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Questions and Answers with Marcel Wüst!
By Tick
Date: 2/3/2005
Questions and Answers with Marcel Wüst!

The combined forums of the Daily Peloton and Cycling4Fans came up with lots of questions for Marcel Wüst, who kindly took the time to answer all of them. The questions and answers run the gamut from doping to eating to sprinting, to....

Where do you keep the King of the Mountains Jersey from the Tour de France? How does that feat rank with your other great feats over the years?

One of the jerseys is framed and decorates a wall in my living room. Not that I am especially proud of it, but was probably the most unusual reward I ever got for riding my bike fast...even if it was “only” a 950m sprint.

Marcel, it's well known that you're a real language buff, but what language do you think is the most beautiful apart from your mother tongue?

I really like Spanish, especially when it comes to music. I think every language has something special, but having spent so much time in Spain it conquered my heart.

How's your right eye; did your sight improve since retiring from pro cycling?

No, still no improvement...totally blind, but life with one eye is possible and I got used to most things. Just driving in the dark when it rains is a worry...but that's probably a worry for most people with 2 eyes.

Of which young sprinter do you expect the most in the coming seasons? Can Hushovd and Co. take on Petacchi and McEwen anytime soon? And is Cipo just grabbing cash in yet another season-too-much?

Young Tom Boonen made a big impression on me last year. If he stays grounded he can be the man for many years. Baden Cooke as well as Hushovd can beat anyone on the right day. Cipo is special, but I reckon he just does not want to quit on a year like 2004. It is hard when you are up there for so long, let's not forget he won over 40 stages in the Giro...and so much more. For me he is the greatest of all time!

In your opinion, what makes sprinters so streaky? (They run so hot and cold, results-wise - I'm very curious about that.)

Courtesy T-Mobile.
When you have the chance to win you will give everything for it...that's why. If there is a sprint for second the motivation and “grinta” is not even half. And every sprinter knows that even if the form is bad, if there is a bunch sprint, he might be able to get a (good!) result.

What are you most proud of accomplishing in your career?

I have travelled the world and made many friends, even outside the sport. On a result thing it might be to have won more than 100 races and at least 1 stage in the Giro, Tour and Vuelta each...As I never raced in Asia, I could not score a win on every continent...done’em all except Asia.

What personal - as compared to professional - accomplishment are you proudest of?

People tell me I am a person who has not changed much at all. Not during my successful career, and not after my life-threatening crash...I like this and take it as a big compliment!

What are the differences between Team Coast and Team Winfix?

Coast was big money (but still not enough…) and Winfix is a small team which will improve slowly over a few years' time. My workload at Coast, especially when the shit broke loose, was heaps more...sure the payment was better too, but I like life quality a lot!

What do you think of the support for young cyclists in Germany? How could it be improved? Do you personally know the riders on the Marcel Wüst Team? And will you maybe write another book with more details about, for example, training, nutrition, medical help but also maybe the Festina affair.

There is always room for improvement. I think we are not really bad, but not really good either. More teams like my junior team could help a bit, but it is hard to generate the money you need to do this.

I know most of the riders, we don’t meet a lot of times, but at the local races we chat and sometimes I get asked a few questions how things were when I was their age..usual stuff, with fair dinkum answers.

Maybe I will write a book, but it is not a priority. Maybe about the way I used to train, which was not very scientific, but successful, there are some ideas in my head about giving advice. Not about the Festina scandal though, I like to remember the good things in life, that is one of the reasons there is not a lot about it in  "Sprinterjahre" either. Many people told their story, for me that's enough after 6 years have passed by.

Has the change from professional cyclist to management changed your views on doping and responsibility? As a rider, you are only responsible for yourself but in management you are responsible for other, mainly young people.

I think a pro's self-responsibility is important, but you also have a role model function. And not just someone in management is responsible for others. Although I'm not sure that management is the proper term for what I do. I try to work closely with athletes or an audience to improve and explain things. The so-called "bureaucracy" is not my thing.

You are involved in the "Go Ahead" project. How do you respond to the critics, who cast doubts on the efficacy of bike helmets?

