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At this year's UCI World Championship in Doha, Qatar, Team STRADALLI – BIKE AID finished on 17th place.
It was the World Championships. The one and only official UCI Road World Championships, held in Doha, Qatar, where every year the fight for the famous rainbow-jersey takes part. This unique and wonderful jersey that stands for the best rider in the world.
Among this spectacle it was again a „small squad“ from Germany in the middle that already surprised a lot during the past 3 years in the world of procycling. Also this time, as not any single person estimated STRADALLI – BIKE AID participating at this year's Worlds. But also no one from the team itself was even dream of that can happen. The excitement was on the edge already before going to Doha, only by receiving the permission to start there as a UCI continental team.
But how should all this now getting realized again, after having already so many races in the books, all over the world and just coming back from Tour of China only 5 days before leaving to Qatar again?
While other competing teams from the World Tour (highest category in world's cycling, budget about 10 to 30 million Euro), employ about 60 staff members around the riders, for a small team like STRADALLI – BIKE AID such an event means mostly: stress, sleepless nights, headache and night shifts to prepare all needed stuff to go to such an event.
Everyone who ever went on holiday with his family knows what it is all about and what things has to be taken into consideration to avoid chaos. But to move a whole team is so much more and demands so much from the involved person to make all this happen: preparing all TT bikes, wheels, discs, tires, packing all tolls (you travel with almost whole repair center), visa formalities, flight bookings, accommodation etc. etc.
The whole delegation of STRADALLI – BIKE AID was about 10 people, but also this was at the lower limit compared to teams like SKY who had actually more Staff as the whole delegation of
STRADALLI – BIKE AID.
And every time again there are things happening you can not take into consideration but they turn an easy travel day into an emotional roller-coaster and an unforgettable event. Even more when you have riders from Africa in your team you must expect everything as the authorities very often make things not so easy.
This time it was Meron Teshome who stood without any bad feelings at the check in counter, presenting his passport, baggage already tagged and transferred but then: "Stop! Your Visa for Qatar", the lady mentioned. After lot of explanations that he is going to the UCI World Championships and the Visa is already issued and waiting at Qatar Airport (same like for everyone else) there was just an indifferent: "no way. You stay here, you can take your baggage in one hour there and there".
Meron had tears in his eyes as it was his first Wolrds in Elite so far and a dream that came true after a season he really worked hard and deserved it. Leaving Meron behind? No way.
After lots of phone calls with the local authorities in Qatar, they sent a confirmation and a copy of the issued visa by messenger to the smartphone. Filled with hope, the boys went to the counter, presenting the Visa and that everything is as it has to be. "No, we need it printed!" (what is the difference?) After another challenge, to print the message and Visa out and another presentation at the desk, the quality of the print was not sufficient. Now they wanted to have a new document officially sent to their email address. Did they really do all to avoid Meron's travel? Sometimes things are not logic and fair, but one for sure: not human!
After again many phone calls the queue at the desk got smaller and smaller and the time to the departure also. The hope that Meron will join us got smaller in the same way. But all of a sudden and after several discussions they received the email from Qatar and accepted the Visa. Meron was in!
When the guys arrived in Qatar, one thing was already clear: it will be hot the upcoming days. Even more than expected and the humidity was still very high even in the night. 42 Celsius was the temperature next day when the guys went out for ride and they could start to imagine how it should be at the race.
But everybody was highly motivated and worked so hard to make this come true, now they wanted to face all these challenges. But in the race it came a little different and the expected performance could not being delivered by the riders.
17th place at the end – from 17. What sounds very terrible in the beginning changes into something different at the 2nd view. It changes more into joy, as disappointment.
Joy, being part of the World Championships, as there are more than 200 professional teams worldwide.
Joy, about the unique opportunity to challenge the best teams in the World, both teams like SKY, BMC ore Etixx-Quickstep who have so much more budget available as the "small German team".
But also joy, that the social background of the team was again in the focus of the press and the team could tell again a different story about how it is possible to change something (article in the Gulftimes)
Most important thing is taking part – this time more than ever, because despite all ambitions and sacrifices the boys did throughout this year and all the good results the team earned in 2016 season – to be at the start of the World Championships is not an everyday thing!
Just over a week before the World Championships team time trial, in Doha, Qatar, Daniel Bichlmann found out he had gone from first reserve to a member of the six-man Stradalli-Bike Aid team for the TTT.
But before he could even think about flying to the Gulf, he needed to get the time off work from his boss first. She could hardly say no to a shot at cycling’s annual blue-riband event.
“She’s been so awesome about this,” Bichlmann says. “She was like: ‘I’m happy for you, but you have to work hard after the world championships.’ I think I still owe her some hours. So, after the Worlds, there is no more time for holidays!”
Bichlmann is a part-time chimney sweep in his native Germany, getting up at half-four in the morning for a twelve-hour shift that involves lying on roofs to clean industrial stacks with long brushes. “You get dirty, really dirty,” he says.
He got into the profession on the advice of former Six Day racer Michael Haase. It is hard work, but because it is part-time by German law, it gives him opportunities to trade his black boiler suit for lycra and race for German UCI Continental squad Stradalli-Bike Aid.
