I was born in Gent and still live here. Claeys is a very Flemish name;

Dimitri is Russian, but there’s no real reason my parents called me that. I have no Russian grandparents or family. I feel Flemish, but also Belgian and European. I’m not so nationalistic.

I started out mountain biking when I was 10 or 11. I also played football, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. In those days, Frank Vandenbroucke was the big star, on television and in the papers, and he had his best years around then, 1998, 1999… I think all the kids and guys from my generation were big fans of Vandenbroucke and I even had a Cofidis jersey back in 1999, like I do now.

At 14, 15 I became a bit more strong and muscular and from then it went better and better. I was a good junior and I was good in the U23s - I was twice the U23 Belgian champion. I think I was among the best in the country and from my generation, which includes riders like Jan Bakelandts, Ben Hermans and Klaas

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