My name is Steffen Weigold, I just turned 23 a few days ago and it’s my second year
with the Gerolsteiner Professional Cycling Team
PCN- 1: As neo-pro, what type of schedule will you be riding this spring, and what type of preparation are you doing?
SW- Till now, mainly the races in Belgium have been on my race schedule culminating in the last two World Cup races Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Last year as a neo, I went there with lots of motivation, but the first races like Het Volk or Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne were not what I expected. Racing was equivalent to a fight against being shaken off and reaching the finish line was rare. Of course, participating in the Tour of Flanders for the first time was a big thing, but for me the race was over even before the difficulties of the course began.
That shouldn’t happen again this year and I tried to be better prepared for the early races. Spending six weeks in South-Africa in December and January with some team-mates, my training program didn’t depend on the weather conditions at home, the Black Forest, which are not seldom determined by snow. I didn’t go for a six-hours ride to take advantage of a day with good weather. I did it because I had planned it before. So training quality during this time was better.
As long as I’ve been cycling (my older brother encouraged me to start with this sport at the age of 10), my personal level of fitness never gained quickly. It always has been a step-by-step process. Up to this point of the year, I can say that I’ve reached a higher step on the ladder of being a good rider. Where I abandoned in Het Volk last year, I was in the break this season, for example. Or finishing the Tour of Flanders, well-knowing that you’ve done a good job for the leaders of your team. Nevertheless, it’s still a hard and long way out of the anonymity of the peleton.
The team line-up for the northern Classics was basically the same as last year and I think we all improved and gave a solid performance. You are not automatically a stronger rider due to the fact that your team has reached trade team 1 status.
As I said before, Paris-Roubaix was supposed to set an end to the first period of my plannings. Curiosly, after a fall I’m out for some time due to an injury of the right hand. A piece of the navicular bone splintered off and now wrist and thumb are plastered for maybe three weeks. I’m seeking advice from different doctors right now and still hoping that I’m not out of competition too long. Training is no problem.
The centennial edition of Paris-Roubaix was my first bug Classic and I was very excited. As long as I can think, I had seen this race on TV, but I had no idea of what it really could be! This was by far the craziest race I’ve ever done. Right on time, before the first cobblestone section at km100 was reached, it started raining and the scenery turned into a messy Hell of the North. The peleton was already decimated – a group of 30 ahead and the same number dropped behind – but this didn’t detract from the big fight arising from the will of each rider to enter the pave in the front positions and at breakneck speed. The bumpy paths were covered with mud and as slippery as a slide. Chaos reigned. Crashes, defects, the noise of the large crowd. After 5 sections I was still with most of the big names who were just about to speed up in order to catch the leaders. Before the race, I was often asked about the benefits of being a former cyclo-cross racer. I told them that only pure power and mental strength count on the cobblestones. But in these irregular conditions you definitely benefit of the experiences in cyclo-cross. I felt safe, maybe too safe… After the fall I tried to continue, but I couldn’t get on my feet again. First, I thought of a serious injury of the hip, but fortunately it’s only the right hand 😉
2. Which of the 3 Grand Tours is your favorite and why?
SW- Being part of one of the Grand Tours would be a great challenge. Gerolsteiner is invited to this years Giro d’Italia and I’m looking forward to hear my team-mates about it afterwards. The Tour de France is surely the race with the biggest reputation and media interest. There are so many myths and stories that make this event unique. Cycling and the Tour de France are strongly connected. When I think of a Grand Tour I first think of the Tour de France. If I settle this question on what I get via TV, the Vuelta is my least favorite. You get the impression that the riders have to pass endless kilometres through dreariness.
3. How did you get started in bicycle racing and what motivated you to become a professional bike racer?
SW- My brother was a proud owner of a pushbike and took part in his first races. I just wanted to do so when I was 10. Since then I was infected with the sport and cycling took up a big part of my life. When Mr.Holczer asked me to become member of the Gerolsteiner team two years ago there was no reason to think about it and not accepting the offer.
4. What do you learn as a professional racer that is valuable in other areas
of your life?
SW- It’s important in both areas to make significant decisions, sometimes very fast. And it’s worthless to think about it afterwards too long. You should learn from mistakes and make it better the next time. Concentrate on a goal and working to aim it is could be another point.
5. If you were not a racer, what do you think you would be doing?
SW- Most of my friends started studying after school. I don’t know what subject, but I’m pretty sure I would do so when I listen to their reports. It seems that they have lots of leisure time and enjoy their lives 😉
6. Before a race do you follow any specific routine or ritual for good luck?
SW- I’m always very concentrated the last minute before the start of a race. I go through my goals and the instructions of the director. I say a little prayer and wish to reach the finish unharmed.
7. Have you visited North America, where did you go and what was most memorable for you?
SW- With a group of junior cyclists I’ve been to Albuquerque/New Mexico some years ago. Later I’ve also visited Tuscon/Arizona. We took part in some races and had a great time, especially in the big shopping malls and fast food restaurants. We just enjoyed the American way of life… Now I regret not having seen e.g. the Grand Canyon or other things. In 2000, I did the Redlands and SeaOtter stage races in California with Telekom’s U23. The 17miles-Drive at the Monterey Peninsular was a incredible spot for a training ride.
8. What advice would you give to a young rider looking to be successful
in the pro peloton?
SW- I’m still a young rider trying to make my way and I’m always happy to get advices from experienced riders of our team.
9. Do you have a personal website that our readers could visit?
– What is the url?
SW- No, I don’t have a personal website. But check out www.gerolsteiner.com/cycling. You’ll find information about the riders of the team, news and further features.