Linus Gerdemann: “It’s a great opportunity to be back on the road. I am super motivated to win big races for MTN-Qhubeka.”
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Monday, September 02, 2013

Linus Gerdemann: “It’s a great opportunity to be back on the road. I am super motivated to win big races for MTN-Qhubeka.”

by Shane Stokes at 1:47 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
 
Former Tour de France yellow jersey wearer gets second chance in cycling

Linus GerdemannHe was once seen as a future Tour de France contender, particularly after he won a stage and wore the Maillot Jaune in the 2007 edition.

In the years since then Linus Gerdemann went on to win the overall classifications of the Tour de l’Ain, the Deutschland Tour, Bayern Rundfarht and the Tour de Luxembourg, yet found himself on the sidelines without a contract this year.

He had been with the RadioShack Leopard team but fell through the cracks, ending up without a squad for 2013.

Fortunately opportunity came calling and last week it was confirmed that the German rider has secured a second chance. He has agreed a two year contract with the MTN Qhubeka team and is eager to seize the new opportunity, and to try to make the most of the second half of his career.

“I was always focused in my past years as a pro,” the 30 year old said, when asked by VeloNation if being without a team in 2013 would sharpen his resolve when he resumes racing next season. “But of course I am super motivated to do well now that I can come back with this nice project of MTN.

“My managers Ken Sommer and Joao Correia and I were in contact with the team for a while,” he continued, explaining how the agreement came about. “My friends Gerald Ciolek and Andreas Stauff ride for the team and have told me positive things about it. So when the team management started planning for 2014, we found an agreement really fast.

“Of course it's a great opportunity to be back on the road and I am super motivated to win big races for MTN-Qhubeka.”

The team has had a big season, with Ciolek winning several races including the prestigious Milan-Sanremo Classic.

Gerdemann’s former T-Mobile team-mate pulled that off at the end of one of the toughest days of racing this year, with bitterly cold conditions hammering the peloton and ensuring there was a very select group contesting the final result.

The German rider beat Peter Sagan to the line to win that, a major success for a Pro Continental team with a wildcard invitation. As a result of that plus other success, the team has raised its goals for 2014.

For MTN Qhubeka, targets include riding the squad’s first Grand Tour, with the Giro d’Italia seen as the most likely slot to be given.

If the team does secure admission to a three week race, Gerdemann sees it as a logical target. “If we can start in a Grand Tour, of course this will be a main goal for the year,” he said, thinking ahead.

“Apart from that I want to do well in the general classification of any kind of stage races.”

Falling through the cracks:

Linus GerdemannA strong climber and decent time trialist, Gerdemann pulled off some decent results in the past. However that wasn’t enough to guarantee him a contract for this season, and he was left short.

Asked about the reason for that, he suggests he was a casualty of the merger between the Leopard Trek and RadioShack Nissan teams last year, or rather the subsequent turmoil which arose afterwards.

“As you know the team went through a management change and it was a quite a confusing situation,” he explained, referring to that merger plus the hiring – and firing – of Johan Bruyneel as general manager.

“So the talks with them went on for a long time. When we couldn't find an agreement in the end, it was too late to find something else that fit my sporting expectations. I also didn't want to make an over-hasty decision and just sign with any other team.”

In addition to that, another factor was that he had a quieter year than in 2011, with fifth in the Tour de Pologne and being as close to success as he got in WorldTour events.

Despite being left on the sidelines, Gerdemann does see some pluses. He’s previously lived a focussed life as a sportsperson and the break allowed him to catch up on what he missed out in the past.

It also gave him a sense of perspective about the sport and his chance to make a living from it.

“The year was not frustrating as I got to spent a lot of time with my friends,” he said. “I could relax, especially mentally. Now I can start really fresh and motivated.

“I rode my bike a lot during that time, of course. But I also kept fit with other sports like running, tennis, hiking etcetera.”

The next step is to continue his building his condition, as well as getting more familiar with those he will have as management and team-mates in 2014 and 2015.

“I will go to South Africa to meet the whole team, the sponsors and get some nice training done,” he said. “We will finalise the timing in the next couple of weeks.”

He’s looking forward to learning more about the Qhubeka aspect of the team backing, with the not for profit foundation helping to give bikes to the less well off in southern Africa.

“I really enjoy the project,” he said, referring to the team and its mission. “I heard only positive things about the team and its goals from Gerald, Andy and my management.

“It is a great thing that it's not only about cycling but to bring African kids on bikes and develop the sport on the African continent.”

Gerdemann’s still only thirty years of age, but he’s looking forward to a mentor role. The experience gap between him and some of the younger riders means he is in a position to help them progress. He too was guided when coming through the ranks and can now pay that back in some way.

“There are so many great talents. I think I can help them develop as professionals so they can be successful in Europe,” he said.

The best way is to lead by example, which is something that he is aiming to do. “I have won a couple of nice races in my career and I want to continue with that,” he said. “Especially my focus is on one-week stage races and stage wins in the Grand Tours. Also I want to help Gerald [Ciolek] win more big races.”

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