The helmet critics can introduce as many calculations as they want, the fact is: helmets save lives and you are better off in a crash with a helmet than without one. And as an adult you have a responsibility in this area as a role model, for children and also for those who are still too ignorant to wear a helmet.

How have your eating habits changed since you are no longer a pro cyclist?

I don't eat quite as much, but then again, you don't put as much gas in your car when you drive fewer kilometers. It is a logical consequence that you eat less, otherwise you'd blow up like a balloon. The truth is that I don't feel like like I'm missing out on anything, your body gets used to it. When I'm full I stop eating. It's just that a lot of people can't tell the difference between real hunger and simple appetite for the delicious food. That is the big problem. I still eat basically the same things, there's not much better than pasta with olive oil and fresh parmesan cheese.

Form test: How good are you now? How many km do you ride each year?

When my form as a pro was 100, then I'm probably at about a 40 now. I could probably improve myself to a 60 in 2 to 3 months, but it would be difficult. I'm a passionate amateur athlete now, and do it because it's fun and it makes me feel better. My 40 on the cycling form scale is about the same as 90 or 100 on the amateur cyclist scale - nobody has to wait for me. It's usually the other way.

When are you going to participate in your first Ironman?

I have said never, but you should never say never. Maybe some day a big trip with friends to Brazil or New Zealand or the US and make a fun-travel-sporting event out of it, but certainly not before I turn 40.

When are you planning to move to Australia? It seems to me that I have read statements from you over the years saying you definitely would and definitely would not be moving to Australia. But your son will have to start school soon, and it will be time for a decision...

We have the plans to be living permanently in Oz some day. Alexander starts school in Germany this summer, and as long as my jobs are here we will not leave without thinking it over enough times to be really sure. There is no answer to when, but sure enough there is the answer that yes, we will.

To be a top notch road sprinter, how much of your training is spent on sprinting drills or sprinting practice?

About every second week I did 2-3 times a week a specific sprint training, with a series of sprints, with a certain numbers of repeats. They were very short sessions (2 hrs max.) but hard on the system - and it worked!

Do you do speed work after a hard road session to simulate coming in after 200kms and having to drive home the last 300 meters?

No, a hard road session is a hard road session, speed work is speed work. Sure, in a 6 hour ride there was a 30-40 second sprint in at every half hour, but usually I did not mix different types of training too much.

Does winning races in the sprint have more to do with conditioning or more to do with knowing sprinting strategy and your opponents and taking advantage of their weakness?

Both are important. If you are strong, the chance of winning is big, but a smart guy could beat you. No legs usually means no win, so condition is the most important factor...both are perfect. The good thing about experience is, it can only get bigger (and better), form does come and go.

Was there a favorite victory in a sprint that you look back at now that gives you deep personal satisfaction in pulling it out of the bag at the finish?

There are actually 3. Winning my first pro race for my new team when I was neopro (5.2.1989 in Perpignan) because I showed everyone right away that I can do it.

The win in the Vuelta '95 at La Coruna, because it was my first in a big tour and Zanini and Jalabert as 2nd and 3rd were almost 10 metres behind, and the 5th stage of the Tour 2000, because that was the little kid's dream coming true.

Who did you consider your best friend in the peloton? Jörg Jaksche once said in an interview that it was impossible to have close friends in the peloton, because there was always the feeling of competition. Do you agree? Are you still personally in touch with anyone?

Lives develop and friendships do too. Roommate Fabian Jeker is someone I am still in touch with, so are others like Robbie McEwen or Joseba Beloki. But as we don’t see each other that much anymore, it is different. You can have friends even if you race against them, just get over the competition when you have no numbers pinned on.

Out of all the bikes you have sitting waiting to be ridden at home - which is the all time favourite?

Probably at the time (1992) the TVT carbon frame with RMO was great, but there are a lot of changes still happening. My 2001 Festina (the last ever!) is the only pro bike I still have. It is a custom built aluminium frame, stiff, light and with great handling...I will keep it forever!

Which race was your obsession for the victory, eg. World Championship, or a WC or the Vuelta stage victory which you repeated and repeated?

