It’s highly unlikely that you’ve ever heard of Georg Steinhauser, one of EF Education-EasyPost’s winter recruits, but the first few chapters of what he hopes - and many people predict - will be a long and successful story are well worth knowing about.
The basics are that he is a recently-turned 20-year-old climber from Germany who's just the latest fresh face out of teenage years to join the WorldTour ranks, his new boss Jonathan Vaughters describing him as “potentially the most talented U23 rider in the world right now”. A winning margin of three minutes and 41 seconds on stage three of the U23 race Giro Valle d’Aosta gives rise to such a prognosis.
Behind the results and promise, though, is an upbringing steeped in cycling culture, but not devoured by it. His father, Tobias, was a pro from 1996 to 2005, riding for Mapei-QuickStep and T-Mobile. His best results include a stage victory at the Tour de Suisse and fifth at the World Championships Road Race in 2000.
In 2006, Georg’s aunt, Sara, married Germany’s most-known cycling figure of the past half-a-century, 1997 Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich; the couple together for 11 years before their 2017 separation.
Steinhauser was destined to become a cyclist, goes the assumption. “Not at all,” he rebuffs. “I don’t think I had to do anything. My father let me decide what I want to do. I did lots of skiing, played football, tennis, and climbed. I tried every sport.”
On picking the brains of Ullrich, he tells Cycling Weekly: “I had a really nice relationship with him but for me it was like he was an uncle, you know.
“I didn’t understand that he had done so many big things. He was just like my uncle, an uncle who I played with every time I saw him. It was just normal. Cycling wasn’t a big topic when I was with him. The same with my father. Sure, we talk about cycling, but it’s not like that’s all we do. My father gives me advice and I am doing my own thing.”
His own thing, when we speak, is working. Not pushing his pedals, but picking up his phone inside a workshop, where he is completing an apprenticeship in metalworking. It’s just after 4pm and usually the afternoons are reserved for riding, but “I’m working a bit longer today as there’s still some stuff to be done that needs to be finished before the beginning of next week.”
Steinhauser was encouraged to finish his education by both his father, who also works in the same industry, and his new team before committing fully to a life on the road. “Maybe I crash out of cycling next week and then I’d be standing there with no plan B. I wouldn’t like that feeling,” he maturely reasons.
“I like it. It’s hard work, it’s loud, it’s hot, it’s dirty. It’s all machines and technical. I like having a metal plate or plates at the beginning and then in the end, I can walk up the stairs to look at the finished project, and I look down on something that I’ve built with my own hands. That’s a nice feeling.”
His days are long and stretched, though. “A standard day is that I wake up at 5.30am or 5.45am and begin work at 6.30am. I’ll usually do five or six hours of metalwork, go home, eat something quickly, jump on the bike and then when I get back the day’s finished. But sometimes even then there’s stuff for school to do.”
Is he the busiest pro rider in the peloton? “I don’t know about that!” he laughs. “I have to say it’s really hard and if I had to do this for a few years, I wouldn’t make it, but now I have the finish line in front of me [he will finish his apprenticeship at the end of July - ed], it’s OK. After that, I can concentrate 100 percent on being a cyclist.”
The sportsman part of him is pretty good, too. Thomas Pupp, his manager at his U23 team Tirol-KTM, says: “Georg has huge talent and he has so much space left to make progress in the WorldTour. He has many strengths. He is not a lightweight climber, but he is tall and strong, and performs well in super-difficult stages. Due to his big, natural talent he can become a leader. But he needs time, he’s still very young.”
Assessing himself, Steinhauser says: “I like hard races and I like to attack.” He is cautious about expectation, claiming that “I have no idea if I will be able to attack in pro races, and first I know there’s a lot to learn.”
He is, however, aware of hype, including from his own new boss Vaughters. “I was really happy to read his comments, but I put it out of my head. It’s better to stay calm. Pressure is good, a bit, but I don’t want so much. It’s an honour to hear that about yourself, but I don’t really think much about it. It’s not good to think about it. That’s why I just look at how I am doing on the climbs.”
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