Robert Forster Interview: United Healthcare sprinter excited about stronger lineup in 2013
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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Robert Forster Interview: United Healthcare sprinter excited about stronger lineup in 2013

by Ed Hood at 4:57 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
German believes US team can step up a level this season

Robert ForsterAt last count Germany’s Robert Forster (United HealthCare) had won races in 14 different countries – China, Cuba, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, the Republic of South Africa, Spain, Turkey and the USA.

At 34 sprinters are usually slowing down, but Forster is still keeping the wins coming, either for himself, in the likes of the 2012 CSC Invitational, or as pilot fish for rapid team mate, Jake Keough with the pair terrorising the US criterium scene.

It was 2000 when Forster took a stage in the Giro del Capo in the RSA, repeating the feat one year later but by this time in the colours of German professional team, Nurnberger. There were wins too that year in the Vuelta a Cuba and Trofeu Agostinho in Portugal.

His second season with Nurnberger had stage wins in the Circuito Montanes in Spain and Sachsen Tour in Germany as highlights.

In 2003 Gerolsteiner was the name on the jersey – the German team would be ‘home’ for six seasons. Netherlands semi-classic Groningen-Munster and a stage in Germany’s Rheinland Pfalz fell to him.

A repeat win in Groningen-Munster was the biggest result of 2004; with 2005 yielding a clutch of wins in Germany and a narrow defeat to precocious Gerald Ciolek in the Elite National Championships.

It was 2006 when he really broke through – with stage wins in the Circuit de la Sarthe, Giro, Ster Elektrotoer, Tour of Denmark and Vuelta.

The following year he repeated his Giro stage win and added stage wins in the Coppi-Bartali and Tour of Germany.

Two stages in the Volta ao Algarve were a good start to 2008 adding another Netherlands semi-classic in Veenendaal-Veenendaal and then a stage in the Tour of Poland.

With Gerolsteiner folding at the end of the 2008 season, he moved to Milram and added to his palmares with a stage in the 2009 Tour of Turkey.

Milram was another victim of the German ‘doping back lash’ and folded at the end of 2010 and whilst there were podiums, there were no wins for Forster.

The 2011 season saw a huge change of direction for him, after 10 seasons on German teams he crossed the Atlantic and joined US team, United HealthCare.

And the wins came back – with stages in the Tour de Langkawi, Vuelta Ciclista Asturias, Nature Valley Grand Prix in the USA and China’s Tour of the Qinghai Lakes.

Season 2012 saw a win in the hotly contested CSC Invitational criterium and a host of top drawer rides by team mate Keough with Forster doing the preparatory work.

We caught up with the man from Markkleeberg at the recent United HealthCare training camp in Arizona.

VeloNation: It must have been a blow when Gerolsteiner folded, Robert – after all those seasons?

Robert Forster: I was there for six seasons and then the sponsor stopped – but that’s what happens in cycling, it’s normal. It was hard though because the team was like a big family – but you just have to accept it.

VN: The step to UHC was a huge one…

RF: When Milram folded my agent spoke to a lot of teams but we got the best feelings from United HealthCare. It felt like a new chance, a new opportunity; and then we spoke to the manager, Mike Tamayo - that sealed it for me.

VN: What were your first few weeks in the US like?

RF: The US is very different, the standard is higher in Europe but I enjoy being in the States.

It’s good being part of a team with a family atmosphere and which is growing, like a little tree but one which is getting bigger all the time. When you’re on a big European team it’s much more of a business.

VN: What about the travel aspect?

RF: If it goes smoothly then it’s OK – but if there’s hassle than it’s a pain. When I came into the States to go to this camp, I was two hours to get through immigration.

It took me 24 hours to get here from Germany – your body needs four or five days to recover from that.

VN: You’ve forged a great partnership with Jake Keough.

RF: I’m 34, I’ll soon be 35 and my career is coming to an end. I have a really good relationship with Jake – he wants to learn, he’s fast and it’s good for me to have someone like that to pass my knowledge on to.

Because I’m older, my recovery isn’t as good as it used to be and I’m not quite so fast as I used to be so it’s better for us to try to get Jake into a winning situation.

It’s great to see Jake taking a win like the one in stage four of the Tour of Utah.

VN: United HealthCare is looking stronger for 2013…

RF: It is, yes – but we needed more strong guys. Last season it was often down to Jake and me in the finales.

We needed more strong guys to deliver him; it’s no good if he has to fight in the last 1,000/1,500 metres, he’s wasting strength.

This year we have new fast guys like Martyn Irvine, Aldo Ilesic and John Murphy who will be able to get Jake up there without him having to fight.

Look at Cavendish - his team deliver him so as he doesn’t have to fight and waste energy.

VN: Ilesic did good work for Serebryakov at Team Type 1…

RF: Yes; we did sprint some drills, yesterday. He’s tall, big and strong with a lot of power, but there’s a big difference between racing and training – things look good ‘on paper’ but it’s not until you’re doing the real thing that you see how it all works out . . .

VN: Which is your favourite US race?

RF: Philly, it’s really special – I’m a little disappointed that I’ve never won it. But all the big US races – California, Utah, Colorado, they’re all great races.

I’ve had some hard times in them because all the stages aren’t ideal for sprinters – but with the big cities, the fans, the organisation, they’re all good.

VN: What do you like best about the US?

RF: It’s so different from Europe – in Germany there are so many rules about everything; in the States it’s freer and a more relaxed.

VN: What’s the difference between a European and US bunch sprint?

RF: In the US the roads are bigger, so there’s more chance to come late in the sprint. Although the thing is that in all the big US races there are strong European teams riding, anyway.

But what you don’t tend to get is a 90 left than a 90 right with 150 metres to go, the run ins are straighter – so they’re not so crazy and are safer than in Europe.

VN: You were 11th in Nokere Koerse, this year – do you miss the cobbled races?

RF: I rode those races for nine or ten years, I like racing in Belgium – the spectators are the best in the world. The only bad thing is the weather!

VN: Do you return to Germany for the winter?

RF: Yes, this year the weather hasn’t been so bad so I was able to train on the road – but if it’s bad then I’ll go to Majorca.

VN: Do you have a set routine for the winter?

RF: I start on November 1st but not on the road bike.

I do a little bit of gym work, roller skating, mountain bike – I try to make it a little different each year.

I don’t like to start to do long runs on the road bike until December – you have to think about your head, you’re going to be spending a lot of time on the bike at full gas, soon enough.

VN: This will be your 13th season – is the motivation still strong?

RF: For sure! I’ve had two years in the US and it’s been a great job, passing my experience on to the young guys – it’s been like a second summer for me.

It’s good to see the team grow, be part of that, getting that bit better each year.

VN: How is the programme looking?

RF: After the camp here in Phoenix, I go to ride San Luis in Argentina and then to Malaysia for the Tour of Langkawi, then I go back to Europe where we have a good programme with races like the Three Days of West Flanders and De Panne.

VN: Which of your wins gives you most satisfaction?

RF: The last stage of the Giro in 2006, no question; it was my first really big win - it was unbelievable.

VN: What’s still on the Robert Forster ‘to do’ list?

RF: I’ve ridden all of the big races which I wanted to – so there’s no goal to do ‘this’ or ‘that.’

I’ve seen just about everything in professional cycling – but my dream is to take this team to the Giro, one day. I don’t know if we’ll be ready, but that’s what I’d love to do.


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