The dream was there from the beginning, since the winter of 2000/2001. I had success right away at the international three-day race for juniors in Berlin – the kids’ tour. I won it twice, as an under-13 and an under-15.
Put me in the box with Peter Sagan and Thor Hushovd. There are many riders of this time who can handle short climbs and sprint. Could I be a future Paris-Roubaix winner? Maybe so, along with Luke Durbridge and Taylor Phinney.
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Mark Cavendish and I have a good relationship. We’ve known each other from Highroad but didn’t race that much together. He was there when I won Frankfurt, but he pulled out after a few kilometres. We raced together again at the Vuelta, but he was also out of it after four days!
Cycling’s passion is felt in Belgium – it can’t be compared to anywhere in the world. For example, rolling to the start in Bruges for the Tour of Flanders or Omloop Het Nieuwsblad’s start in Ghent, you feel like a rock star on the podium in front of all the crowds.
German cycling is different, with me, Tony Martin and Marcel Kittel. What came out years ago with T-Mobile, like what happened in Holland with Rabobank, is good. We can’t really restart a new generation of culture of cycling if we just close the book without making everything clear – that there are no longer secrets.
Jan Ullrich won the Tour de France in 1997 and Erik Zabel took several green jerseys. Those guys were big idols for us growing up in Germany and they were the reason why we started in cycling. At one point, however, you realise that everything they did was just a big lie. It was hard to work every day for your dream, to be pro, given what was going on.
Good cop, bad cop? I was a good cop. I trained as a policeman, living every day in the barracks for two years. It was really serious stuff. I joined a sports unit with eight guys, and it lasted another two years. I then worked in a normal police station as a traffic cop. I had to do 100 days of service.
Plan Bs are always important. My police training gives me some kind of security. You never know what happens. Maybe in five to 10 years, there will not be as many teams and it’s hard to remain pro. You need to be able to have a life afterwards. I’ll be a policeman!
This article was first published in the July 11 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!