Human Powered Health’s™ new sports director, Hendrik Redant, began cycling in 1980, which, as he says himself with a smile, “is a very long time ago, eh?”
For the 2022 season, he’ll be drawing on all that experience to help Human Powered Health’s riders build on what was their most successful season ever in 2021.
Redant retired from racing in 1997 after a bad crash, but in those 17 years he went from a kid pursuing his passion, to a very successful amateur to a top-level professional with 52 race wins. He won Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne a couple of times, Paris-Tours once, not to mention a handful of stages at the national Tours of Britain, Portugal and his native Belgium. He knows how to win a bike race, that much is clear.
The accident in ’97 that meant he could no longer race occurred in the Three Days of De Panne, an iconic, super-tough race where he, unfortunately, crashed out on a cobbled section. Luckily, Redant’s team at the time – TVM – took him on as a sports director and his first race as a director in the team car? The Tour de France.
“What happened that first day in the tour… the Tour is very hectic. It’s a lot of people. It’s not easy to drive the car over there!” Redant explains.
The team got Servais Knaven in the break and as the assistant director, it was Redant’s job to get up the road and support him.
“My head director told me ‘yeah, you have to go to the break’. And so I was trying to pass a 200-man peloton, where about 15,000 were people standing next to the side of the road on a narrow stretch. And that was not so easy!
“Eventually some riders crashed in front of me, and I had to brake, which meant people crashed at the back. So I was in middle of a crash with a car. It was immediately a good lesson to know that you always have to concentrate in the car.”
After a couple of years with TVM, he switched to a new team, one with a boss you’ve probably heard of.
— Human Powered Health (@HumanPwrdHealth) January 15, 2022
“Then I changed to the team of Patrick Lefevere, the manager now of QuickStep, and I stayed with him for two years – as he’s also Belgian and one of my friends.”
Redant spent 10 years with that franchise, before leaving and joining UnitedHealthcare, an old sparring partner of Human Powered Health on the US domestic scene. There he struck up a friendly rivalry with Jonas Carney, who was directing in many of the same races.
For the past three seasons, Redant has been directing for the Qhubeka team at WorldTour level, but with that outfit no longer continuing, it was time for a fresh challenge. His existing rapport with Carney was part of the reason Redant wanted to move to Human Powered Health when the opportunity arose.
“I know how he works. And I know he’s very passionate as well. And that’s what I like. For me, passion is everything in cycling.”
Redant is clearly excited about the return to ProTeam level after spending long stints of his career at both the first and second-level teams.
“In a way, I like this level more, because on the WorldTour it’s a lot more scheduled. I like to face more challenges, and sometimes you only have a few when you’re on a WorldTour team because there are so many specialist staff that do the jobs for you. In a ProTeam, the job is way bigger and more varied.”
It’s clear that Redant will take a people-focused approach in his directing for Human Powered Health.
“You have to think about your riders, not to mention the staff, because everybody’s there for, let’s say, two, three weeks in a row. Everybody misses their families, everybody has their own problems. Sometimes they get sick, sometimes they’re happy, sometimes they’re not happy. But you have to cope with that.”
It helps if you have almost three decades of experience to draw on, of course.
“You know, being a director for 26 years, you really learn. You acquire a lot of ‘baggage’, let’s say, which you take with you every time there’s a new situation. What is most important is that you never stress out – there’s always a solution to be found.”