INTERVIEW Benji Naesen Part 2 | Why and How a cycling fan worked with Jumbo-Visma to win the 2022 Tour de France (2024)

Cycling media has over the last few years been extending itself to different types of content. In an exclusive interview, CyclingUpToDate and CiclismoAldia have talked to Belgian content creator Benji Naesen.

Regarding subjects such as his position at the Lanterne Rouge Cycling Podcast, becoming one of cycling's most famous Youtubers, partnerships with famous brands such as Zwift and his role in Jumbo-Visma's victory at the 2022 Tour de France.

Note: You can find Part 1 by clicking here. You can check his platforms over on Twitter and Youtube where he frequently posts different types of content.

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Jumbo-Visma were the sensation team of 2022. With Wout van Aert, Christophe Laporte and Tiesj Benoot consistently performing at their best level in the cobbled classics, the three-man attack which led to an unique win at Paris-Nice, to the Tour de France where the Dutch team went all-out to defeat - successfully - Tadej Pogacar... Much was behind all that success, and a fraction of those victories came due to the work of Belgian content creator, Youtuber and Podcaster Benji Naesen.

In 2022 he teamed up with Patrick Broe - more commonly known as 'Lanterne Rouge' - to work full-time in the cycling industry. The two have grown the Lanterne Rouge Cycling Podcast where they analyze races throughout the year, but that content has not only reached cycling fans all around the world, but also some figures within the pro cycling bubble.

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"In February, I got a phone call while walking through the forest in the Ardennes by Merijn Zeeman," Naesen shares in an interview with CyclingUpToDate and CiclismoAldia. Zeeman is a DS at Jumbo-Visma and widely known as one of the masterminds behind the Dutch team's success throughout this year, "he started talking about the role of a video analyst."

"There's not many teams that have stuff like this. You'd be shocked by how limited stuff behind the scenes is in some cycling teams I'll be honest about that. And I think Jumbo is probably a team that's pretty far in that," he admits. The phone call happened after initial contact where Zeeman had been interested in the apparent qualities of Naesen and Broe when it comes to analyzing cycling races and craftic race tactics.

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"Merijn waslike, 'do you feel like this is something you can do it?' First thing I said was, I'm not sure if Ican do this if you want me to have a different opinion about Jumbo as aconsequence. So that was the first thing I mentioned," Naesen tells. To the DS of the Dutch team he said 'I needto make sure that I can say everything about you guys after this that I wasable to say beforehand, because I've been critical of Jumbo in the past, I hadto be critical of Jumbo when they did sh*t after if we enteredan agreement in some shape or form'.

The agreement came to be however. Not only did Naesen team up with Jumbo-Visma, but so did 'Lanterne Rouge', with the two teaming up to equally help the Dutch team with their insight and knowledge in pro cycling. "I also knew that having Patrick also first of all would reducethe workload for me but would also be beneficial for him. And in the grand schemeof things, he'd have a lot to offer that I also don't have. Because I'll behonest about it, Patrick's a better [video] editor than me. Patrick insome shape or form has better ideas when it comes to certain tactics. He'sgreat at analysis, for example. Great at preparing analysis, all that kind ofstuff. So I feel like when it comes to data analysis, he's also just betterthan me... I was like, 'let's do this together'."

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"'But we need to make sure that we get a good agreement as inwe need to get an agreement where we can say whatever we want of Jumbo after this'," he continued. "And Merijn was pretty open about that, he justsaid 'I don't care'. I was like, well, if you don't care, then put it in paperand then it's fine. So that's really how the the story started unfolding," he details. "The main races we worked for were the classicsand the Tour de France, and I think gradually throughout the period it startedevolving from video analysis towards tactical consultancy along the way."

"Where if you're doing video analysis, if you're analyzing races, you're alsonoticing tactics that work and so forth. And you're like 'you guys should trythis with these riders'. This could work or noticing that these teams always usethese strategies. These teams are using this type of method to try and getriders ahead. Make sure that you're in the wheel, for example, at that point inthe race," he enumerates.

INTERVIEW Benji Naesen Part 2 | Why and How a cycling fan worked with Jumbo-Visma to win the 2022 Tour de France (1)

"And then towards the Tour de France, it was actually quite a bit of tactical consultancy where wejust discussed tactics... But quite in depth. Thatincludes everything from preparing certain tactics, prepairing certain stages veryin depth and lookinginto competitor analysis and so forth, but I can't go too in depth into themethods that are used behind the scenes," Naesen says.

Jumbo-Visma eventually rode to absolute success. Whilst the team experienced several casualties including Critérium du Dauphiné winner Primoz Roglic, it conquered the yellow and green jerseys with Jonas Vingegaard and Wout van Aert, aswell as six individual stage wins which saw Christophe Laporte also succeed.

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"If I look back at the choice ofdoing that, I'm very happy that I made that decision. Because I can't complainabout having Jumbo-Visma in my CV when they won the Tour de France and the green Jersey. Onthe other end, I will say that I decided not to continue that for 2023 becauseI prefer making content for a wider public," Naesen reveals. "Doing video analysis andtactical consultancy for a few people behind the cycling team is fun but I'ma content creator at heart. So I want to actually make it for thousands ofpeople. I want thousands of people to have interest in what I do and have funand entertainment in content I make, while I felt a bit limited by making stuffbehind the scenes.

Naesen was not oblivious to criticism over social media, from fans who have accused him of being dishonest and not objective relating his position in the podcast. The connection with the team was revealed in an announcement following the victory at the Tour de France, but there were mixed reactions on the decision and the way things played out.

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"I would saythat I agree with the criticism in hindsight of like, you guys should have saidit earlier. In hindsight, we probably should've. But there were reasons forthat. In hindsight, in any future stuff that I do that is similar, I willannounce it beforehand," he responds. "For example, Patrick continues with Jumbo-Visma, I don't. Everybody knows already on the first of January. So welearnt from that mistake which is good."

"I think you're allowed to makemistakes sometimes. And if you do, then you need to try and learn from it. Butoverall, I'm very happy with the decision with the Jumbo-Visma stuff. Ienjoyed that. I learned a few more things behind the scenes of how cyclingteams work and how cycling teams don't work in the sense that Jumbo-Visma is very far ahead," he says, before naming several teams in which he sees basic mistakes such as the lack of focus in aerodynamics despite being at World Tour level.

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At the end of the day, Naesen has taken part in a piece of cycling history, with an unique background. 2023 reserves a lot for him, however this past year he's learnt a lot from his short stint within the deep end of the pro cycling world.

"I don't know, I just enjoy the position that I'm in and the opportunitiesthat I get to the point that I don't need work like this to get around. And Ican do stuff that I enjoy more and that my community enjoys more than I will dothat. Now, it makes sense," he concludes.

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