Product/ServiceSPORTS GEAR
Category C04. Branded Content / Podcasts
Idea Creation BBDO BELGIUM Brussels, BELGIUM
Media Placement BBDO BELGIUM Brussels, BELGIUM
Media Placement 2 SEMETIS Brussels, BELGIUM
Media Placement 3 Decathlon Brussels, BELGIUM
Production FLEDGE Brussels, BELGIUM
Production 2 ERACINGTV Brussels, BELGIUM
Name Company Position
Frederik Clarysse BBDO Belgium Creative
Tom Jacobs BBDO Belgium Creative
Debby De Ridder BBDO Belgium Copywriter
Loes Fierens BBDO Belgium Agency Producer
Bram De Vidts BBDO Belgium Account Director
Evelyn Savels BBDO Belgium Account Manager
Alexander Neesen BBDO Belgium Account Manager
Wim Esteban De dobbeleer freelance Designer
Elena Haniotakis BBDO Belgium Designer
Jan Dejonghe BBDO Belgium Creative Director
Eva De Gendt BBDO Belgium Chief Commercial Officer
Thomas Lejeune Debarre Decathlon Belgium National Marketing & Communication Director
Michael D'hooge Decathlon Belgium Content Leader
Julie Nevejan Decathlon Belgium Leader national campaigns
Heather Loontjens De Rode Antraciet Sports Deputy
Pieter Van Caeneghem Oudenaarde Prison Prison Director
Kathleen Van De Vijver Federal Justice dept Spokeswoman

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In a maximum security prison in Oudenaarde, Belgium, we launched the first eCycling team for prisoners. Decathlon provided them with clothes and equipment (bikes, trainers, …) to cycle on Zwift, a virtual world where 3 million cyclists race and ride together. Enabling them to ride with people from the outside world for the first time. As anonymous athletes instead of being labeled a prisoner or outcast. The project is ongoing, permanently reconnecting them with society from behind bars. In a podcast, we documented how riding online with others changed their life, and how they prepare for an epic race against Team Justice: a team of judges, lawyers, prison guards and the Minister of Justice.

Translation. Provide a full English translation of any audio.

EPISODE 1 At the very beginning of my detention, they had actually filled me up with medication, because of my past. You're a plant then. You can't exercise. At one point, I was like, I don't want to live like this. I must do something with my past, with all the aggression I've been dealing with, I have to do something with it. Sport is freedom. Sport is escape. Running from yourself. Cycling away from your past. But can you do that if you're always stuck inside four walls? When your reality happens behind bars? Here, you are confronted daily with what you've done, consciously or unconsciously. At the moment, it's pretty tough. I am Debby De Ridder, and in this podcast I follow 6 anonymous convicts from the prison of Oudenaarde. Together, they are the first eCycling team for prisoners. For 3 months they train intensively and participate in cycling courses and competitions. Anonymously. From prison, into the virtual world of Zwift. A world that only judges them by their performance on the bike. That's gonna hurt at times. That's going to have an effect. But most of all, I think you forget all that once you reach the finish. That's how they live towards the race of their lives. A race in which they will cycle against a team of judges, magistrates, jailers, police and justice workers. I talk to the convicts about their expectations, their hopes, their dreams. About what sport means when you've been deprived of your freedom for years. When you're locked up in our prisons, in the Belgian prisons. That's a lot. A lot is taken away from you, you lose control. The only thing they can control is their body and their mind. Can sport really help prisoners find peace? And do they deserve that peace? In this first episode, I'm taking you behind bars. To a world that is miles away from mine, but one that is the daily reality for the nearly 11,000 prisoners in our country. A world you can't just walk into. And that's probably for the best. It's a cold, sunny spring day when I register at the prison of Oudenaarde. My identity and criminal record are thoroughly checked, everything I want to take with me into the prison is subject to extensive control. And then the journey through the long prison corridors begins. A door <sfx door>, another door <sfx door>, another door <sfx door>. “What if a fire breaks out here, I think, before the last door slams shut behind me. <sfx door> And then suddenly I'm at the "centre": a central place onto which three long prison corridors open on to, each with 40 cell doors. It smells of cigarettes, chervil soup and loneliness. The prison clerk takes me to the gym, < sfx> a throwback to a 90s gym. Peeling paint, < sfx> a punching bag repaired with duct tape, worn-out mirrors, a collection of mismatched weights and the smell of exertion. But in a corner of the gym there are 6 brand-new race bikes, with matching bike rolls and computers. This is where they race. Today, you will meet John Doe 2, 5 and 6. John Doe is the name that indicates an anonymous person in court records, and it is also the name of their avatar on Zwift. But to make it easier for you as a listener, I call the cyclists you hear today Dieter, Salim and Danny. These are not their real names either. The 3 cyclists are three long-term convicts who serve their sentence in the prison of Oudenaarde. < sfx> in the middle of the Flemish Ardennes, less than 5 kilometres from the mythical Koppenberg. A slope where many amateur and professional racers have already met an unbeatable opponent. But it will be a long time before Danny, Salim and Dieter can conquer Koppenberg themselves. You don't end up in Oudenaarde because of a petty crime. This is a place for men who have committed major crimes, with years of punishment ahead of them. Men with little perspective, with poor prospects. Can sports help in their situation? And what are their motivations to participate in the Breakaway? Today I'll first talk to Dieter. Dieter's a young guy, in his 20s. Broad shoulders, soft eyes. The kind of guy I would confidently let play football on the street with my kids. But that's not possible, because Dieter has been in prison for a long time, and will not walk out of here the first years... We're talking about what place sport has in his life, before and now. I remember that as a very young boy - I don't know how old I was, I think six, seven years - I always wanted to play football. But because I was so young and I wasn't very good at it either, it didn't go well. I tried, and ended up quitting. I remember that I always had to be in the goal, but I didn't like that. I wanted a little action, actually. That's why I quit. I did some other sports after that. I did judo up to the yellow belt; that's not that long. I got tired of everything very quickly. When I was a child, I liked to ride a bike with friends of the neighbourhood. We would always race around the block cycling and whoever was first, had the honour of winning, so to speak. That was pretty cool. For Danny and Salim, sports came later in their lives. Danny is a tough thirty-something. His hard life is reflected in his hunched posture. I asked Danny about his very first sports-related memories. When I was five or six, football in the playground. Outside of school, I cycled in my grandfather's garage, because I wasn't allowed to play football. They wouldn't let me hit the walls. For the neighbours. And were you always into sports as a kid? Not always. No. That really came afterwards, I think when I was about 12. Also for my grandfather's sake. I couldn't do much. <sfx> They were self-employed