With a keen eye for detail and over a decade of experience in the sport, Human Powered Health’s new women’s team performance manager Kenny Latomme is looking forward to a big 2023.
The partner of general manager Ro de Jonckere, Latomme met Ro at Quick-Step while working as a mechanic. Their respective roles took them all over the world as part of both that team and the Dimension Data programs. Keen viewers of the 2022 Vuelta a España may have even seen him assisting eventual winner Remco Evenpoel during his stage 16 mechanical.
We sat down with the Belgian during the team’s recent December training camp in Spain to chart his journey from bricklayer to the pinnacle of women’s cycling.
Performance manager means many different things. Management is data but it’s also training structure, administration and communication. I know a little bit of everything so I have to help the staff, assist the sports directors and make sure that everyone is pulling in the right direction.
I started out in basketball. I played for ten years and at one point I actually combined it with cycling. I was pretty okay but I wasn’t growing tall enough.
I could have gotten to the top levels in Ghent. Sports can be inaccessible though. My parents would have had to drive me three teams a week and then matches on the weekend. Maybe I could have done more. When I was six years old I was one of the tallest but by the end, I wasn’t so tall so I was off the court defining tactics instead.
I haven’t shot a ball since. When I see a ball I spin it on my finger but if you asked me now to try and score a three-pointer I don’t think I could. Back then I would do it on my knees and do it backward and all those skill shots but not anymore.
One Wednesday afternoon I joined my friend on a 60km ride and everything changed. I was on a city bike and he was on his racing bike, I was 16 and from then on I was interested in the bike. I was racing but it was not at the top level, I was just riding my bike. Unlike basketball I didn’t need to be driven, I could just train from home.
The family trade was bricklaying. I didn’t know anything else. I didn’t get anything for free in cycling so I had to buy my bikes and had to work. From the age of 14 to 18, every year I worked for two months with my father to earn money for my bike. Once I finished school I said I’m never laying a brick again.
I immediately knew that I didn’t want to work in a bike shop. I wanted to work for a team. Once I finished school my teacher got in contact with the Shimano neutral service and that was that. I joined them for the pro races so I was a cyclist and a mechanic. From there my link to Quick-Step was through Johan Museeuw’s uncle who had the youth squad for that team and so from 19 years old I have always been a part of the sport.
You need to be a team player. You have to have respect for everybody in this sport. This is the key lesson I have learned. I am ready for this next step.
I had a bucket list. It was to be in a good team, going to the world championships, the classics, the Olympics and then winning a Grand Tour. Those are all marked off now so I have to start a new chapter.
I must now write a Human Powered Health bucket list. I want to foster a good environment in this team where the athletes and staff like and enjoy each other’s company. Winning is a dream and then the credit card goes in and we all celebrate with champagne. If you’re feeling respected and a part of the team, I think we can manage victories, that is how I see my role. Team culture is crucial.
Roubaix will always be a special race. I’m slightly nervous to drive the car. I was always in the back of the car so I always had so much respect for the drivers because you don’t see anything when it’s dusty. You have to keep the speed because there are bike riders passing you, bike riders behind and it’s a super hard race. You’re even tired at the end of the day from sitting in the car. That’s a race that I look forward to a lot with this roster.
We have a strong team for the classics. I have a good feeling that we will be a part of those races with the likes of Marjolein [van’t Geloof], Mieke [Kröger], Jesse [Vandenbulcke] and Alice [Barnes]. Maybe my background as a mechanic makes those races even more special for me.
Every day is a school day on training camp ⚡️ #HumanPoweredHealth pic.twitter.com/EbUJN3QyKX
— Human Powered Health (@HumanPwrdHealth) December 13, 2022
Staying positive is crucial on the job. For us, as staff, it is important to focus on that. There will be a day full of problems but there are always solutions to those problems. I run to clear my mind and be in nature. Creating a running group here should be on my bucket list.
[Partner, general manager and equine enthusiast] Ro keeps me busy in the stables. Of course, I need to be there to muck the stables out. I don’t ride a horse myself. For us, because we are both in cycling, horse riding is the way out of the job. You need to pay attention so we close the door and then we are not connected to the world. We worked in Quick-Step for 13 years together and then Dimension Data for four years so we have always been able to find that balance.