Gerolsteiner's Michael Rich has traded in his bike for the team car this season. The 37-year-old stopped riding at the end of last season, after a ten years, eight of them with Gerolsteiner. He stayed with the team, and is now a Directeur Sportif, as well as scout for young talent.
The time trial specialist will be back on his bike at least one more time, though. He will hold his farewell race Friday, June 8, in Reute, Germany. Actually it will be two races: first will be a criterium, followed by a Derny race ridden by the top ten of the first race. Gerolsteiner riders Markus Fothen, Fabian Wegmann, Volker Ordowski, and Ronny Scholz are expected to participate, as is Jens Voigt of CSC.
If it were up to Rich, though, the farewell race might have been something quite, quite different. "I wanted a 50 km long individual time trial," he joked. "But I think I would probably have been the only starter."
It would have been an appropriate gesture, since Rich made his name and reputation through time trialing. He finished second in the World's time trial in 2000, 2002, and 2004, and was third in 2003. "Of course I would have loved to have been world champion. But there was always at least one rider faster than me." He also won a gold medal in the Barcelona Olympics for the 100 km team time trial. "That is something for eternity. And I'm very proud of it."
His favorite races were the Bayern Rundfahrt, which he won three time, and Paris-Roubaix, where he never finished higher than 14th. The cobblestone classic "is a mixture of luck and form. The last few years I never especially prepared for it. It just worked out for me."
Rich particularly enjoys this job as material scout, serving as a go-between for the team and the suppliers. He tests the material himself, saying "Training is still fun."
He is still working on his role as Directeur Sportif. "I didn't stop riding because it wasn't fun any more. No. All that suitcase packing and traveling just got to be too much for an old man." While he is willing to work shorter races, he would not be interested in accompanying a three-week Grand Tour.
He is currently leading his team at the Bayern Rundfahrt, and knows it won't be easy when he accompanies his riders -- in the team car -- during Saturday's time trial, which he won so many times. "I will figure out with each rider how I will cheer him on," he said. "But I think it would be best if I just kept my mouth shut.