An interview with Marcus Burghardt, April 10, 2008
Team High Road's Marcus Burghardt made a name for himself early in the 2007 season when he rode to victory at Gent -Wevelgem. But fans of the 25-year-old might be wondering why he's not defending his title in Belgium this week; he unfortunately watched the race on television after having surgery on his knee. Just a week ago, when Cyclingnews' contributor Sarah Staber bumped into him on the island of Mallorca, there was no talk of a hospital visit.
Marcus Burghardt was earnestly training at the end of March, in the company of this girlfriend Maria, on the same island where he had an accident in early December in Mallorca. The Team High Road rider has been desperately trying to rehabilitate his knee which was injured in that crash, but the pain has kept him from joining his colleagues in many of this years early races.
The injury came about when Burghardt had come to Mallorca for some winter training. He was practicing sprints when the chain slipped over the ring and his right knee hit the handlebar with full force. After physical therapy and some training, the 25-year-old began his season by completing the Tour Down Under but had to give up on the first stage in the Tour of Algarve due to excruciating knee pain. The pain continued at the team's February camp in California, and on Tuesday, Burghardt announced he would go under the knife to help correct the injury on the day of Gent-Wevelgem.
Writing on his personal website, www.marcus-burghardt.com, he explained that the attempts at rehabilitation to this point had failed. "I am confident that after successful rehabilitation and with a lot of hard training, there will be a new start for this year," he said, continuing to assert that his goals for the season have not changed. "I have not given up on my goals, including a 2008 Pro Tour victory," he said, adding that only the timeline has shifted. "I have a good coach and a strong team on my side. Therefore, I go into my surgery with optimism," he wrote.
"Last year Gent - Wevelgem was a total sensation..." - Burghardt recalls the joy of winning the race in 2007. This year he watched from his hospital bed.
Despite the disappointing start to this season, when Cyclingnews spoke with Burghardt last week, he seemed to have a good grip on his fate and was focused and determined to get over this hurdle and on with the season.
He even allowed himself to joke about the incident in the 2007 Tour de France where he and his bike did a summersault over a free roaming Labrador Retriever in stage nine. When asked how he feels about Labrador Retrievers, a big grin broke out over his face, he clasped his hands together, let out a big laugh and answered, "Well, I can tell you this, I didn't adopt it!"
His sense of humour and optimism are also applied to his rehabilitation of the injury sustained in December. "I still have a slight problem with my knee, it isn't quite where it should be yet. It's probably a bit of a head thing that is playing a role in the overall problem, but whatever, it is not yet optimal," Burghardt admitted, not realizing yet that he would have surgery. "I am doing a lot of training in the gym, therapy and have lots of massages," he replied when asked what he is doing to rectify the problem.
Marcus spent a total of ten days on the island training this spring. "Last week my coach was here with me, but now I am here on my own. I'm doing a lot of base miles and endurance training here. Mallorca is perfect for that. Lots of riders go to South Africa to train but I find this better," he explained. "I can get here really quickly and the weather isn't so extreme. The temperature is 18 – 20 degrees C and you can train everything from long mountains to totally flat terrain - it is pretty prefect. That's why I come here."
Burghardt looked as if he had put in some long days and he admitted, "I am feeling rather tired after all these long training sessions," but obviously he was willing to feel the pain and exhaustion that comes with endurance training in hopes of a quicker recovery from his injury.
At the time, Burghardt knew that he would not be defending his title in Gent-Wevelgem, but was training and looking forward to the Tour. "I won't be riding the Classics this year," he said, disappointed. "We haven't discussed my future schedule in detail, it is just too early for that. My goal now is to get a Tour card. After experiencing the Tour last year, I would really like to ride it again but it is hard to say what will happen. It is a long time until the tour so we will just have to wait and see."
High Road is having a streak of bad luck with so many riders out due to illness or injury, but he did not see that as a major problem. "We have a lot of young talent so even though there are a lot of riders out at the moment we can compensate because they have the talent."
Burghardt has enjoyed his time at Team High Road, and is hoping to extend his contract, which runs through the end of the 2008 season. "It is a really nice team and I would really like to stay on with them, " he remarked. "In the next years I want to establish myself in the classics."
Burghardt is not one to rest on his laurels, but smiles when he relives last year's surprise win. "Last year Gent - Wevelgem was a total sensation. I never thought I could win that, but I noticed that I did have good form. I just never thought I could win against the likes of Freire and Ventoso. I had great luck that Roger Hammond was in the group and he paved the way clear for the win. That he came in second was really great for us as a team."
Even though Burghardt isn't competing at the moment, he does have his opinions of the big topics shaking the cycling world at the moment. When asked if the unsure environment created by the squabbling between the UCI and ASO would affect his riding he answered negatively, "No, when I compete I concentrate on my job and their bickering won't break my concentration. But, I think that these problems make it harder for the viewing public to have respect for the sport. I mean, there are so many problems in the sport already and then you have this thrown on top of them ...it doesn't help the sport and it just isn't necessary."
On the topic of whether riders should be allowed to have radio contact with the team car during races, Burghardt is of two minds. "It is a help at the pro level but it is not necessarily needed at the amateur level. When I was a junior we didn't always have direct contact with our sports director and it taught us to think for ourselves, we had to make the decisions and those were important lessons for us," he explained. "I know some people say it takes the sport out of the race but still at a pro level there are plenty of situations where we are given information too late, so we still have to rely on our feeling for the situation at hand. It is not as if everything is decided for us and we are just machines."
Looking ahead, the Olympics games are a goal for this German. "Oh, I would love to compete in the Olympics. The German team has already been chosen and I am on it. After the Tour the final list will come out and I hope to be on it then, too." The timing of the Beijing Games with respect to the Tour de France has caused concern among some riders. Marcus mused, "If you don't come out of the Tour totally exhausted, then it is perfectly timed as you've got the condition. But, if the Tour gets to you, if you get sick, well then it probably wouldn't be worth the while to try to compete in the Olympics."