Pushbikers Grand Tour: Part III and summary

The great journey ends with the Tour de Slovaquie

Pushbikers Grand Tour: Part III and summary

Oct 5, 2021

First of all, it was time to let things sink in. Breathe deeply. Arrive back home. For ALL involved.

Our self-proclaimed Pushbikers Grand Tour was many things: highlight & challenge. Great emotion, pride & disappointment. A journey & a milestone. 1,975 race kilometres and over 5,500 travel kilometres. An end of the season that we wish had been the beginning of the year.

What did we have in mind? And what happened on Part III of the Grand Tour?
In short: The Tour de Slovaquie. UCI category 2.1, broadcast on Eurosport. Highest sporting level with cycling legends. And a rear-end collision with the support vehicle.

Logistically, in terms of personnel and for the drivers also physically, it was a great challenge that had to be mastered

Deutsche Strassenmeisterschaft 2020
Deutsche Strassenmeisterschaft 2020

Tour de Slovaquie: Cycling in action. Great cinema

What happened on Part III of the Grand Tour?
In short: The Tour de Slovaquie. UCI category 2.1. Broadcast on Eurosport. Top sporting level with cycling legends. And a rear-end collision with the support vehicle.

Again the Tour started with a prologue: 1.6 km over cobblestones in Košice. Big scenery for big names. “The atmosphere of the fans along the route was gigantic right from the start,” the Pushbikers’ support team agreed. “And then to hear the names of our riders over the loudspeakers and on Eurosport makes you really proud to be part of it,” said physiotherapist Hannes Frauenlob. Kaden Groves (Team Bike Exchange) won with a time well under two minutes ahead of Jannik Steimle (Deceuninck Quick Step); seven seconds behind, pushbiker Mikà Heming rode into 47th place in the high-calibre field. Those who started early were able to watch the rest of the prologue on Eurosport on the massage bench. “That was cool,” said Daniel Bichlmann. Youngster Laurin von Stetten, for example, was broadcast in full on Eurosport during his run over the 1.6 kilometres. “Of course, I was really happy and watched those two minutes afterwards. The main thing for me at that moment was to see how it went and get through.

With teams like Bora-hansgrohe, DSM, Deceuninck-Quick-Step, Israel Start-Up Nation, Bike Exchange or Team Qhubeka Assos, the pushbikers’ task in Slovakia was to get into the groups, stand out as much as possible and in turn learn from the “big guys”.

“Even though there was no top place in the Tour of Slovakia, we were able to make our mark in the finals, especially with Corey Davis, and at least we were there. Against such overwhelming competition from world teams with names like Peter Sagen and Chris Froome, this was not an embarrassment for us, but a huge honour,” describes Rupert Hödlmoser.

It was important for the physiotherapists to treat in such a way that the riders can regenerate quickly and prepare for the next stage in the best possible way. This also includes talks that take place during and outside the treatments. Mental coaching to clear the mind and focus on the next stage. Especially in the case of disappointments, it is important to motivate the riders and look ahead. There were no serious crashes during the Tour of Slovakia, but usually minor wounds have to be treated, muscular imbalances and swellings have to be treated with lymphatic drainage or, since the weather was rather wet and cold during the Tour of Slovakia, problems with the back and neck have to be solved.

“Als ob man Teil eines Blockbusters wäre. Eine Emotion, die jeden abholt “

Unvergesslich wird für das gesamte Team sicherlich die Stimmung bei dieser finalen Rundfahrt bleiben. “Die Zuschauer gehen so mit, das macht unheimlich Spaß” sind sich alle einig. In seinem Heimatland war Peter Sagan wie ein Rockstar, ganz klar. Aber gefeiert wurde auch das gesamte Feld. Sagan-Plakate in Riesenformat überall, Trommeln, Musik, Maskottchen, alles war dabei. Aber auch als Einzelfahrer weit hinter der Spitzengruppe wurden die Fahrer noch angefeuert und bejubelt. “Einfach ein Wahnsinns-Spass und für mich gelebte Radsport-Kultur”, resümiert Road Captain Daniel Bichlmann.

“What did we expect & what did we achieve?”: Our Summary

Die großen Fragen kommen immer zum Schluss, und in diesem Fall kann sie nur heissen: Welche Erwartungen hatten wir für diese Pushbikers Grand Tour? Oder vielmehr: was haben wir aus diesen drei Wochen gelernt?

 

Experience. Sporty, logistical, with each other

We started the Grand Tour with mixed feelings. Many questions accompanied us into the first round trip – what will we expect in three weeks non-stop on the road; but above all: will we even make it to the final third round trip? And we did. Daniel Bichlmann and Corey Davis rode all 15 race days in the 21 days of operation, Mikà Heming as the third rider of all tours unfortunately had to give up the Tour of Slovakia shortly before the end because of a cold.

