Gerald Ciolek Interview: MTN Qhubeka team leader talks about change and new challenges
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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Gerald Ciolek Interview: MTN Qhubeka team leader talks about change and new challenges

by Ed Hood at 12:35 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Video
 
German rider vying to return to top condition in 2013

Gerald CiolekTurn the clock back a couple of years and it appeared as if young German rider Gerald Ciolek had the world at his feet. In 2005, at just 18 years of age, he left big-name fast men Robert Forster and Erik Zabel in his jet wash to win the nation’s Elite Road Race title.

One year later that sprint took him to a World U23 Road Race title.

The big pro contract wasn’t long in coming. He left behind second string Wiesenhof for ‘super team’ T-Mobile, making the step up in 2007 and picking up a clutch of wins in Austria and Germany.

When the scandals became too much for the German telecommunication company to bear, the squad became High Road for 2008 and then Columbia; Ciolek remained there amid the changes and collected another clutch of wins in Germany and rode his first Tour de France.

That Tour saw him take four podiums and boded well for the future.

But with Milram for 2009 he couldn’t replicate his Tour debut promise, although he did score a Grand Tour stage victory in the Vuelta.

That team was destined to fold at the end of 2010 and whilst there was another Tour ride and wins in lesser German races that year, there was no breakthrough.

In 2011 and now with QuickStep, he rode both the Giro and Tour but second in the German Elite Road Race Championship to the surprising Robert Wagner was as close as he got to a win.

Last season saw him back atop the podium for a stage win in the Algarve tour and share in a QuickStep TTT win in the Tour de l’Ain, but it wasn’t the same as what he had done in the past.

Time is very much on his side, though: despite the fact that 2013 will be his ninth season as a professional, he’s still only 26 years old.

He’s surprised many with his choice of team for this season, going to newly-promoted South African Pro Continental team, MTN-Qhubeka. It’s an interesting team, being the first of its level from Africa, and its co-sponsor Qhubeka has a mission to supply bicycles to disadvantaged African children.

Ciolek took time out at training camp to talk to VeloNation about his ‘fresh start.’

VeloNation:
Observers were a little surprised with your move to MTN-Qhubeka, Gerald - what were the reasons for going there?

Gerald Ciolek: It's a professional team, with a great story behind, it's unique. We're on the best equipment and they give me the full support that I need.

VN: Did the team contact you, or did your agent get in touch with them?

There was interest from both sides in me joining the team.

VN: Who impressed you at the first training camp?

GC: The entire team! Everything was very well organized but on the other hand super-relaxed; I've never had the feeling before with a team management which is so enthusiastic and so close to the riders.

VN: It must be a little frustrating not knowing your exact programme - do you know what your first race will be?

GC: It's not frustrating, there will be enough races - it would be frustrating not to be ready to ride them!

We do the Trofeo Laigueglia as the first race.

VN: You were with Milram…was it a shock when they folded?

GC: No, we expected it

VN: Milram to QuickStep; how much of a cultural leap was that?

GC: Not such a big leap - from potatoes to fries! No, seriously, I enjoyed riding in a German team, but I prefer to be part of an international team.

VN: Your 2011 programmed looked very heavy - do all those hills in the stage races blunt your speed?

GC: My program wasn't that different to the other years.

VN: Would you say you are still as fast as when you beat Forster and Zabel to win the German championship?

Probably - I could still beat them . . .

VN:
No Grand Tour for you in 2012 - did you miss the experience?

GC: There was a point I really would like to have gone to the Tour; but in the end it didn't really affect my season.

VN: Did QuickStep consistently give you a sprint train?

GC: Not all the time, but this was never the plan as they never promised me a sprint train when I joined the team - but I got my chances

VN: With the likes of Boonen, Chavanel, Terpstra at QuickStep it must have been easy to get overlooked?

GC: It was a really successful team last year; so it's normal that you're placed a little further back in the pecking order if you're not winning.

VN: Have you singled out the riders to lead you out at MTN?

GC: There's Andy Stauff who joined me, and a bunch of other strong riders - we still have to figure out what the best solution is.

VN: You're still only 26 but the average age of the team is 24 - how do you feel about being the 'Senior Man?'

GC: I'm losing hair, I'm over average age - but at least I have some experience which could be useful in the races!

No, really now it looks like I'm one of the experienced guys, I would like to pass over some of this experience, because there are a few riders in the team who could benefit from it.

VN: Do you have a formula for winter training - or do you change it each year?

GC: It depends a bit on the season, last year my first race was six weeks earlier then this year, so I had to make some changes.

When I start my training I like to train off the bike, hiking Nordic skiing – and I also like to stay at altitude in the winter.

VN: What's your opinion on the Armstrong situation?

GC: If the case and all the stuff coming out right now about things that happened ten years ago helps to makes cycling cleaner, then it's a good thing.

All the people who looked up to him have also a right to know the truth, even if they probably all knew before.

The bad thing is that now the media reflects an impression of cycling and the organized doping which is ten years old - and it stays in the mind of the public.

There are hundreds of cyclists with good intentions who are riding now; it's not fair on us.

VN: Has it made the German media even more 'anti-cycling’?

GC: They are not really anti-cycling. Ten years ago when Telekom was so successful, it was the flagship of the German nation and the journalists were riding the crest of the beautiful wave, called success.

They were not objective in this time, just as they aren't now. Now cycling is the whipping boy, so they write about doping – it’s just a simple thing.

VN:
2013 will be a good year if . . .

GC: …if the team goes well from the start. We want to perform, but also make the MTN-Qhubeka social project more popular in Europe.


Click below to watch a separate Ciolek interview

 

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