Tell us about your tractor, Yves Lampaert

An interview with the peloton's leading tractor enthusiast.

Iain Treloar
by Iain Treloar 08.04.2024 Photography by
Yves Lampaert and Cor Vos
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Not every cyclist seems to have a full and complete life outside of riding bikes. That’s understandable – it’s a job that requires immense dedication and most of the year away from home, both of which limit a rider’s ability to tend the metaphorical crops outside of their profession. So when you come across a cyclist with a clearly-defined, on-the-record interest in something, well, interesting, that tends to stand out a bit. Yves Lampaert is one such rider. 

Lampaert, a 32-year-old Belgian riding for Soudal-Quick Step, probably requires little introduction, but I’ll do it anyway. A pro since 2013, he’s spent the vast majority of his career riding for various permutations of Quick Step. He’s also exceptionally Belgian, which makes his connection with the most Belgian of Belgian teams a particularly good fit. Among his career highlights: the opening stage of the 2022 Tour de France, thus earning him time in the yellow jersey; two national time trial championships and one road championship; third at the 2019 Paris-Roubaix; wins at the Vuelta a España, Brugge De Panne, Dwars Door Vlaanderen. 

Fans stand with signs on the roadside to cheer Yves Lampaert. This one reads "Farmer's son from Belgium" with blue hearts and belgian flags.
Supporters of Yves Lampaert at the 2022 Tour de France.

He is also – to use his own catchphrase – “just a farmer’s son from Belgium”; every so often he posts pictures of himself driving a tractor about, as if to underline this point. Which, obviously, is something that had my attention. So, at a pre-Paris-Roubaix press conference at the Safety Jogger factory (more on that later), I watched him disassociate during the formal proceedings and then cornered him afterwards for a very amiable chat about absolutely zero bike racing. 

Iain Treloar: Hello Yves. I’m sorry, my voice is going. 

Yves Lampaert: Don’t worry. 

IT: I don’t want to talk to you about cycling. I want to talk to you about your tractor. Tell me about your tractor.

YL: Ah! Well, of course, they are on the farm owned by my parents and my brother.

IT: So that’s your parents’ tractor?

YL: Yes, yes, yes-yes-yes. They have five John Deeres and one Fiat 840, that’s an old one. So, yeah. 

IT: Are all of the John Deeres the same model tractor? Or are there different tractors for different jobs?

YL: No, no, they’re all different tractors. So, there are some tractors to plant, and there are some tractors to harvest. For example, one tractor always stays on the harvest machine for leek, like a period from September until June – it’s always on the same machine. Then we have tractors to do some transport with vegetables to the factories that we harvested. So, then we have a tractor with GPS on it that we use to plant, for example, cauliflower or leek. So yeah, there are different kinds. 

Yves Lampaert on his parents farm with a large green John Deere tractor.
Lampaert cracks a crisp, cold Maes 0.0%er.

IT: So, leek is the main product of your family business?

YL: Yes, leek, cauliflower, courgette, and potatoes.

IT: Did they do that when you were a child and growing up, they’ve always done that?

YL: Yep, yep.

IT: Do you like those vegetables, or are you completely sick of them?

YL: No, no – not at all, not at all. The older I get, the more I like them. When I was young, I didn’t like them very much – like every kid probably doesn’t like too many vegetables, but nowadays I really can appreciate vegetables.

IT: Do you think that your parents are John Deere loyalists, or would they ever consider buying a different brand of tractor?

YL: Huh, it’s difficult to say. In the past, we always had Deutz-Fahr tractors, then they changed to John Deere. There is always a possibility to change, of course … But for now, they have a good relationship with the dealer of John Deere, and the prices are also decent.

IT: Do you work on the farm?

YL: Too [little] nowadays. In the past, I worked more, sometimes in the off-season, but nowadays it’s getting too busy with a little kid at home and my family. Also, the races are getting harder and harder, and I need more time to recover.

IT: How old is your kid?

YL: Two and a half years old, a boy.

Yves Lampaert sits on the green infield grass at the velodrome following the 2022 Paris-Roubaix. His infant son sits on his lap. wearing a team jersey and bucket hat. Yves is smiling and covered with grit.
Lampaert and son at the end of the 2022 Paris-Roubaix.

IT: Where I’m from, in Australia, you can go places where you can play with driving machinery around, and I think kids also often like to play with toy tractors and things. Do you take your son in the tractor?

YL: Yes.

IT: Does he like the tractor?

YL: Sometimes he’s scared if it’s really a big tractor and it makes a lot of noise he’s a bit scared, but in the end he really likes to watch them and probably in some years, he will ask to drive them, too.

IT: Do you like driving the tractor?

YL: (firmly) Yes, absolutely.

IT: What do you like about it?

YL: Kind of the slow life, because you cannot go more than … even if you are in the field plowing or something, it’s about seven or nine or ten kilometers an hour. It’s like a kind of slow life to live. It’s easy. 

IT: It’s like meditation?

YL: Yes, yes. And you take your time, and you try to do your work fine, and it doesn’t have to be in a rush. Yeah, there’s like a kind of freedom on the tractor. Nobody is driving in your way or getting annoyed by something; it’s only you, the tractor, your machine in the back, and some radio. It’s a really nice life.

Yves Lampaert sits on a John Deere riding mower in front of a line of them at a local dealership.

IT: What do you listen to?

YL: Oh, it depends on the mood. Mostly, in the day, I listen to news radios, but for example, if you get a bit tired in the tractor, you start to listen to party radio, and it changes a bit.

IT: Okay. You’ve never fallen asleep behind the wheel of the tractor?

YL: Uh, no, if I feel like I’m going to fall asleep, I stop.

IT: You put on the dance music?

YL: Yeah, yeah! 

IT: Well, nice. Thank you for talking to me about this.

YL: No problem.


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