and had their own garage. So the customers came downstairs. I couldn't play football there or anything. I could drive my bike around the garage, but that was it. Because there was a bridge and it was dangerous. Salim is in his mid-40s. Nature has blessed him with a fit body and the heart of an athlete, he says. I remember getting a racing bike when I was a kid. They had bought it from my cousin and it was one that had the gears on the tube. I could barely put my feet on the pedals. "You'll grow into it." I think I rode it once or twice. I felt wronged because I didn't get a new bike. I've never been very athletic, even though I turned out to have a knack for it. I was lazy by nature and that was obvious. I participated in everything and have done many different sports, without doing it for a long time or excelling in anything. I would call myself an all-rounder rather than someone who has gone for one specific sport. I've always moved a lot. I got into sports - if I may call it that - at the age of 18-19. When I went to the army, they tested me and said, "Wow, you do a lot of sports." I said: "No, not really". But it turns out I have the heart of an athlete. Being able to exercise as a child is not a given for everyone. Sometimes due to lack of time or lack of interest on the part of parents, sometimes due to money problems or a difficult situation at home. A large proportion of the people in detention grew up in difficult circumstances. And it turns out to be no different with Dieter and Danny. I was always a happy child. <sfx> Until my parents divorced, and then everything went a little wrong actually... In elementary school, I was a little bit bullied because of my overweight. My father's in the military. At home they always said not to be pushed around and that led to some aggression, really. My father was a heavy drinker. That was a sport, too. Sport at the counter. I think that's why I never drink alcohol. Seen a lot. What kind of kid were you? In elementary school? A disaster. Not in terms of learning, because I did modern and Latin in the first and second year. But then I moved back from my grandparents to my mother, and I flunked straight to vocational. My grandparents were also more interested in me. So I was really sorry I had to move back. At my mum's, I roamed the streets, and everything changed. To exercise you need self-discipline. Willpower. Perseverance. At the beginning of detention, exercise was actually a way of processing things from my past. To let everything out, all those pent-up feelings and stuff, to let it go completely. But now it's actually become an addiction. That's self-discipline for me. When I work out, I have a routine, too, so I know what I'm doing from start to finish. I've always had a little sport in my life. At the very beginning of my detention, they had actually filled me up with medication, because of my past. You're a plant, you can't exercise. At one point, I was like, I don't want to live like this. <music> I must do something with my past, with all the aggression I've been dealing with, I have to do something with it. I really got into fitness and that helped me very much. Dieter has taught himself willpower. In Salim's case, it's genetic. I've always been a stubborn one and had a mind of my own. It will also go hand in hand with the drive for performance and competitiveness. So, I think I have it. Who taught you this willpower and discipline? My mom was pretty tough, too. She was the eighth child of a family of nine. Farmers. Back then, the women were bred - that's what they called it - into housekeepers, cooks or seamstresses. She was the first to knock on the table and say: "No, I have the right to study. I want to study as a nurse in Ghent. You have to pay for that". She stood up for herself, got her way and took the opportunity. I think some of that might have rubbed off on me. She had a strong will. Danny calls himself a go-getter, helpful and friendly. Dieter thinks he is sporty, caring and introverted. And Salim describes himself as energetic, sporty and antisocial. But have they always been like this? <music fade out> For how much do you change living behind bars for so long? According to Dieter... Very much. I used to not consciously think about the choices I made and I just lived on. And it didn't work, tough luck. Now I try, and succeed very well, to consider other people's opinions and... It's my age and I've also been in counselling for eight years, to manage aggression. That's done a lot for me in the last two and a half years. Salim has also gone through a whole evolution. I think I've grown up. I've evolved. How much have I changed? Yes, quite a lot. I've learned. There are now many more simple things that I value and appreciate. I don't have to go looking too far anymore. Now, I'm happy with little things, whereas before, I needed extravagant stuff or thought money was much more important. I've improved, if I may say so myself. Heather Loontjens, Sports Officer of the Rode Antraciet, a non-profit organisation that brings culture and sport into prison, believes that sport can be an important factor in the lives of prisoners. First of all, it is definitely an outlet for all kinds of mental troubles, frustrations and so on. That's the thing here and now, I think, about doing sports in prison. But in addition, they can engage with their own body, in a healthy way, in a positive way. Control. Yes, that control, that's like: the prison or the justice system has no influence or cannot have such an influence on their body. It's something they can still control. Sport ensures peace and balance, in body and mind. Mens sana in corpore sano. That's true for Dieter as well. I did it to clear my head. Although I did get some good things from home, like structure and sport. My parents weren't really there for me emotionally, that's been really hard for me. <music> I noticed that if I was exercising, be it cycling, or football as a child, or judo, then sports was a piece of emotional freedom for me. I like it. It's good for me. It always makes me feel good, because I can get away from everything for a while. Eventually, over the years, it has become an addiction. Now cycling, a new sport! I really like it. I've already cycled twice, I guess I took off with it. I'm lucky to have a physical job now. So I can really indulge in that too. But if you really have emotional or other problems, the first solution is always a pill. If you think too much, they have pills so you don't worry too much anymore. What kind of logic is that? You're not gonna poison your mind because you worry too much. There's a cause and I don't think pills are the solution. You have people who can and want to help you here, but they are also limited in their resources and their workforce. The first easiest solution is that they send you to a doctor or a psychiatrist, who will then give you medication. That's not an option for me. Sports and work are the only option. The Breakaway is an escape for all participants. From themselves, from their past. They ride away from the demons in their heads. The desire to participate is great. Or it grows. When was it? On Sunday I also thought: yes, tomorrow, it's cycling day. And the day itself I didn't feel like it. But when I was busy at night, I was happy I'd been. I'm depressed. And in the beginning, it was like, yeah, yeah. And two weeks later, things went downhill. And I wasn't up to it. I didn't want to get out of bed, and here... Why would I? And now it's slightly going uphill again. I'm