What's Cool In Road Cycling

Interview: World Champ Marcel Barth

In early July, Marcel Barth won the points race at the Junior Track Worlds in LA. We talked to Marcel about his win, and got some amusing perspective on Los Angeles, as seen through the eyes of a young German.

That’s Marcel in the middle…

PCN: Hello Marcel, first of all: Congratulations to your great results at the Los Angeles World Junior Track Championships – How does it feel like to be World Champion?

MB: It feels great – and I still cannot believe it really.

PCN: Many thanks for writing a diary of the Worlds and doing a short interview for PezCyclingNews! How did it all begin with your cycling career?

MB: Well, my cycling career started at the so called “Little Course de la Paix”, a cycling series for the 6- to 12-year-old. I grew up in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), the eastern part of Germany, where the Course de la Paix had been the most famous (and the only easy-to-reach) international road race for professionals. So the riders there were the real hero’s for my parents and grand-parents.

PCN: Talking about your parents, some of our readers might remember the name of your dad, Thomas Barth.

MB: That’s possible. My dad was part of the GDR national road and track teams and became World Champion in the 1978 juniors’ team road race worlds, taking place in Washington D.C. at that time. Later, he was a professional at TVM and did take part in the Tour de France.

Marcel and the team had a little time to get acquainted with California’s greatest natural resource… the beach.

PCN: Is your dad then one of your idols?

MB: For sure he is! And to me it’s very important to have idols to look up to. My active idols are Erik Zabel and Paolo Bettini.

PCN: Please tell our readers a little bit about your preparation in this year.

MB: Well, due to my school career (which I finished this spring by doing the Abitur after 12 years of school at a normal (i.e. non-sports) high-school), I have not been able to do as much racing as some of my colleagues. Before leaving for the Track worlds, I covered about 13,000 km, having about 40 race days this year. I took part in the international stage races for juniors, “Trofeo Karlsberg” (GER), “3-daagse van Axel” (NED) and “4-daagse van Kontich” (BEL) as well as in the European Track Championships in Fiorenzuola (ITA).

PCN: You do road and track cycling as well as cyclocross. What’s your favourite event? And what will be the next races for you?

MB: I like all 3 events a lot. Taken all of them together, they can make you the perfect cyclist. But in a realistic view, road cycling provides the best chances to become a professional. – I’d like to gain some profit from my good form right now. Another highlight of this season will be the Road World Champs in Verona, where I will head to with the German Junior National team.

PCN: Well, Marcel, best of luck for you within the next weeks and in Italy at the road worlds!

What’s a race without fans? The power of having a banner with your name on it obviously payed off for Marcel.

Marcel’s diary from the 2004 Junior Track Worlds in L.A.

Monday, 19.07.04 – We had to do a 12-hour trip by plane today. This meant the danger of heavy legs, but thanks to my compression stockings I had not to suffer too much. When having arrived in L.A., we did our best to adapt to the different time zone – this was not too difficult as we took the chance to have a look at the big American cars there with their blinking chrome rims!

Tuesday, 20.07.04 – Fortunately, we had a long and nice sleep tonight. After waking up, we finally noticed that we were accommodated in a first-class Hilton hotel! A nice 30 km ride helped our legs to feel much lighter than the day before. In the afternoon, we took a look at one of the gigantic malls here in the U.S. It’s unbelievable what you can buy here at a single building. In addition to this, all the people are very friendly, and no-one of the car drivers complains about us cyclists on the road. It’s really cool here in America, except of those many traffic lights!

Wednesday, 21.07.04 – We did a nice 3-hour endurance ride today. To get rid of all the traffic lights, we decided to find a decent 3.5 km lap in an industrialized surrounding where we did approx. 25 laps on. Yes, you’re right, like in a criterium. After it, we went shopping again and met some of our Aussie fellows at the mall, between the Nike store and the Oakley shop. Unfortunately, we had problems to find some healthy food (i.e. no fast-food), so that we had the great fear of putting some extra kilos on right before the Worlds!!

Thursday, 22.07.04 – Today was the first chance for us to ride the velodrome. Unfortunately, the track does not feel very fast, and there’s also no derny available. Only an electric bike is there, which does not really help a points racer to become fast. But above all, we do enjoy our stay here: lots of sun, nice temps and friendly people.

Friday, 23.07.04 – The day of the pre-race: This meant 2 training sessions on the track with heaps of sprints and hard riding. But I’m not going to tell you what we did in detail… 😉

Saturday, 24.07.04 – 2nd day of the pre-race period. I feel like becoming faster and faster. In addition to the training, we had the chance to play some PlayStation games with our American track fellows. This meant lots of fun. Extraordinarily, we noticed that the Russian team has arrived (which in the past happened to be 3 hours before the start of the competitions) – then they normally became easily World Champions in the pursuit events or the points race. Well, times change…

Sunday, 25.07.04 – Finally, sightseeing at Hollywood, Beverly Hills and being at the Santa Monica Beach. We personally do feel quite famous already, after having seen all those stars at the Walk of Fame! Again, us endurance riders took the unique chance to get some cool Oakley stuff from the store… 🙂

Monday, 26.07.04 – Today the real feeling of being at the Worlds came up. All national teams did arrive and we all got a passport to get on the track by passing the security checks. In addition to this, everyone gets checked like at the airport. Unfortunately, my legs don’t feel that good right now…

Tuesday, 27.07.04 – Tomorrow will the scratch race take place. My federal coach told me that I should try to catch a good group as there are some good sprinters who will take part in that race. Anyways, the mood is good in the German team, enjoying the PlayStation contests with the American guys and doing CounterStrike and UT sessions with our notebooks.

Unfortunately, the scratch race was very tough. A hard-riding Aussie (also seen in keirin events) and a strong guy from Moldavia (who was not said to be so strong in our team briefing) surprised us quite a lot. Anyways, Germany got his first Gold medal: Max Levy, called Mr Leipheimer, became World Champ in the kilometer! Congrats, well done!

Thursday, 29.07.04 – During a decent 2-hour training ride close to the beach (where my dad took me to by car), I did some training behind the car. Up to 70 km/h – this is fun! My room mate “Grandpa Grede” got bronze, and “Russe” finally became a silver medal. Now it seems to be up to me…

Friday, 30.07.04 – a very special day! In the selection races, it went very bad for me. Finally, I became 4th with very heavy legs. In my mind, I thought that in this evening I’d do my best – racing hard and suffering! – WOW – and it worked out! I became World Champ! I can’t believe it. It’s been a fast race, which was good for me. I got one lap ahead with riders from France, South Africa and Australia. It went extraordinary, and I still cannot believe it, still thinking that I’m dreaming. – But I won’t celebrate too much as there is still the madison on Tuesday…

Personal information:
Name: Marcel Barth
D.O.B.: May 22, 1986
Location: Gera (Thuringia), Germany
Height/weight: 1.81 m/69 kg
Events: road, track, cyclocross
Personal website: www.ballerbarth.de
Personal sponsors: Merida (team and road bikes), Alpina (helmet/glasses), Eddy Merckx (track bikes)
Results 2004 Junior Track World Champs L.A.:
– scratch: 10th
– madison: 4th
– points race: Gold medal

About Florian Wenk:

Florian is an amateur road racer and PEZ- Man in Germany, studying medicine at the University of Wьrzburg. He’s currently doing his PhD in endurance training and testing, focusing on metabolic and ergospirometric parameters in cycling performance. You can contact him via [email protected] or have a look at his website www.florianwenk.com

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