With a longtime career in sports management, the Belgian native is currently the only female general manager in a men’s WorldTour or ProSeries team.
For Ro De Jonckere, managing a pro bike team is like dancing with a horse. That’s not a metaphor. De Jonckere has long pursued dressage alongside her 20-year career in cycling management.
“There are similarities between controlling a horse and a bike team,” she said. “I’m kind of a perfectionist, and you have to be that if you want a cycling team to run smoothly and with dressage, it is the same thing. They are both all in the details and planning.”
Last week, the Human Powered Health team announced that De Jonckere would become the team’s new general manager in 2023.
While women’s cycling has proliferated in recent years, few teams have women in leadership roles. Although a handful of women’s teams have female managers, De Jonckere will be the only woman leading a men’s ProSeries team in 2023.
But the Belgian manager believes that’s changing fast.
“Nobody was talking about women’s cycling 20 years ago,” she said in an interview with Human Powered Health before the announcement. “A big evolution will come in the next few years, it’s growing very fast, but you can see that there are still some differences in the professionalism between genders. Four years from now, we will see more growth and have a much broader field of female cyclists.”
Introducing our new General Manager Ro de Jonckere.
In our “Things With…” series we talk about her early days at Domor – Farm Frites, the #TDFF, a greener future in cycling and her passion for dressage.#HumanPoweredHealthhttps://t.co/xeDC9N3Xpg
— Human Powered Health (@HumanPwrdHealth) November 1, 2022
Plans for the Future
Though De Jonckere speaks humbly about her cycling experience, she’s been around the sport her entire life.
Her father worked as the marketing director for Domo-Frites, and her family lived next door to cycling champ Nico Mattan. That simple connection led to her first job in cycling: as the office manager for the QuickStep programs. She spent most of her career there before Team Qhubeka tapped her for its Head of Logistics.
Cycling itself has grown — and changed — significantly since De Jonckere started. She said that teams have become “much more professional” and international since she began with QuickStep over 2 decades ago.
As a result, she sees the importance of modernizing with the times. That’s she will push for a “greener” team.
“We are still in the early stages here, but we are looking to reduce our footprint by updating our fleet with a new bus and by switching out our old cars,” she said in the Human Powered Health interview.
“With all the improvements to vehicles, we are trying to minimize our impact, and we have seen races like the Arctic Race of Norway also beginning to innovate with new solutions.” The race used 90 electric and 30 hybrid cars as part of the sizeable caravan required to service races like this.
She’s also experienced the importance of cycling beyond competitions. While working with Qhubeka, she helped with an initiative providing bikes to school children in South Africa. She learned then that bikes could change anyone’s life — not just racers.
“That was a moment where I realized that sports can do so much, and there is so much behind them that is much bigger than racing,” she said. “Those are the moments that touch me the most when you can see what cycling can do for people in general.”