Especially at the beginning of the Grand Tour, the Pushbikers were able to set very good accents at the Tour of Romania with three top ten finishes and Mikà Heming two days in the white jersey. Success brings motivation – and you need that together with staying power for a project like the Grand Tour. It also became important for the Pushbikers to set realistic and achievable goals, especially in terms of athletic performance. And when the Grand Tour is over, the riders show after some regeneration time: the form is there. What can’t be used this year in terms of racing should be planned for next year: a Grand Tour at the beginning of the season?

Logistisch war es ein große Herausforderung. Zwischen den Rundfahrten fuhr der Mechanikerbus zum Nachfüllen an Material in den Service Course nach Holzkirchen, da z.B. die Menge an Verpflegung für drei Wochen nicht Platz gefunden hätte. Und auch im täglichen Ablauf gilt: Organisation ist das halbe Leben”. Ein reibungsloser Ablauf erspart Ärger und Zeit – umso mehr, wenn es um einen dichten Rennkalender geht. Unverhofftes kommt immer. Die Berichterstattung über Social Media konnte nicht wie geplant stattfinden, da der Pushbikers Instagram Account anscheinend als Vorsichtsmassnahme deaktiviert wurde. Bei der Anreise nach Rumänien flog ein Vogel gegen die Winschutzscheibe des Mechanikerbusses, was Dank der Hilfe des Veranstalters kurzfristig in einer Werkstatt behoben werden konnte. Wegen eines Defekts an der Hinterbremse drohte unser zweiter Renndienstwagen in der Slowakei auszufallen – auch hier konnten wir bei Mercedes in Kosice einen Termin bekommen, um in zwei Stunden unmittelbar vor der ersten Etappe wieder startklar zu sein. “You are nice guys, you drive a Mercedes, that’s a present from us to you. All the best for the Slowakia Tour!” waren deren Worte. Geteilte Werte schaffen Freundschaften, immer wieder und vor allem auf Reisen.

Neben der sportlichen Leistung zählt die Leistung als ein Team: miteinander agieren, reibungslose Abläufe schaffen und auch in intensiven Zeiten die Kommunikation zu stärken. Das bedeutet auch, dass man über Negatives lachen kann, sich gegenseitig für den nächsten Tag motiviert, zusammenrückt. Eine Lektion, die Fahrer und Betreuer lernen konnten. Und was hat das Herz gelernt? “Noch einmal mehr Herzblut reinstecken. Wir sind ein Team und wir wollen gemeinsam Großes erreichen!”

You have to really want it

Effort shows.

1,975 race kilometres in three weeks. For the riders who compete in all the races, it becomes clear: you lose weight. With only two days of regeneration between the races, the race days end up being “a struggle”, the appetite less and also the sleep at night worse.

But the Grand Tour was also a struggle for the Pushbikers’ support team, with work days that start before breakfast at seven and end late in the evening. The duration of a stage does not say much about the amount of work behind it. It starts with making porridge, planning the buffet zones, preparing the water bottles, distributing the food to the buses and the support car. Once the riders are on their bikes, the support staff still have to keep track of everything – who gets which drink bottle, who takes care of the finish, the transfer to the hotel including snacks, etc. As soon as the team arrives at the hotel, the physios have to give massages and the team mechanics have to clean and check the bikes. And so it is the staff who are last at dinner and get up the earliest. Putting yourself aside for the benefit of the whole – you have to do that with conviction and passion.

 

What remains

“Somehow it’s like an emotional hole now afterwards,” Daniel Bichlmann explains to us. “You prepare for such a challenge for a long time, you train, you pack your things. During the races – in this case three in immediate succession – there is a daily routine. And then at some point it’s all gone. And you feel a bit “mission-less” yourself.  That brings us back to a certain question of meaning. What is the point of cycling, the torture, the ups and downs, the headwind, the competition and so on and so forth. “For me, it’s the greatest thing,” is Daniel’s answer.

Our Grand Tour is a successful conclusion to 2021. It was the last race of the season for everyone, the last race of the season for some, and the last race ever for some.

If you do something with passion, you have already won, that has always been the credo of the Pushbikers. And even after our great journey, we come back to it – and want to continue with this commitment and all the experiences gained in 2022.

 

Deutsche Strassenmeisterschaft 2020
Deutsche Strassenmeisterschaft 2020
Deutsche Strassenmeisterschaft 2020
Deutsche Strassenmeisterschaft 2020
Deutsche Strassenmeisterschaft 2020

“You have to travel to learn.”

We agree with Mark Twain and would like to thank all participants and supporters who made this trip possible with and for us. In addition to our riders Dani, Corey, Mikà, Tim, Laurin, Paul, Tobi, Michal and Franz, special thanks go to our staff: Sebastian, Gunther, Rupi, Viola, Johanna, Hannes, Anton, Fabian and Christian – for their commitment and many, many hours of work before, during and after the races. You guys are amazing.

In the end, we can say that if we get the opportunity to realise such a project again next year, we will dare to do it again. Even though the effort is enormous, the benefit that we could gain from it is an enormous enrichment.

Photos | Urs Golling, Mario Stiehl, Maloja PushbikersIllustration I Ekatarina Skidanenko-Hödlmoser