getting more into it. I really like it. The first time, I couldn't work so well with the programme. I had accidentally taken a very difficult course with many steep slopes and that was quite difficult. Fortunately, it went better the second time, I had a good course and yes, I thought it was very cool. Because you know there are others, also on a bike, with this programme. They cycle like me, I really like that. I think it's nice you meet a lot of other people on the course. Some pass you by, and I pass them by, too. I find it extraordinary that you see all nationalities: from Chinese, British, Americans to everywhere. I've met South Americans before. I like to see you're a couple of thousands on the same track. In that respect, I like it. You always meet people whose level you can handle or people who can handle yours, depending on the perspective. I think it's cool to see and I like the concept. In the past we have had cycling projects here, including the Tour on Rolls in 2012, 2013, and 2014. I participated in all three of them and that's where I got the cycling bug. That went well for me and that's why I like to participate in this project. What do you want to achieve by participating? A lot of extra hours doing sports. I think the race is going to be nice and something different. The race. We hadn't talked about that. About the ride of their lives. The race against magistrates, policemen, prison guards and law enforcement officers. People who are on the other side of Lady Justice's scales. And that only fuels the competition... To me, they're people like any other. Unless they would give us less prison time if we could beat them. Do you want to beat them or not? Of course, you want to win. But you don't know how long they've been training and working on it. Maybe they'll tell me I have to cycle against a 70-year old who's been cycling his entire life. Then you're screwed. I get competitive, yes. And how do you feel about the people you're riding against? Fantastic! I don't really want to prove much. If I win, I guess I would have won a little in one area after all... This was the first episode of The Breakaway. Thanks for listening. In the next episode, I'll talk to the cyclists again, and they'll tell me all about their journey so far. What's going well, what difficulties are they facing? And are they still up for the final sprint? And I'll also tell you why today you only heard three people speaking instead of six: But you're saying that's a common thing, inmates dropping out at the last minute? Yeah, sure, that's not weird. The Breakaway was made for Decathlon. I thank the cyclists for their openness, and the Rode Antraciet and the prison of Oudenaarde for their support. Interviews, redaction and final editing by myself, Debby De Ridder, sound by Rinus De Wilde and sound editing by Chiaran Verheyden. Did you find this podcast interesting? Then subscribe using your favourite podcast app, and write a review. EPISODE 2 You have two choices in prison: either you let yourself go with drugs and medication, or you do sport. I have seen people go to pieces in jail. Sport is freedom. Sport is escape. Running from yourself. Cycling away from your past. But can you do that if you're always stuck between four walls? When your reality happens behind bars? No more sport. It stops here for the moment, there’s no other choice. I am Debby De Ridder, and in this podcast I follow a number of anonymous convicts from the prison of Oudenaarde. Together they are the first eCycling team for prisoners. For 3 months they train intensively and participate in cycling courses and competitions. Anonymously. From prison, into the virtual world of Zwift. A world that only judges them by their performance on the bike. I think that everyone, however bad, can also be good for someone else and vice versa. That's what they are living up to in the race of their lives. A race in which they will cycle against a team of judges, magistrates, jailers, police and justice workers. I talk to the convicts about their expectations, their hopes, their dreams. About what sport means when you've been deprived of your freedom for years. I can’t speak for them, but I think they often have the feeling they are seen only for their crime. They are a sum of their actions, rather than their actions being something that they have done, when in fact they also have other talents and qualities. Can sport really help prisoners find peace? And do they deserve that peace? In this second episode I return to the prison in Oudenaarde and talk again to the cyclists. Or at least to some of them. I also discover why it’s not always that simple to make a podcast with prisoners and the different reasons why that’s the case. This time it’s early when I report to the gate officer – I call him Patrick. “You brought some nice weather with you, didn’t you?” “Yes, I did. Shame we won’t get to see much of it today.” A conversation full of clichés – but as is often the case with clichés – there’s also a ring of truth. After all, within the prison walls, the sun hardly shines ... Once again, the gym is where we meet for today’s discussions. I am given a portable telephone with which I’m obliged to call Centre 2. The prison officer then takes the prisoner out of the cell and brings him to the gym. After each meeting I must call again and ask permission for my discussion partner to return to the cell. Strict rules, imposed for the safety of everyone. In episode 1 you were introduced to Dieter, Salim and Danny. Not their real names, of course. In order to protect the privacy of the cyclists and their victims. Three cyclists. Although the e-cycling team actually consists of 6 cyclists. However, 3 of the 6 decided against getting involved just before recording the first episode. Each for their own reasons. Hmm, it’s hard to give a possible reason or explanation for that. That’s Heather Loontjens. Heather is the sports officer at the Rode Antraciet, the charity aiming to bring a breath of fresh air to the prison from outside via culture and sport. I gave her a quick ring before recording episode 2, and asked if she often faced last-minute cancellations. In fact it’s not unusual. For example, for a common sport such as badminton (...) I get quite a lot of interest. (...) But you never get the full six. There are always 1 or 2, or even more, who don’t turn up. We also run larger activities when 40 or 50 people sign up, but they’re never all there. So it’s actually quite normal when you have a list of people who’ve registered for a particular activity – not only for sport, but also for all kinds of other activities that are organised here – that they don’t all come. There are always different and diverse reasons. (...) But very often the clerk’s record just says: refused or doesn’t feel like it. Even so, we don’t always know the real reason why they refuse or don’t feel like it. So you say it’s quite common for inmates to drop out at the last minute. Yes absolutely, it’s really not unusual. So, not unusual. And later in this episode you’ll hear it isn’t the last time I’m confronted with changes at the last-minute … But let’s fast forward to the day of the second recording. My first chat today is with Salim. Remember: he’s in his forties, and discovered he had the heart of an athlete during his military service. I have always done a lot of exercise. I became an sportsman – if I can call it that – at the age of 18 or 19. When I went to the army and they tested me and said: "Wow, you do a lot of sport ". I said: "No, actually I don’t ". But it turns out I have the heart of an athlete. I hear the door and listen to Salim climbing the stairs to the gym. At the pace of someone with … an athletic heart. Behind his mask I see his eyes smiling. He looks different to the last time. More relaxed, wearing shorts and with short hair. You have a different haircut. Well, less hair in fact. I had already forgotten it was today. