Ladies Staff Stories - sports director Dirk Onghena: “It's nice to see someone take a win, but the development is just as important."

Behind every strong rider stands an equally strong team. In our series 'Staff Stories', we would like to introduce the people who ensure that Lotto Dstny runs like a well-oiled machine every day. Today: sports director Dirk Onghena, who can be found in the Basque Country these days with the Lotto Dstny Ladies Team.
General 10 May 2024

Dirk Onghena has been a sports director of the Lotto Dstny Ladies and Development Team since 2022. "This is my passion. Seeing someone take a win is nice, but the development is just as important. I used to work in a nuclear power plant, as a Predictive Maintenance manager, something completely different", Onghena looks back.

"My son also raced and I decided to follow some trainer courses, after which I was asked to become a provincial coach in cyclocross. That's how I ended up at Belgian Cycling in 2003 until 2019, of which the last 2 years as a coach of the U17 riders. After that, I started working at Cycling Vlaanderen as a coach of the U23 riders. Being at training camps, trainings and races were part of my tasks all those years."

"Suddenly I was asked by Lotto Dstny if I wanted to become a sports director in the team, I took the opportunity. My first race with the Ladies was the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, it was a victory when all our riders were able to finish. I think the steps that are taken and the development of the riders are just as important as a victory. You have to give riders the chance to grow. If I was nervous on my first race with the team? Definitely."

Material, nutrition and guidance

"The team has already taken many steps. I have seen material, nutrition and guidance professionalize enormously. Being 64 years old, I hope to do this still for a while as long as my health allows it. I love the job too much, it's my passion. This season we already achieved some good results, Thalita de Jong also pulls the whole group into this story. In addition to our riders, the staff is just as important. Riders change, but staff in general remains the same throughout the years."

"When I'm at races, I often still see riders I worked with a few years ago at Belgian Cycling. That's always nice, I have a bond with certain riders for forever. It was nice to be able to follow Robin Orins at the Belgian time trial championships when he won, because I witnessed his evolution. Those are moments I'll never forget."

"Today Itzulia Women started, a tough three-day race. We can certainly have ambition with Thalita de Jong, but we will have to wait and see how she feels after her crash at the Vuelta. We will try to go for a nice result in the general classification."


Pictures: Facepeeters