Meet Ro de Jonckere (Team Qhubeka ASSOS – Head of Logistics) who is responsible for the incredible effort it takes to move our uniquely diverse group of staff and riders across the world in one of sport’s most dynamic environments.
With a team of over 80 people, along with our deeply valued partners and suppliers, she gives us some key insights into what it takes to get us all to the start line, over 265 days a year!
- What does your job (Head of Logistics) entail?
The biggest part of my job is booking travel (flights, boats, trains) and accommodation (race hotels and travel hotels) for all the riders and staff. We are a team of around 80 people in total, who are on the move all over the world and almost all year round. We sometimes have three teams racing at the same time, so there is always a group of people travelling, who need transportation and a bed at night.
After making all the bookings, I enter the info into our internal online platform, so that everybody can access their hotel bookings, e-tickets, boarding passes, pick-up information at any time.
I also handle the relationships with race organisers. From sending our candidacy to negotiating start fees and then handling all the admin that comes with our participation at a race.
- What is the best part of your job?
As Hannibal from the A-team would say: “I love it when a plan comes together!” My job is like a giant puzzle and when all the pieces fall together, I am happy.
For sure, travelling is not the most fun part of the job for our riders and staff, so I try to make it as smooth and comfortable as possible for them. When people thank me for a night spent in a good hotel or for getting them home so quickly after a race, I feel like that is mission accomplished for me.
- How has COVID impacted on your job?
With all the travel restrictions, airlines have suffered badly from COVID and most have decreased their flight offerings by up to 70%. That sometimes makes it very hard to find a quick and easy way to travel. We are all so used to hopping on a plane and reaching places miles away in a few hours, whereas now, it’s sometimes taking almost a full day to reach your destination within Europe.
I read in the professional literature that the number of flights crossing our skies is currently at the level of the 1970’s and there are also a lot of last-minute cancellations. When airlines conclude that they have not sold enough seats they prefer to cancel and refund a few tickets versus flying an empty plane. In many cases it’s already hard to find a good plan A, finding a decent plan B after a flight is cancelled is even harder!
Now, we also must take all the travel regulations into account. Most countries require mandatory PCR testing (our team doctors have been very busy here!) and health certifications upon entry. Each and every country has its own rules, and they are often changing, so it’s a matter of keeping track of all those different rules to be able to enter a country without problems and avoid quarantine.
- You’ve always said moving the team around is like a giant puzzle- how do you “solve” it?
I try to find a good balance between affordable, comfortable, fast and easy connections for the people travelling by plane or train and concentrated arrivals and departures, close to the race hotel or finish line so that our staff does not have to drive halfway around Europe to pick up or drop off people at different times and in different airports.
For that, I also work closely together with my colleague Tom van de Gracht (Head of Operations), who is responsible for the movements of our fleet. I map the routes our vehicles are driving and then try to get our riders and management to fly in or out somewhere along those routes.
- How long do you spend on the phone every day?
Most communication goes over e-mail and WhatsApp these days. However, when I have to call an airline, for example, to add a bike to a booking or request a change that cannot be done online, my patience is often put to the test. Some airlines have great customer service, but others are horrible. I have had phone calls of over an hour just to book one bike. I have spent countless hours of my life listening to bad music and computer voices telling me they will “be with me in just a moment”.
- You’ve said you book over 900 flights a year. Any idea on how many hotel rooms?
Make that over a 1000 flights! I have lost count on hotel rooms!
- Do you like planning your own holidays?
Let’s say that after 17 years on this job, I’m pretty good at finding nice places to go and good ways to get there for the best prices. And I am really looking forward to planning my next holiday, it’s been a while!