. And Flanders’ favorite cycling commentator hadn’t seen that coming. “Of course I had heard those stories about Martine Tanghe or Linda De Win, who suddenly had to stop when they were 65. But I assumed that somehow, as an expert or something, I could keep working. Maybe not all the races I did now, but at least a few.”

That turned out not to be an option. Under the new CEO Frederik Delaplace, the VRT has opted to apply the pension rules consistently. It is a matter of creating enough growth opportunities for young talent. No exceptions are made for big names either. Which means that Wuyts is working on his last cycling season. The World Cup in his home city will be the last road race he comments on VRT. This is followed by the very last cyclocross season.

Wuyts and Boonen, spring 2017.Image Photo News

At the Reyerslaan they realize that replacing him will not be easy. “For many generations, he is the voice of the race,” says Sporza editor-in-chief De Windt. As many as three commentators are brought out of the stable in the hope of making him forget. Karl Vannieuwkerke will be the man for the big one-day races, the classics in the lead. Renaat Schotte will provide commentary on the multi-day races and the grand tours. During the cyclocross you will hear the voice of Ruben Van Gucht again, just like in women’s cycling. José De Cauwer, Wuyts’ co-commentator for years, will continue to work at the VRT. Together with Sven Nys, Lieselot Decroix, Ine Beyen and Paul Herygers, he forms a team of experts to assist the regular commentators.

The stricter application of the work regulations still has consequences. Frank Raes also disappears from the screen. Raes already retired in 2019 but remained the football magazine Extra Time present on canvas. He will pass that torch on to Aster Nzeyimana at the end of this year. “I have been employed by the VRT since 1980,” Raes responds. “We are now more than 40 years later. As far as I’m concerned, it’s been beautiful.”

Raes in 'Extra Time'. Image VRT
Raes in ‘Extra Time’.Image VRT

The – forced – step aside may not be difficult for him, but Raes has his reservations about the approach of the VRT. “We all think it’s normal that Bob Dylan is still making records at the age of eighty, and nobody has a problem with Jef Vermassen continuing to argue after he’s seventy. But that is not possible on the VRT. That’s at least something to think about.”

At Wuyts, parting is more sensitive. “I am wary of harsh statements. I have experienced fantastic things over the past thirty years. Things I could never have experienced in my former position as a school principal. Thanks to the VRT. I don’t forget that. I only expected more gratitude at the end of the ride. Apparently that was naive. My file and that of a number of others have become symbol files with which the people at the top want to show that they can and dare to take hard and clear decisions. It’s not the first time this has happened either. At the time, Bert De Graeve, as CEO, decided to retire the great Jan Wauters at the age of sixty.”

Wuyts does not intend to just hang the microphone on the hook next spring. “I don’t feel like it’s over. There is no age on cycling comments, José De Cauwer is the best example of that. I haven’t worked out yet.” Is there a chance that we will soon hear Wuyts on another channel? “Why not? I would jump for joy if I had opportunities elsewhere.”

Frank Raes and Michel Wuyts. image rv
Frank Raes and Michel Wuyts.image rv

Michel Wuyts about forced farewell to VRT: ‘I expected more gratitude at the end of the ride’
Source link Michel Wuyts about forced farewell to VRT: ‘I expected more gratitude at the end of the ride’

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