PEZ Talk: Marcel Wust
The Vuelta looms, who better to chat with to whet our appetites than a man who won a dozen stages in the Iberian Peninsula’s biggest race than German former top roadman sprinter, Marcel Wust? Wust was pro from 1986 – as a stagier – with RMO with whom he went full pro, then Novemail, Le Groupememt, Castellblanch and MX Onda until a crash ended his career in 2000 when he was with Festina.
He won races all over Europe, The Americas, Africa and Australia but just weeks after arguably his biggest success – a Tour de France stage win in 2000 – he went down in a horrific crash which robbed him of the sight of one eye and ended his career whilst he was still in his prime. But sprinters are forged from strong metal and the man from Cologne has reinvented himself as a journalist, training camp host and road tester of dream machines for glossy cycling mags.
And he still has calves most pros can only dream of.
PEZ: How many career wins in total, Marcel?
Marcel Wust: 110 as a pro; 14 in the Giro, Tour and Vuelta.
PEZ: Who were the riders you admired as a youngster?
PEZ: RMO for 1988/89 – how did you get the contract and what was the team like?
Maurice Portier, a French guy living in Germany had good contacts into the cycling world and got my amateur team starts in France; races like Loir et Cher, Ruban Granitier Breton, GP Rennes, GP Denain, Boucles Parisiennes. . .
I won a few stages, beat all the pros in two bunch sprints (for 5th and 8th) and he made the contact with RMO. The team was great, like a family – good structure for someone coming from the amateur ranks and good riders too.
PEZ: Novemail 1993/4 – another French team, I’ve read you weren’t that impressed with the set up?
French sponsor, but Dutch management with Peter Post, Theo de Rooy and Walter Planckaert. It was really old school with not much support for riders considered second level, like I was – despite the wins I scored for them.
PEZ: Le Groupement 1995- French again, why go there – and remind us why it fell apart, please?
Because the management was French, (which I liked!) a good opportunity after Histor folded at the end of 1994. When French media found out that the company worked like a snowball system [or ‘pyramid selling’ ed.], they started to put shit on the sponsor; his business went way worst then before, so he pulled the plug – it was OVER after six months.
PEZ: Castellblanch and Spain for the rest of 1995 – how did you get the ride – and you gave them three Vuelta stage wins.
I got a phone call from them after coming back from Super Week [US criterium series, ed.] in Wisconsin early August. I agreed, trained really hard, knowing that this was my chance to get a job again and I was physically and mentally fresh – the Vuelta was held for the first time in September…I smoked them!
PEZ: MX Onda, still in Spain for 1996, was it a good team to ride for?
Same team, different sponsor – really low budget, poor level of support (three jerseys for a year) and a manager, who always blamed the riders, never himself – Maximino Perez, nicknames; Scatman or Gitano (gipsy).
PEZ: Festina and back to France for 1997 to 2000 – your favourite team – why?
They had a big budget, and I had a good contract. They did everything from wind tunnel tests to having a trainer, a nutritionist, a big team bus – and the ambiance was like in a family!
PEZ: You never rode for Telekom. . .
That’s is true, but I considered myself too good to ride for Zabel!
PEZ: I’ve read you think your Giro and Vuelta stage wins were under-rated by the media?
In Germany they were – when I won three stages in four days at the Vuelta in ‘99 and was race leader for two days there were almost no German journalists – when Ulrich took the jersey from me after a week, there were 25…
PEZ: Erik Zabel – you were never friends despite both being German. . .
He is just soooo different, especially when in a competition. I had many sprinter friends, but he was never one of them!
PEZ: Team Coast, tell us about your time there on management, please – the team was a bit of a disaster as I remember ?
The team was good, the sponsor had great ideas, but at the end it was a fight for survival because of some financial issues. The riders did not want to pay the VAT (tax), got angry; the UCI did not have a clue and finally Rudi Pevenage, Jacques Hanegraaf – who were the management – and Bianchi pushed Coast out as a sponsor. Then they promised the riders that if they accepted to have their contracts cut into half, they could offer better contracts later, because the team “will go on for three years.”
Most did not even get paid until the end of the year – despite Jan’s super ride at the tour!
PEZ: Which of all your many wins gives you most satisfaction?
Winning my first ever pro race, Ronde des Pyrenées, Perpignan, Feb, 5th 1989.
PEZ: How did you get into the road testing for Pro Cycling Magazine?
It started with a column, and after I crashed out of my career in 2000 (15 years ago on Aug, 11th) I moved to testing, because columns should be written by active pros. It is great to always be in touch with the latest tech!
PEZ: You still look in great shape, your calves are awesome! – how much cycling do you do?
Pretty regularly in spring, because I run cycling camps in Mallorca, Spain. The customers come and stay at my house and we conquer the island on great bikes. I do mostly about 7000K from February to mid May, and depending on the other events I do with my hobby team (I have a good 150 riders wearing our colours) another 5000 K for the rest of the year – but one thing is for sure; suffering is over, it is all fun now!
PEZ: You’re very well placed to talk about the advances in bikes in the last 20 years – which developments have impressed you most?
I was the first German who rode Look pedals in 1985…that was great! The light but very stiff carbon frames are definitely the biggest thing – OK, electric shifting is good, especially for beginners, but does not make such a big difference like fast aero wheels. In all of this is a lot of marketing involved too – don’t believe everything you read either!
PEZ: Do you live in Majorca all year – do you still have your house in Australia?
I still have the Aussie home, but it is hard to get there, because the time is limited with all the projects. I spent about four months each year in Majorca, four months in Cologne, Germany and the rest at different locations in Austria, Germany and Spain – most of the trips are for (great!) work and cycling related.
PEZ: Any regrets about your career?
I wanted to win stages in all three grand tours: DONE.
I wanted to win more than 100 races: DONE.
I wanted to win on all continents: Unfortunately I never raced in Asia but the rest, DONE!
PEZ: If you could have just one frame/groupset/wheelset – they would be. . .
A Peugeot Reynolds 731 with Simplex shifters and polished alloy rims, 28 spokes – and it would be hanging on the wall in my living room with a checkered Peugeot jersey.
This is how I started at 10 years of age! (Not with 731 though…)
You can catch-up with Marcel Wust and his Casa Ciclista HERE.
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,100 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.