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I was reading and then the door opened. They did remind me though. Besides being a sportsman, Salim also loves reading. I recommend “Human kind – A Hopeful History” by Rutger Bregman. A book in which the author completely refutes the age-old belief that humans are by nature bad. I might have a different opinion. No, I haven’t read it yet. I don’t know whether he’s right or wrong. In fact I haven’t yet decided. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. And yes, I believe that everyone, however bad, can also be good for someone else and vice versa. (...) Anyway, for many people I’m a bad guy and, at the same time, for many people I’m not as bad as others think. There are two sides to it in my opinion. I’ve thought about it a lot since we last met, but also together with the other people in here. If you talk about it with people from outside the prison it’s also quite a one-sided discussion. So, "Yes, but those people aren’t in there for nothing." And then I think: no, that’s true, but many people reach a crossroads in their life and you can go either way. And some people choose the wrong way and then need to walk all the way back again. I tell Salim that I’ve been thinking a lot since our last discussion. About the fact that people currently have an opinion on everything, which includes the Breakaway project. About prisoners and why they are there. He thinks it’s a shame, but understandable, he says. Quite honestly, before coming to prison myself, I had quite a different opinion. That’s not uncommon. When it comes to things that you don’t know much about, you often have an opinion or view that is unfounded or instilled by your parents, the media or other things. Do people in prison have the right to break away? Not from their cell of course, but from their life behind bars? Mentally escape, for example with sport? They do, in many people’s opinion. That’s clear from the response to the first episode of this podcast. But Heather too has had mainly positive reactions so far. Yes, that was a pleasant surprise for us. In our work at the Rode Antraciet we have also had quite the opposite experience with projects and media attention. It was also a concern at Decathlon, how will people react? And in fact they have been mainly positive. (...) People see why it is important and the impact it can have. We’re really pleased about the fact it seems to have been interpreted in that way. I can’t speak for them but I think they often have the feeling they are seen only for their crime. They are a sum of their actions rather than their actions being something they have done, when in fact they also have other talents and qualities. Then a project like this emphasises that fact and makes it more understandable. That prisoners are people like many others outside with an interest in sport and cycling. I’m not surprised by the reaction. They are treated very respectfully and that feeling comes across. Prisoners are also just people. And people are sometimes confronted with unexpected things. Like Danny. Danny who told me in the last episode that he was under a lot of mental strain. I am suffering from depression. To start with it was ok, ok, ok. Then two weeks later it went downhill. Then it was more like pfff. You can’t be bothered to get out of bed or come here ... Why bother? Thanks for coming. You’re welcome. I’m curious. What about? About the story. Today Danny comes with bad news. He’s leaving the Breakaway project. No more e-cycling for him. I’ve been told that you’ve stopped doing sport. During football on the Walk I fell flat on my face. My nose was all cut up. I fell on the concrete. My piercing went right through my lip. It was quite a fall you know. I had only just set off and there were probably some stones under my foot and I fell flat on my face. First of all I thought it had knocked my teeth out, it was such a bang. I have a prothesis in my thumb and that’s loose now. So no more sport for me. Game over for Danny. And that’s such as shame, as he was already feeling low, and cycling brought some relief. How do you feel about that? Bad, of course. Yes, you were doing well. Here with the bike and all that. Such a shame it’s all over. You need your hand for everything and I’m right-handed. I have asked in the hospital if I can cycle and the doctor said no. He said if I put any pressure on the prothesis it will pop out of the bone entirely and then the road to recovery will be even longer. I’m so sorry for you. Because I had the impression it meant a lot to you. Yep. We can pile on the kilos. (...) But then in sporting terms. So that’s the end for the moment, there’s nothing we can do about it. Exit Danny. The strong guy shrugs his shoulders and gives a couple of deep sighs. He is back on the waiting list to be allowed to cycle after his recovery, he says. But it will be on his own. Because ... It’s everyone for themselves in here too. With Danny having to drop out because of his accident a place becomes available in the Breakaway team. And this has been taken with much enthusiasm by Toon. We haven’t met yet, Toon and I. And I’m quite nervous about that. No introductory chat. We just have to get started immediately. And it soon turns out I’m not the only one who’s nervous ... This is my first time. (...) I was already a bit nervous by one o’clock. I said, come on, I’ve still got time to calm my nerves. Toon is in his late thirties and is a sight to behold. Big muscles and a clean-shaven head in trendy sports gear and wearing a masculine fragrance I saw advertised on the TV only yesterday. With a broad but uncertain smile and a twinkle in his eye. I tell him what we are trying to achieve with the podcast, and ask about his sporting abilities. Yes, I’m sporty. I was sporty outside the prison too. As a child? Yes, then too. It began with football. (...) I played football until the age of 18. Intensively, but partly because my father pushed me in that direction. (...) That had the opposite effect on me. So I dropped it and ended up choosing the wrong path. My parents were not into sport. That’s often the way. I now have a young son and he’s always talking about football. But your parents supported you? My parents certainly supported me. I didn’t play badly and at a certain point I was given the chance to play in a national team, for Waregem, Ghent and Deinze I think. But, for me, going out came first and my Dad was very angry about that. He thought it was such a shame that I chose to ignore such a great opportunity and screw things up. In hindsight that would maybe have been a much better decision. Would you choose differently if you had to decide again? Yes I would, but you can’t put the clock back. When I stopped playing football I didn’t do any sport for a while, then when I was older I started cycling. Mountain biking in particular. So Toon was a footballer and a mountain biker, on the outside. Not a racing cyclist, because the adrenaline of the mountain biking gave him a bigger kick. I loved the adrenaline. We would go off to the Ardennes with a group of friends and spend the weekend cycling. And there was also