An interview with Steffen Wesemann - Part 1, April 15, 2007
Steffen Wesemann has not only changed teams in the past 12 months, he's also changed nationality. Despite being 36 years of age, Wesemann believes he can still taste glory at this year's Paris-Roubaix, he tells Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé.
Steffen Wesemann is an experienced rider, actually he's becoming a rarity in modern cycling being one of the few remaining Germans. After rising to prominence during the DDR regime, Wese became a hot prospect of German cycling. A few rough partying years took their toll, but Wesemann finally used his talent on the bike and became a true Spring Classic rider. In 2004 he put the crown on his career by winning the Ronde van Vlaanderen.
Last year Wesemann decided to leave the T-Mobile team and joined his home nation's Wiesenhof-Felt team, meanwhile Wesemann had also changed his nationality. The now Swiss rider was runner-up in Paris-Roubaix in 2002 behind Johan Museeuw, and in 2007 he strongly believes he can still have a go at a better result despite having reached the tender age of 36.
Since turning pro back in 1993, Wesemann has participated almost every year in the Hell of the North, the name commonly used when referencing the Paris-Roubaix. But in 2007 the circumstances seem to be exceptional, it is summer in Northern France and temperatures are up to 25 degrees in the afternoon. "This will be the first time without underwear," Wesemann laughed. "I remember editions where we need gloves against snow and hail, but this is rare. Anyway, I prefer rain, because now after each sections riders will be able to come back. You end up with a hundred riders storming towards the Carrefour de l'Arbre, believing they can win Paris-Roubaix."
"For most of these men this is their first meeting with the cobbles." -Wesemann says the event will be a learning curve for his young teammates
Wesemann's prediction is indeed possible, as during the Ronde van Vlaanderen about the same happened with a never before seen bunch of sixty riders smashing up the Muur van Geraardsbergen towards the line.
Wesemann had a good Ronde van Vlaanderen, where he finished 16th in the Boonen group. Before then it was unclear whether the Swiss would be there as he had pulled out during the E3-prijs Harelbeke and other races building up to the monuments due to illness. "Right now I'm close to 100 per-cent, but before the Ronde van Vlaanderen I was a bit nervous," he explained. "Since that race I focused on Paris-Roubaix because I can do well here."
Last year Wesemann managed a sixth place in Roubaix, but his best result of the season came one week later with a second place behind Fränk Schleck on the Cauberg in the Amstel Gold Race. "From Tuesday on I'll be focused on the Amstel Gold Race but Paris-Roubaix is more important as my second place in Holland was less expected," noted the Swiss rider. "I was riding there in support of my teammates and ended up doing better than expected."
This year Wesemann isn't competing for the T-Mobile team, he's receiving full support from the other guys in the Professional Continental Wiesenhof-Felt team. Without the presence of Wesemann it's unlikely there would be there wouldn't be a Wiesenhof team in all these big races.
With 14 years of experience in the pro peloton under his belt, Wesemann knows the form guide and named a few of his young teammates who might put in a strong showing on today's race. "Olaf Pollack is strong while Robert Wagner and Artur Gajek might get far as well," he said. "For most of these men this is their first meeting with the cobbles though."
Another young talent in Wesemann's team is young Dutch prospect Bas Giling, who finished as runner-up in the U23 Paris-Roubaix race in 2004 behind compatriot Koen De Kort, but infront of hot young rider Marcus Burghardt, who won last week's Gent-Wevelgem. "Giling did well this year, but I'm afraid he's past his peak by now, also you need to watch out with those U23 results as the biggest talents perform well anyway," he explained.
It's clear that Wesemann is the one and only leader of the team. But despite his age there's no doubt in his mind that he can claim victory in the race's 2007 edition. "I'd like to win Paris-Roubaix and of course I can!," he stated. "Look at Duclos-Lassalle." Gibus won the race twice in-a-row in 1991-1992 despite finishing at the age of 40.
Some teams come up with special bikes and specialities to offer the riders the most comfortable position on the cobbles. The Felt bikes from the Wiesenhof team didn't change much though. "We're using special wheels and tyres but that's it," explains Wesemann. "I'm using other tyres than the rest of the team, they are fifteen years old and I received them from Walter Godefroot."
The former German, now Swiss, rider is expected to battle near the front in this year's Paris-Roubaix. Wesemann will also be one of the few riders who takes on the Amstel Gold Race the next week: last year he did that with success, only time will tell if he can replicate the success this year.
In the second part of this interview we talk with Steffen Wesemann about hot prospect Marcus Burghardt, the ProTour problems, doping and life after cycling.