The life of a professional cyclist may sound glamorous, but it is not, according to Bernhad Kohl. The retired Austrian, who is serving a doping suspension, gave a glimpse into his racing experiences - ranging from team initiations to racing in atrocious weather and battling his weight.
Kohl rode for the Rabobank Continental team before joining T-Mobile Team in 2005. However his first meeting with the German team was in Amsterdam in November 2004. Every new rider had to drink a quarter-litre of vodka, given to them by Alexander Vinokourov. "Vinokourov was a hero to us, a role model. You didn't say no," Kohl told the Austrian paper Kurier. After the initiation Kohl threw up over the railing of a ship as the team took a canal cruise. But it was worth it – "After this initiation I was accepted as a full member" of the team.
In his first year with T-Mobile, Kohl rode the Vuelta a Espana, with temperatures of up to 51° Celsius. "I was responsible for getting bottles." At one point the young Austrian had to gather the empties and take them back to the team car to be refilled, then bring the filled bottles back up to the filed.
"One thing is clear: without water carriers, even a Lance Armstrong would never have won one single Tour."
If the Vuelta was hot, then the other races were cold. One episode which stood out in particular for him, was a one-day race in Belgium, with snow, rain and temperatures plummeting to 3° Celsius. "You ask yourself, why are you doing this shit? Later, when you have finished and are lying in the bathtub, you forget it all. Fortunately you remember the good parts rather than the bad ones; otherwise there wouldn't be any cyclists."
Another difficultly Kohl faced was weight control. During the short vacation time in the fall, he would eat everything he wasn't allowed during the season. Kohl, who is only 1 73 cm tall, regularly saw his weight skyrocket from 58 kilos to 70. "Always when I hit 70 kilos, I knew it was time to switch things and go back to a serious nutrition plan."
Kohl, 27, changed to Team Gerolsteiner in 2007. AT the Tour de France 2008, he won the King of the Mountains jersey and finished third overall. In October of that year it was announced that he had tested positive for the EPO derivative CERA, and he was suspended for two years. Since then, he has announced his retirement from the sport and co-operated with authorities.
Follow Cyclingnews on Twitter for the very latest coverage of events taking place in the cycling world - twitter.com/cyclingnewsfeed.