fitness, most of all an awful lot of fitness. Ah yes, good old fitness. I hear that a lot in my conversations with inmates. And there’s an explanation for that. When you are locked up in prison you lose a lot of control. The only things prisoners can still control are their minds and bodies. And everything else? You just have to accept it, in Salim’s and Toon’s opinion. There’s the system and that’s the way it is. Of course, that’s frustrating, but after so many years I also know it’s hard to change something that has been that way for so long. I think it’s a psychological game on both sides. I call prison a form of modern torture. You put someone in a small room for 22 hours. You need to be mentally very strong. And if you’re strong you’ll get through. But how? You have two choices in prison: either you let yourself go with drugs and medication, or you do sport. I have seen many people go to pieces in jail. Coming in as a normal person and then your wife leaves you. I have been through that too. I was really low for a while, but I picked myself up. This kind of initiative will not solve everything. It won’t solve everything but you do look forward to it. Tonight it’s from six until eight. I washed my clothes this morning already to make sure everything’s ready. I’m looking to it anyway. (...) A bit of freedom. Salim sees his work and sport in the prison as a way to let off steam and leave his worries behind. He wants a healthy mind in a healthy body. And he’s doing well. The cycling is going well. (...) I’m trying to do as many kilometres as possible. Especially when there’s a route that appeals to me, like climbing, because as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t always need to be flat. We signed up for a race a while ago. (...) I’d like to congratulate you on your result in that one. I saw you were eighteenth out of the 39 participants. Yes, but there were only eighteen male participants (laughs). Whoops. Nice one, De Ridder. Fortunately Salim is still pleased with his performance. When I saw the route beforehand, I think it was in the Yorkshire Hills, I thought it was going to be rather difficult to achieve in 90 minutes. Anyway, it still went surprisingly well. To start with I positioned myself behind two other cyclists, until I felt I could no longer keep it up. Then I decided to hang back, but I still managed to arrive on time. So I reckon it was a good result. I bet that made you feel good! It really does make you feel good. Of course, when I saw that I was the 18th man, I would rather have been 17th. On the other hand there were men just one minute in front of me. So yes, in fact I’m pleased with the result. Toon used to do sport to please his father. Until he lost all motivation. Why was that? Because my Dad pushed me into playing football. The last three or four years of going to football were real hell for me. I was experimenting with drugs. I shut the door. It was a really bad time. And with such talent. What a shame. I still remember a headline in the paper: "Promising footballer caught with certain substances.” Later I loaned money for my house from a man who used to know me and he said: "Such talent. What a waste". It affects you when you hear that. I realise that now, but I didn’t at the time. Drugs cause all kinds of misery. In the meantime, Toon is 20 years older, and he mainly does sport to please himself. It’s a big difference. Now I get satisfaction out of it. In the past I was pushed. It gives you the opposite feeling and you really get put off. Now it gives me real satisfaction. An escape too? Yes, certainly here, but outside as well. If you’ve have a tough day at work or whatever. There’s a bike in our section and I spend a lot of time on it. Half an hour away from everything that’s going on. It’s probably the same if you have a busy family life. You escape Breaking away from the busy world. An escape. I can certainly understand Toon. I also use or abuse my hobbies to get away from home. And return with my batteries recharged. However, sometimes that escape is simply not enough. Then there’s the proverbial last straw. That was also the case for Dieter this time. I would love to have spoken to that friendly young man with a gentle voice again. However, shortly before the interview Dieter sent a message that it wouldn’t work. That he had received bad news, taken a mental knock. He was too emotional to come and talk to me. Heather comes and tells me what’s going on. He’s someone with lots of issues. He has already told me several times that he can sometimes have such mental difficulties that he finds it very helpful to shut himself away from everything and everyone. I think that is probably what has happened this time. He’s a great guy to work with. Sometimes he freezes up or puts up a wall. Then no one can reach him. For him it’s the only way to block the aggression or that kind of thing. It’s a sort of self-protection. Have you ever tried to quit a habit? Like biting your nails? Eating chocolate? Or checking your social media too often? It’s not easy, is it? The same applies to bad habits, like aggression. Or in Toon’s case: drink and drugs. I can live an extreme life, like with drink and drugs. And then I can suddenly do the opposite, it’s really strange. Are you afraid of switching back in the other direction? It is possible. But actually I have lost everything. I can’t have a lot more disappointment in my life. Now you look forward to the day when you can submit your request for holiday. If I were to lose that, then I don’t know what. It could be easy to switch, but it’s up to you. You must be strong not to do it. It can easily happen in a moment of weakness. Dieter shuts himself away in order to avoid returning to his old, bad habits. I can only respect that. And it helps too. In fact, a few days later I do get the chance to talk to him. Not live, unfortunately, but using the online platform for video visits. I wasn’t there on Monday, I had received some bad news and was feeling upset. I’ve been struggling with some personal issues, and that has sometimes affected my cycling. Either I didn’t cycle or I did less. Would you say that your mental state affects your sporting performance? Yes, it does a bit. Dieter is honest about why he couldn’t be there on Monday. A private matter which I will also understandably keep to myself. But I understand him. And inmates, including Dieter, are not used to such understanding. Mostly you hear people in the outside world saying: "That’s a criminal, leave him. You shouldn’t help, they have committed all sorts of crimes and there’s no hope they’ll ever change. Just leave them to their punishment." Sometimes people even say we have too much luxury in here … Look, we’ve all done something wrong, we know that. We must not deny it. But people should also learn to look at the person behind the story and how something like that could happen. How it came to that, what went wrong with that person, people sometimes forget that. I think that’s a shame. We also have a conscience, and feelings, we are also only human. And we have made a mistake in the past and are being punished for it, but it’s not because we make one mistake that we can’t change. That we are no longer people. Sport as a form of reintegration into society. As a form of aggression control. As a way to let off steam for mental concerns and frustrations. Or to avoid being alone. We sit together in a group. Sometimes I also have those kind of days when I say: "I’m not going out ". There are three of us who are always