Every race where I had a chance of winning was the most important race. Sure, some might be more important than others, but basically, once you hit the finishing straight, you wanna win, no matter how small the race is.

What is the most important thing for a sprinter: agility, muscle in the legs, brain or...? Are sprinters "born" or "made"?

Sprinters are first born, because the genetics tell you if you can sprint or not. But then, they are made as well. Discover that you are a sprinter genetically, and train this strength, you will be better than someone who always tries to improve in his weak points. He will be average, or a bit better everywhere...a specifically trained sprinter might be bad everywhere, but world class in what he is born for...sprinting.

If your son Alexander says he wants to be a professional cyclist, would you oppose the idea, saying it is dangerous, or would you support him? What does your wife say about it? How would you talk to him about the doping question?

He would get all my support, the same goes for my wife. Sports: any sport gives kids some direction, something to look forward to, and help them to work on their focus. Better to go training with your mates and come home tired, than run around in the streets, get drunk and kick over the rubbish bins.

As I know that you can be in the best of the world without taking prohibited substances, it would be an open talk about the existing problem. But doping does not make you a loser if you don’t do it...this is the most important fact.

Which jersey did you enjoy most, le maillot a pois (the best climber’s jersey) you obtained the Tour 2000, or el maillot oro of the '99 Vuelta?

The climber's jersey is more “special” because it's not a typical thing for a sprinter to wear. The ora was kind of logical, but still as appreciated.

Wüst in the polka dot jersey at the 2000 Tour de France. Photo © H. A. ROTH-FOTO, courtesy Marcel Wüst.

I really enjoyed and loved your race diary during the Vuelta 98/99 and during the Tour 2000. I miss it very much. Is there any web site where we can see and read your recent diary or personal thoughts?

At but not in English...yet.

And...tell me your No. 1 “pestoso” of the year!!! (I was a big fan of your “pestoso of the day.” )

It’s hard to say, now that I am not part of the peloton anymore. Usually you need to be there to know it all...maybe Verbruggen and the UCI trying to do the restructuring of cycling all at once, but it is hard to tell now, really.

Team Coast seemed to put you in the difficult position of being a spokesman for a very disappointing sponsor. Has this hurt your relationship with any of the riders?

Not really in the long term. But when the going was tough, all I tried to do was find a solution so the team could go on. Speaking all the languages, I was the one who had to tell all the news..and there was no good news I was probably not the most popular guy around. I can even see some positive things about the sponsor. He had the heart, the will and the dedication to give it all, even his private money...unluckily, it was not, I mean.

Who was your most feared competitor and why? Which race did you most enjoy riding? Was it hard giving up racing after the accident? What was your favorite bike? Which up and coming German riders do you consider most talented? Which team would you want to ride for now if you were still active?

There was no fear, just respect. When Cipo was there it was so much harder to win, because he had the whole team working for him...all the times - I was a bit jealous, sometimes.

I loved the Vuelta, because it was a big race but it felt like a small race sometimes. Good roads and more to ask for.

It was hard, but I had to, so I accepted it as complete and quickly as I could, so my life could go on.

My 2001 Specialized is still the best.

Sinkewitz and Fothen are big talents, maybe Kessler is in for a classic win this year.

I think Illes Balears. Because they are very professionally structured, but have the “laid backness” of a Spanish team. I started my career with Jacques Michaud at RMO and I finished with Juan Fernandez at Festina...they are both at Phonak right now...nice thought as well.

Wüst as a junior at Hannover, 1986. Photo © H. A. ROTH-FOTO, courtesy Marcel Wüst.

You are press spokesman for Team Winfix, but we haven't heard a lot from you in that capacity. Is it a real job, or more of "you lend them your name and they give you a check for it." Will you be at the team presentation? When will you be back in Germany?

It is a real job. I presented the team launch last year, did almost all the press releases, did long interviews with journalists and attended meetings with potential partners. Sure I will be at the presentation and I am in Germany now...arrived early January...

Thanks very much, Marcel!

Read a review of Marcel's book, Sprinterjahre, Glanz und Schatten einer Radsportkarriere (Sprinter Years: The Glory and Shadows of a Cycling Career) here.

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