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The arrival of Jean-François Bourlart in 2001

The current manager of the structure, Jean-Fançois Bourlart, joined the VC Ath in 2001. After racing a couple of years with Yves Lessens and Jean-Marc-Rossignon, he decided to join his cycling friends in the organization of the VC Ath.

“It happened to be during a dinner in Arbre. Jean-François was younger than me and Yves, but a couple of years before he participated in some races with us. Yves asked him during this dinner if he wanted to help us with the Vélo Club d’Ath. He accepted the offer. He liked the atmosphere in the club. As he was studying for engineer he was less involved in cycling, but he was interested in the sports environment. He rapidly managed to attract new sponsors.”

“I can still hear them saying: join us, you know companies, potential sponsors. That’s how I arrived in the club. To help them finding a budget for the team. I immediately told myself dat I would talk to Hubert Gobert and his brother Ghislain from Storez. I started my professional career in the petrol industry with Petrofina, a company which would later become Total Energies. I knew Hubert well, I knew that he was into sports. When I left there, we had a small budget…”

Hubert Gobert was already sponsoring the team in 2001. One year later, the team changed its name to Team Storez-VC Ath. The company, which is now named Gobert Matériaux, never left our structure. Gobert Matériaux was title partner until 2022 and still has a central position on the jersey.

“Gobert Matériaux is even not the oldest sponsor of the team. Michel Debève and his wife Catherine of the company Liégeois Allary are. They were there before my arrival already and are still there today.”

The trio composed of Yves Lessens, Jean-Marc Rossignon and Jean-François Bourlart found its balance and direction. And they had fun coaching riders.

But the trio were pleased with themselves, combining a family life, work and the VC Ath. As volunteers and with the help of others such as Christian Catereels, who’s still helping the team today, Eddy Torrekens, Cédric Okkerse or former pro rider Thierry Marichal. Everything with the available resources.

“It was a youth club, with boys, amateurs. We had a lot of fun at the kermesse races. We tried to convince our boys to race on Saturday, Sunday and sometimes even on Wednesday. At that time we didn’t think about the future of our structure. We didn’t really know yet where we were heading.”

“We didn’t have a truck for example, the riders got changed in the cars when we participated to interclub races. They washed themselves with bidons, we filled thermos bottles with warm water when it was cold… Those were the days! Only later we bought a truck. A second hand, the old truck of team Jartazi.”

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