training. One encourages the others to go as well. It was nice weather yesterday and we went training. Today we just sat in the sun. But here you need someone – when you have a down day – who says: "The sun’s shining. Let’s do this and that ". Do you all play that role from time to time when it’s necessary? Yes. What else is there to motivate you? There’s not a lot here to motivate you. Motivation to do sport: I could probably devote an entire episode of this podcast to that. After all, that’s something everyone has in common, whether they live inside or outside the prison walls. And sometimes that motivation can come from unexpected places. I’d be more than up for it, if it’s that. And anything that I can do to help support it, and spread the message: I’m there. This is John McAvoy, a famous British Iron Man triathlete. However, John was also once an armed robber, who spent a lot of his life behind bars. Before giving his life a new and better direction, thanks to sport and determination. You can hear his story in the next episode. But John was also keen to do something for the cyclists. So he asked his 30,000 Instagram followers to join him and the Breakaway racers and do a race. He defined the route and Dieter joined in the ride. At a certain point I also teamed up with that triathlete from England and that was actually the highlight of the cycling so far. I thought it was lovely how Heather and the others got involved and also the support I received from that triathlete. He also appealed to some colleagues to ride with me, there was lots of positive feedback, even when I had some cramp in my legs. Then he started motivating me, that was really wonderful. It boosted my mental strength, my physical strength... It was also at that moment that I was able to escape all the misery and stress I had had in the prison, everything. At that moment I was only focused on that and what was going on around me, and that's it. Very liberating. That mental and physical strength that you gain from such motivation. In fact it’s something so small, yet it does so much. Dieter feels supported and understood by John McAvoy. And that means he performed much better on the bike than usual. He expressed his gratitude in a touching letter. This was the second episode of The Breakaway. Thanks for listening. The next time you can find out what Dieter wrote in his letter to John McAvoy. I’ll also be talking to other people whose lives have been changed by sport. Such as Ismail Abdoul, European boxing champion and ex-prisoner. Today I can look my sons in the eye and say Dad did bad things but is not a bad person inside. Everyone can make mistakes, but the most important thing is getting back on the right track. The Breakaway was made for Decathlon. I thank the cyclists, Heather, John and Ismail for being so open, and the Rode Antraciet and the prison of Oudenaarde for their support. Interviews, editing and final editing by myself, Debby De Ridder, sound by Mathias Van Gasse and sound editing by Chiaran Verheyden. Did you find this podcast interesting? Then subscribe using your favourite podcast app, and write a review. EPISODE 3 Dear John, I wanted to share something from my experiences before, during and after our Zwift training together last Thursday. I’ve watched your video, and was impressed by your past and the complete switch that you’ve made. I very much recognise your total dedication to sport. Our past is also similar in some ways, for example, in terms of aggression. And I have also experienced that sport can help me. The ride itself was really fun and motivating. All those positive reactions at the start! It was fantastic, it gave me extra motivation, it gave me mental strength. I was able to clear my head. That’s something I had not yet been able to do in prison. This ride also demonstrated to me that people from outside the prison, the other participants, do not condemn me based on what I have done wrong. That was really amazing, and it helped me back on to the right track. So, to finish, I thank you so much. For your inspiration, efforts and support. Looking forward to the next time! Signed, Dieter Sport is freedom. Sport is escape. Running from yourself. Cycling away from your past. But can do that if you are always stuck between four walls, behind bars? I have always learned not to run away from your problems. I am Debby De Ridder, and in this podcast I follow a number of anonymous convicts from the prison of Oudenaarde. Together they are the first eCycling team for prisoners and they are training in the virtual world of Zwift for the race of a lifetime. After all, in mid-September they will race as Team Breakaway against Team Justice, a team of judges, magistrates, jailers, police and justice workers. In fact, I really want to do well. I’m not going to hide that. This third episode began with Dieter’s letter to the popular triathlete and ex-convict John McAvoy. In the last episode you heard how John and many of his Instagram followers challenged Dieter to a race on Zwift. He expressed his gratitude in the touching letter you heard just now. The road the inmates went down over the last few weeks got me thinking. For them, sport means escaping the demons in their head. But there are other people too for whom sport is a lifeline. In this episode I talk to cyclists in the Breakaway, as well as a paralympic top athlete and an ex-prisoner. We can all make mistakes, but the most important thing is to get back on the right track. Can sport save your life? It did in the case of Ismail Abdoul. This talented boxer from Ghent fought his first competition in 1996 and, at the age of 22, became the Belgian Champion in 1998 in his specific weight class. One year later he claimed the title of Benelux champion. Alongside his career as a boxer he worked as a night porter, which is when his problems began. In 2007 Abdoul was sentenced to four and a half years in jail due to blackmail and fraud. Since his release he has returned to sport and is boxing at European top level again. Ismail tells me his story on a rainy summer’s day. To put it bluntly, I was a little shit. School did not interest me, nothing interested me. I was a difficult child at home, but my life really improved once I discovered boxing at the age of 13. I had just started smoking and hanging around with boys who were experimenting with drugs. But fortunately I didn’t touch the stuff because I had just discovered boxing. I went to watch boxing one Monday. On the Tuesday, I lit my last cigarette and said to my friends: this is the last cigarette I’m going to light, because from tomorrow I’m going to start boxing. Everyone started laughing. But it really was the last cigarette I ever lit. Ever since that Wednesday when I started training I have always trained to a top level and never touched drugs, alcohol and cigarettes again. Yet even his cherished sport was unable to keep him on the right track ... Sadly I have already been in prison four times. In 2000, 2003 and 2005. Then I served my sentence from 2007 until 2009. I also got six days for breaching bail. In total I have been locked up five times. Five times in prison. Five times the same small space and the bars that force you to think about what you have done. And for Ismail he did most of his thinking while doing sport. My only motivation was my faith and my sport. Regardless of rain, snow, how I was feeling, I ran for one hour a day on the walk, despite it being so small. Training my abs, doing push ups, doing exercise after exercise to build strength, and running. It