EX­PE­RI­ENCE

The Ger­man Sun­web rider re lects on a ca­reer spent en­tirely on one team

Procycling - - Prologue -

Si­mon Geschke re­flects on a ca­reer spent at Sun­web

I’ve spent my pro­fes­sional ca­reer on this team.

I was a sta­giaire for Mil­ram, but when the Gerol­steiner team folded [at the end of 2008] Mil­ram took a lot of riders and they told me early I wouldn’t get a con­tract. Through a friend of a friend I sent the Skil-Shi­mano man­ager, Iwan Speken­brink, my CV and he got in touch. They saw my re­sults, that I’d had a good Tour de l’Avenir and Giro delle Re­gioni and they were re­ally in­ter­ested. Look­ing back, it was a good match. I met Iwan at the World Cham­pi­onships and one week later I signed. When I started, the team was re­ally, re­ally small.

There was no bus like the other teams, only a camper, but for me, com­ing from the am­a­teurs, it was al­ready pretty spe­cial. In 2009 I did the Tour de France as a neo-pro.

The team got a wild­card for the Tour and my long­est race be­fore then had been the Tour de l’Avenir. I didn’t do Paris-Nice or the Dauphiné be­cause we didn’t have a wild­card. In fact my only WorldTour-level races be­fore were Flèche-Wal­lonne and Liège. Start­ing out at that Tour felt like a re­ally big ad­ven­ture.

When I got there, I didn’t know how to race or how to get in break­aways. I tried re­ally hard, but I had no idea. I was still just an am­a­teur, re­ally. There were no ex­pec­ta­tions for me other than to fin­ish. As a team we didn’t get any re­spect. When we tried to fight for po­si­tion we were pushed away quite eas­ily. No one knew me or the other riders. Our goal was to win a stage. We got third on one day [with Cyril Le­moine] where we did re­ally well in the cross­wind sec­tion to La Grande Motte. We were five guys up there and we man­aged to get one rider to sprint for third. Now ProCon­ti­nen­tal teams have pretty good riders. For­tu­neo has good guys, like Brice Feillu or Maxime Bouet, for ex­am­ple. But at that time at Skil-Shi­mano, no one had any stand­ing in the pelo­ton. When I was younger I was more ex­plo­sive than I am now.

In the U23s I was known as a climber and I went bet­ter on harder stages. But once I be­came pro­fes­sional I quickly found out I was not as good a climber as I thought. On the other hand I was al­ways quite quick so my first two vic­to­ries came in bunch sprints at the Critérium In­ter­na­tional and the GP du can­ton d’Ar­govie. My punch was al­ways some­thing that was my qual­ity.

But now that I’m older, I’ve lost it a lit­tle bit. With all the kilo­me­tres and race days you do, you just get more con­sis­tent. Your thresh­old gets higher but your punch starts to drop. When Mar­cel Kittel joined the team in 2011, he fit­ted straight in.

Ev­ery­one liked him im­me­di­ately. And then when he started win­ning one sprint af­ter an­other the team spirit re­ally took off. Mar­cel started out as a pro­logue spe­cial­ist but it just clicked for him in the sprints and he showed he had the in­stincts for it. His stage win in the Vuelta that year was a huge step for­ward for both Mar­cel and the team, which be­came WorldTour a cou­ple of years later. In 2015, Mar­cel was left out of the Tour be­cause the team was un­cer­tain of his form.

It hit team morale, but we had an­other world-class op­tion in John De­genkolb who had won San Remo and Roubaix that spring. When he didn’t win in the first week it was in the back of all our minds to get in breaks and try and win that way. On stage 16 I got in the break and fin­ished fourth, and I was happy. The next day to Pra-Loup, I got in the break again and tried some­thing crazy by go­ing re­ally early. Ev­ery­thing worked out and I won. It was just a per­fect day, I was very emo­tional af­ter­wards - I think I showed how much it meant to me and also the team.

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