Grischa Niermann to hang up his wheels to become coach at Rabobank
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Friday, September 7, 2012

Grischa Niermann to hang up his wheels to become coach at Rabobank

by Ben Atkins at 10:59 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
36-year-old German to continue with the team he’s called home since 1999

grischa niermannRabobank’s Grischa Niermann is to retire after the Vuelta a España and take up a coaching role with the team. The 36-year-old German is currently riding the Spanish Tour, but, after he climbs off his bike at the end of Sunday’s final stage in Madrid, he will call a halt to his long career.

Niermann has been with the Dutch ProTeam since 1999, in an example of continuity rarely found in the modern sport, and has decided to stay there further as he begins his post-racing career.

“I’m now 36 years old, and have been active as a professional rider for seventeen years,” he explained. “At a certain point, you automatically start thinking about your future. In addition to that, I was given a nice chance to become a coach for the team now. When I look back at my career, what makes me proudest is my value for the team. Looking forward, first of all I want to conclude my life as a rider properly, and afterwards invest in my new career: coach.”

As one of the hardest working riders in the Rabobank team - earning himself the nickname “the silent force” - Niermann has taken few victories in his long career, but it has been his loyalty to his more illustrious teammates that has seen his contract with the team renewed time and time again. He does have some personal achievements however, although it is difficult for him to pick the greatest one.
“It’s hard to say,” he said. “I’ve won a few tours [including the 1999 Regio Tour and the 2001 Nedersachsen-Rundfahrt - ed]. Victories are obviously the greatest. I look back at them with satisfaction. I rode the Tour nine times, the Giro four times and five times the Vuelta.”
Unsurprisingly though, it’s easier for the German to name his greatest memory of an achievement within the team.

“That would have to be my first Tour in 2000, the year we won four stages,” he said. “I myself finished 24th, that was the best I achieved with the team. Of course I experienced other nice things as well; the role I was given, supporting Robert [Gesink] and the other good guys in the team. Looking back, that’s what I enjoyed the most, I felt most useful playing that role.

“Look, Dennis Menchov, Erik Dekker and Michael Boogerd knew the way themselves, but I was really there for those younger guys,” he added. “I taught them an awful lot. I’ve got a good bond with Robert, that went well from the beginning, we always shared the room.”

Obviously, having turned professional back in 1996 - with 2nd division German team Die Continentale-Olympia, there will be plenty of things about life as a professional cyclist that Niermann will miss; but there are obviously some things he will not!

“Certainly not the hard times,” he joked. “No, being in the bus with the guys, the racing, being successful… So quite a few things, actually. Like recently, having won in San Sebastian, that’s such a nice thing to experience. Or at the beginning of this Vuelta, when we almost won the team time trial. I’m probably not going to experience that in such an intensive, such an emotional way anymore.”

The last of Rabobank’s 20th century riders finally hangs up his bike

Of the 1999 Rabobank team, only Niermann, cyclocross star Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony) and Karsten Kroon are still racing. He has been one of the senior riders on the team for some time, mentoring some of its younger riders, and this will continue in his role as coach.

One thing he is sure of is the valuable lesson he can teach them straight away.

“That cycling, despite being a difficult and hard sport, is also an incredibly beautiful sport,” he said. “As a talented rider, you have to realise you have to do everything to reach the top. That you have to live for it one hundred percent, if you want to have a good career. That’s what I hope to pass on.

“I really love riding, I want to keep doing it,” he added. “I hope to pass on that love for the sport.”

Niermann’s hopes for his teammates as he bids them farewell on Sunday afternoon is simple.

“That they continue following the path they’re following now,” he explained. “That means letting the young men progress, and hopefully at some point being able to put a Dutchman on the podium of a big tour. We’ve got the riders for it, they’re up for it. I think we’re on the right path for that objective. I also have full confidence in it.”

Obviously, having been a professional for 17 years, his final race into Madrid will be an emotional experience for Niermann, and for his teammates. He’s not yet sure how he will react to the knowledge that it will be his very last time however.

“I’ll see on Sunday. Maybe I’ll start crying spontaneously, but I think I’m sober,” he said. “I haven’t given it much thought. I’m focused on what I have to accomplish now, and I’m being able to do my work properly. There’s a lot of work to do, with Robert and Laurens [Ten Dam] well placed in the overall classification. Too much to actually realise that Sunday is going to be my last race.

“I am really optimistic about my life as an ex-rider. Because I am staying connected with the team, it’s not really a farewell. I don’t have the feeling that it’s all finished now. That provides a very natural start for my life after my sport. I had a really beautiful career, I’m satisfied. I’ll miss a lot of things, but I also had such a hard time this Vuelta, that will make my goodbye easier…”


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