was a kind of meditation. I had to do sport, it was a kind of drug for me. I needed to do it for me. I didn’t want to get out of shape. I had a mission, to serve my sentence in prison with no problems, without misery, in the hope of getting out with good behaviour. I managed in two years. Normally I had a five-year sentence, but I still wanted to prove outside the prison that I wasn’t a shit, but a boxing champion. I still got some good results after my prison sentence. When you’re busy with sport, you escape for a moment. You forget your misery. I’m a dreamer. I invent new stories, of how the future could be. Each time I ran it was with music in my ears and just dreaming and thinking. Imagining my first boxing match. How I was going to come out and people watching me. It felt like a clip in my head and gave me the chance to escape my problems for a little while. I wasn’t thinking I’m stuck here or whatever. Sport helps you to break away from reality. It has not been easy for Ismail. After 2 years he left the prison. But his biggest punishment was still to come: almost 10 years of debt mediation, to pay off the fines and court fees. But he worked, 7 days a week, to make sure that his wife and 2 children had everything they required. And in the meantime ... It’s all behind me now. It is down to my will power, that I want to pay for my sins but also want to make sure that I get out the other side. Thank goodness I have emerged from it now and we can all enjoy a great future. Today I can look my sons in the eye and say Dad did bad things but is not a bad person inside. Everyone can make mistakes, but the most important thing is getting back on the right track. Diederick Schelfhout has been racing since the age of eight. A different sport was simply not an option, since he comes from a real racing family. Including the latest Belgian Tour winner, Lucien Van Impe, and Kevin Van Impe his family. In 2008, Diederick was about to become a professional racer. It was going to be his year, the year in which his dream would come true. But then ... Yes, sadly I suffered a tragic motorbike accident in early 2008, in which – to put it rather too briefly – someone crossed the road without looking, coming from a motorway junction. They crossed the road, I drove into the side of them and was catapulted away. Upon which the tank of my engine exploded and I slid under a parked car. And the tank of that car exploded as well. The conclusion: they had to use the extinguisher on me 14 times, because I kept igniting over and over. The oxygen caused my motorbike suit to set on fire, and I ended up with severe burns. I suffered eighty-five per cent burns ranging from the first to the fourth degree, of which sixty-five percent are third and fourth degree. So it’s amazing I survived. And I also had a number of very severe broken bones. For 11 weeks, Diederick fought for his life. When he emerged from a coma, his dream of becoming a professional racer was over. I was forced to learn everything from scratch again: talking, walking, the normal things in life. But at a certain point – while recovering in the UZA in Ghent – I heard the specialist, at the time professor Verdonck, say: "Look Diederik I’m going to be honest with you, you’ll never manage the kind of cycling you want to achieve, cycling on a woman’s bike will be very difficult." I came home and said to my former girlfriend: "Right, I’m taking your bike and I’m going cycling. If I fall, then I fall, then you might have to call an ambulance, but even so I am still going out on the bike today." I went to get that bike and they were the hardest fifty metres of my entire career. I wobbled like a five or six-year-old learning to cycle, but it ended up being the first step in my new career. And for me, one of the biggest achievements was to cycle along the corridors of UZ a few weeks later – right up to the doctor’s office – and to say: "look at me, I’m back." And what success he is having. Slowly but surely Diederick regained his physical strength and fitness. Sport was his way to let off steam. His freedom. His future. I really needed that way to let off steam at the time, because the recovery is also a real mental strain. And I never really had the feeling that the psychologists were helping me. Despite the fact they did their very best. It was just that, for me, an hour of cycling was ten times better than ten sessions with a psychologist. En I’ve always had the feeling when I cycle alone that I need to solve everything myself. Weather, wind, any setbacks, they just make me stronger. I have that feeling: "If I can do all of this, then I can also manage the rest." In fact, for me, sport in general has always saved the day. Diederick came 7th in the one-kilometre time trial in Tokyo and 8th in the race. What. An. Achievement. For Ismail and Diederick, sport was their saviour from a situation that looked hopeless. their mental strength and determination not only helped them to find a way out, but also grew even stronger following their personal ordeal. Could sport do the same for the cyclists in The Breakaway? Or is this project in the Belgian justice system simply cosmetic? It is mid-summer when I visit Oudenaarde again. On Saturday morning between 9 and 11 the inmates train in a group, and as a real exception I’m allowed to stay while they train. But, as we already saw in the last episodes in this podcast, prison plans can turn out quite differently to how you expect … Together with sound man Mathias I prepare for the cyclists’ arrival in the small room that accommodates the 6 bikes and computers. The 2 windows - with bars – are open, for some fresh air. Then I hear the cyclists coming up the stairs to the gym. And I hear 5 voices, not 3. One of the cyclists shows up, although he’s not on the training list. He is sent back to his cell. That causes quite a commotion, because another prisoner, who doesn’t want to participate with the podcast, takes it badly. He accuses the prison of being unfair. He says he has been in prison for years, and the place must help him to reintegrate. But if people are lying, there’s no way he can ever get better. <STEFAAN> I‘ve been here for years and then, while trying to reintegrate us in society, they do this with us … How can that be? If they lie and cheat even here … Come on. How can you ever hope we will improve … <DEBBY> Maar hij wist dat toch … <NEIL> Improve, I only go backwards in here. <HEATHER> Go downstairs, you are getting each other excited. … We’ll see each other on Monday. <NEIL> Me? I only go backwards in here. And that’s not all, because it seems there’s another misunderstanding. The prisoner who is not on the training list is suddenly keen to take part in the podcast. Because, according to him, Dieter said it would be possible. Not so, says Dieter. He gets so upset that no one believes him that his happens: <DIMI> I don’t want all this nonsense. These months are already so difficult for me, I don’t want this nonsense as well. Dieter gets off his bike and I run after him, into the fitness area. I ask him why this is happening now. Then I discover that today is the actual anniversary of his crime. It happened 12 years ago. And all the misery on top. I’m just doing my best. I’m giving up my own free time for this, you know. I am a person, because I’ve been in here for so long and always locked up, I need my peace too. I am giving up my own fucking free time … for this project. And then I get all that nonsense thrown at me. Dieter leaves. I’ll see him again shortly, in the