Christian Meier interview: leaving Garmin, fresh beginnings with UnitedHealthcare
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Christian Meier interview: leaving Garmin, fresh beginnings with UnitedHealthcare

by Ed Hood at 4:44 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
Canadian rider looking forward to new challenges

Christian MeierChristian Meier was one of the unlucky ones who were cut loose by Garmin as a result of the Cervelo merger, but he’s not too concerned. He’s just netted himself a nice new contract with UnitedHealthcare presented by Maxxis - and a nice new bride.

The versatile 25 year-old from Sussex, New Brunswick has been Canadian U23 cyclo-cross, time trial and road race champion, and in 2008 he won the national elite road championships.

The first four years of his career were spent with well-drilled Canadian Continental squad Symmetrics whilst the last two years have been spent with Pro Tour team Garmin.

VeloNation caught up with Meier recently, talking to him about his year, leaving Garmin, joining UnitedHealthcare and what is an interesting programme for 2011.

VeloNation: Are you happy with your season, Christian?

Christian Meier: I think it was a good season, yes. I had a few ups and downs but I felt like my form was good lately. I helped the team to our first Pro Tour stage race victory in Poland with Dan Martin. I had a few opportunities myself - I took 10th at Veneto and 7th at the Tour of Britain. I think my form has been good since late July and I’ve tried to hold on to that.

Amber and I were married a few weeks ago and then I went straight to the Worlds. I could have gone to the Commonwealth Games too but decided that I’d rather ride the Italian autumn races – I like them and I’m going well.

It takes a bit of time to get back used to riding for yourself, you get so used to do doing a job for the team. The low point of the season was hearing that my contract wasn’t being renewed with Garmin.

VN: There was no Grand Tour for you in 2010…

CM: I’m not entirely sure why that was, I was originally down to ride the Vuelta but Christian Vande Velde decided he wanted to come back for it and there were only so many spots available.

VN: Did Garmin give you plenty of notice that they weren’t going to renew?

CM: Yeah, I knew probably late August/early September…they mentioned to me that I should start looking for another team.

I had dialogue with a few teams but UnitedHealthcare were very keen to have me on board and made a firm offer. You think; ‘do I wait and see if I can get [something] better?’ But I was happy with the offer and at this time of year if you get a good offer, then you go with it.

VN: Is this a good time to be a pro cyclist?

CM: There’s always a balance, teams go, like Cervelo and Milram; but teams appear, like the Luxembourg one and Fly V. Some of the guys who lost their ride at Cervelo might not agree, but equilibrium comes into play.

There are also Continental teams moving up to Pro Continental and Pro Conti teams moving up to Pro Tour. Cervelo was a painful situation for all concerned. It would have been better if the riders knew in July but at that time the team was still looking for new sponsors.

VN: Fly V – the word for a while was that you were headed there?

CM: You end up talking to a lot of guys, I was in contact with Chris White but UnitedHealthcare came up with a deal and I grabbed it. The first priority of a team is to sign their star riders; guys like me – workers – get left ‘til last. But when a team comes along that wants you and has confidence in you, then that’s very exciting.

christian MeierVN: UnitedHealthcare is a private health insurance company. Are they planning to expand into Europe?

CM: Yes, but I’ve not done all of my research on the company yet. I do know that it’s a massive organisation, the CEO has a passion for cycling and the ultimate dream is a team in the Tour de France.

The plan is to have a good presence in the US, riding the big crits and races like Philly but also to have a Euro squad which would ride the major races in the US. The big US goals are the Tour of California - where we want to get Rory Sutherland on the podium – and the Quiznos Tour of Colorado. Gila and Utah will be UCI in 2011 and we want to do well in them, too.

VN: And will team leadership be on the agenda for you?

CM: The big goal is to get Rory [Sutherland] on the podium at the Tour of California, after his 7th place in 2010. We’ll need a strong team to that and that’s why other Euro riders have been signed. But we’ve discussed that there’ll be chances for me to ride for myself – and I’ll be very happy to take them.

VN: When’s the first training camp?

CM: I’m not sure yet, we’re going to be starting early to be in good shape for California – we’ll be riding San Luis in Argentina in January so the first official camp might not be ‘til March.

VN: What about a winter break?

CM: Two days after Lombardy, my wife and I are off to Thailand for a two week holiday; she’s very understanding – we were married on the Saturday and on the Monday I disappeared to the Worlds! After the holiday I’ll take another week and then I’ll get back into the swing.

VN: Where are you based?

CM: Still in Girona, Spain – it’s home and whilst I’ll have a little more travelling with the US races this year we like it there and have decided to stay.

VN: How does the programme look?

CM: After San Luis we plan to do Langkawi and we’re talking about Qatar and Oman; then the early Spanish stage races, Andalucía, Murcia, Castilla y Leon – but not the Northern Classics.

Then Gila, California, Philly, Beauce, Austria, Brixia, Utah, Colorado and the Canadian UCI races.

VN: The team will be on Boardman bikes – what are your thoughts?

CM: I’m very keen to see the new bikes; they’re stepping up the specs and going for international distribution, not just in the UK. Chris Boardman was a great cyclist and very into bicycles, it’ll be exciting to see what he comes up with.

VN: 2011 will be a success for you, if . . . .

CM: My real goal is to start winning races, that’s what it’s all about. I’ve been developing as a rider and getting a little bit better every year, so next year is the year I want to start winning.


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