corridor, on my way out. He’ll be dragging chairs, in an angry attempt to shake off the frustration armed with a mop and bucket. He’ll tell me yet again how he doesn’t want all the hassle with other prisoners. And I’ll tell him I understand. And that the next time he should simply join in the cycling. And he’ll give me a cautious smile. No doubt to be continued … But, meanwhile, back to the cycling room. Salim, who until then was apparently doing his own thing on the bike, suddenly speaks up: I’m not getting involved, but at the same time I don’t just let things be said. After all, ‘I’m having a hard time’, everyone is having a hard time, we’re in jail, so stop all the nonsense ok? What kind of nonsense is that, ‘I’m having a hard time … If you’re not having a hard time, then something’s not right is it? That’s what I think. That’s right, don’t you think? But anyway, let’s put an end to this discussion, and get started on our training. Salim and Toon are the only two cyclists left over today. Dieter has gone, and the fourth cyclist, who didn’t want to participate in the podcast, has gone back to his cell. I ask Salim and Toon whether I should include the turmoil in the podcast. Their answer is serious: You can, it’s reality after all. Not a fantasy series. I mean it, it is real. It’s a reality thing You should include it. You’re in a difficult environment together with difficult people having a hard time. That’s not easy for anyone, not for participants and not for the organisation. Watch out, if something like that keeps festering it can blow out of proportion. But I think it’s good that it’s been resolved in this way. Verbally. There may be some victims, but that’s ok. We decide to forget the incident, and concentrate on today’s training. I ask Toon how he prepares for a training session. What does a racer in The Breakaway eat for breakfast? Personally I don’t eat anything different to normal because I do the same every day. I always do sport every morning anyway. So what do you eat? It varies. Porridge, yoghurt with muesli, sometimes a banana milkshake. Banana milkshake? Porridge? I am shocked by my own ignorance. As an outsider you really have no idea what goes on behind the prison walls. The fact there can be privileges. But only if you have the money ... I’m going to ask some very strange questions, but I just can’t imagine it. Do you make that in your cell, or are you allowed out? Yes, everything in the cell. Really? Yes. So you can heat something up. Of course. There’s a microwave and a hob. Everything’s in the cell. You have to buy it yourself, but it’s possible. The same with me. I got up at seven. I started with a coffee, then I made porridge, just cold oats with some milk. I left it to swell then I ate it. Then I shaved and by then it was almost time to start. In just over a month these cyclists will join a virtual race against Team Justice: a racing team, with cycling fanatics from the other side of the bars. The cyclists already know which race awaits them on the day: The tour of the Champs-Elysées. There are five circuits in the Tour de France I believe, but we’ll do just three. It’s a completely different route to the one they first mentioned. They were talking about the Mont Ventoux but it won’t be that. Would that be because of... The participants outside I suppose. But yes, that’s logical. We have time to train and they obviously don’t. But it’s a sprint of 23 kilometres. A small climb, right? Yes, a sprint, it’s a fast ride. Today Salim and Toon are not cycling together. They are each following a Zwift route they have chosen themselves. There’s little point in cycling together because everyone has a different pace. I think I’m allowed to say that I’ve had more practice than Tom. That’s right. He weighs more too. I’m better on the hills. There’s little point in riding the same course or at least doing it together. Yes, it’s true there’s a big difference between us. I’m keen to know how the race turns out. After all, it’s actually the intention for the group to ride the race all together … Salim once cycled up the notorious Mont Ventoux. On Zwift, that is. It took Wout Van Aert 57 minutes and 57 seconds in the Tour de France, and Salim 1 hour and 46 minutes. An excellent achievement, when you know it takes the average cyclist 2 hours and 25 minutes to conquer the giant mountain. It took me 1 hour and 46 minutes. I won’t manage that again. I set off and I had a good day. I had done little work beforehand and I’d had some good news. Everything was in its favour. I should say I was here alone and I just thought I’ll do 10 kilometres, then I’ll keep a flat pace. I did 11 and 12 and then got caught up in a competition with a few racers. I went past one. I started to get a taste for it and thought now I’m going to go for it. It really brought out my competitive nature. There was a Cuban behind me, and I really didn’t want him to catch up with me. I wasn’t far ahead, but just enough. I didn’t want to let that go. I did feel it the rest of the day. I ate an awful lot and had plenty of rest. But I’m really happy about it. Meanwhile, Toon has finished his training, and Salim is also doing his cooling down. His training is nearly over, along with those two hours of relative freedom he enjoyed today. I can tell this by his tone, which suddenly becomes less positive. We talk about the importance of sport in the prison. About how important it is to keep busy. That’s something I notice too and it’s typical of prison. I always tend to think that I’m 23 or 24 years old. I know it’s not true, just so you know. The way you experience how time passes is different here. Then if you don’t make good use of your time, to develop or do whatever, the impact is double. Every week, every month, every season, except the weather of course, they are all copies of what came before in terms of how we spend them. Your job may vary a little. Your visitors will come on different days, that is if you have visitors, which isn’t always the case. I find it hard to put a time on things. Whether it’s three months, six months or two years since I saw something. The weeks all seem the same so I have few reference points. And in saying this Salim reminds me just before the end that life between the prison walls is no pony camp. Not even if you have a microwave oven and can eat porridge every morning. This was the third episode of The Breakaway. Thank you for listening. In the fourth and final episode of this podcast I follow the racers in The Breakaway during their ultimate race against Team Justice. I discuss what this special cycling project has meant to all those involved. And we find out whether Dieter is there for the final race... Take that microphone away from me. I’m done. I’ve had enough. The Breakaway was made for Decathlon. I thank the cyclists, Ismail and Diederick for being so open, and the Rode Antraciet and the prison of Oudenaarde for their support. Interviews, editing and final editing by myself, Debby De Ridder, sound by Mathias Van Gasse and sound editing by Chiaran Verheyden. Did you find this podcast interesting? Then subscribe using your favourite podcast app, and write a review.

Please outline the innovative elements of the work

This is the first eCycling team for prisoners. For the first time, prisoners are able to cycle with people from the outside world, in a virtual world. As anonymous athletes instead of prisoners. To ensure their anonymity, we created a podcast, using only their voice to let them tell the story of how the project changed their lives.