They are globe-trotters, competing in Europe, Asia and Africa, with a specific mission to support African riders; Bichlmann rode alongside Eritrean rider Meron Teshome in their World Championships line-up.
If you’re looking for a good news story amid the WorldTour TTT boycott and criticism of the oppressive Qatar heat, this is it.
“You know the movie Cool Runnings? That’s what we are, more or less,” the Bavarian says, referring to the cult film based on the adventures of the Jamaican bobsleigh team at the 1988 Winter Olympics.
“For the WorldTour guys, it’s like daily business; they go to the Worlds every year. For me, it’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
“When I was young, I always had these posters from the UCI World Championships on my bedroom wall. Maybe I can make it onto one of the posters in another kid’s room now.”
Bichlmann dreamed of being a top-level racer. He was on the same junior team as John Degenkolb and had an offer to turn pro with Austrian Pro Continental team Elk Haus, which he refused.
“It was the best decision I ever made,” he says. “Well, to be honest, my mum made it. She told me ‘after you get a job, maybe you can do whatever you like for two years.’ I’m pretty sure if I had signed that contract, I wouldn’t be riding now.”
Since joining Bike Aid in 2014, Bichlmann has enjoyed taking the long, exotic route to the World Championships, racing in countries such as Cameroon, China and Colombia. “You realise that you can’t win the Tour de France, that you can’t become world champion.
“But there’s more to cycling than that. Cycling is such a passion. All this travelling, learning languages, meeting people, it’s so nice.”
For Stradalli-Bike Aid, a third-tier squad with no full-time mechanics and a small budget, Sunday’s 40-kilometre team time-trial was like David’s baby brother squaring up to the WorldTour Goliaths. Most of the team holds down a job alongside racing; Bichlmann’s team-mate Joschka Beck is a university student in Kaiserslautern.
Bichlmann and company went all out and finished in last place, seventeenth out of 17 teams, 7-24 behind winners Etixx-Quick Step. But it didn’t matter one bit.
“It’s the pleasure of being there. We take it seriously and do our very best, but it’s not about where we finish… it’s rolling down this start ramp and the dream coming true.”
This year's UCI Road World Championships will be held in Doha,
Qatar. And STRADALLI – BIKE AID will be in the middle as the team receives
official start allowance from UCI for Team Time Trial.
It sounds again like crazy news or April's fool, but it is true
and real. How can it be that a „small team“ goes to the official UCI World
Championships and even more: how to try to challenge the „big guys“ from the
World Tour such as BMC, SKY or Tinkoff?
Yes, indeed: we have been surprised the same way But we already
received the confirmation from UCI in July, so we had enough time to prepare
ourselves how we can announce this awesome news. It is a great honor for us but
at the same time this opportunity means also a huge responsibility for the
team, the riders and all involved people.
Yes, the guys from STRADALLI – BIKE AID will be for sure
the underdogs and the most important thing at this stage so far is sure to be a
part of the World championships and that we made it there, but on the other
hand everybody is highly motivated and ready to fight with all he has to
achieve the best result possible. Six riders will represent the team colors of
STRADALLI – BIKE AID besides the best teams in the world.
Also our partners and suppliers were the same way excited as we
were when we told these news and there was not just one second of hesitation to
support us a little extra for this event.
Team Time Trial is a huge invest in equipment, as it is a lot
about aerodynamics etc. The challenge was also to adapt all of our equipment
for this special demand and without any question the partners like STRADALLI
CYCLE (TT – frames), Citec (disc – wheels) or Bollé (TT helmets) or
Biehler Sportswear with the new developed high tech TT suits jumped on our side
and did their utmost to make all this come true. So our riders will definitely
look fast when they will climb the starting ramp in Doha.
„This event is a real big thing for us and means a Lot .„ STRADALLI - BIKEAID Manager
Given the fact that we actually are a small professional team with
limited budget and based on great sponsor and the cycling community we never
could imagine that we could take all these steps from winning UCI Africa Tour
to participate as a team in the UCI World Championships . We can not
achieve more with the given budget“.
In 2016 Many top 10 results in races of UCI category 1 and HC
but also lot of podium places were taken this year. The best result so far was
for sure Meron Teshome's 2ndplace on stage 11 in Tour of Qinghai
Lake (UCI 2.HC) but also Nikodemus Holler delivered many strong performances
with good results in the GC in Tour of gabon (UCI 2.1), Ireland or Tour of
China. KOM Ireland jersey.
The team currently holds a special training camp in Bad
Salzhausen to finetune the technique for team time trial. On Monday October 3rdthe last race in the Europe Tour will
take place for the team at Münsterland Giro with guys like Marcel Kittel, Mark
Cavendish or André Greipel before the riders and staff fly to Doha on next
The weather still feels like summer although it is officially fall but at least it felt like a "good" summer day with the humidity a little down and the sun shinning on the FSC racers. The 6.7 mile challenging race course was in great shape thanks to the Swamp Club volunteers and a timely rain on Saturday evening that really tightened up the course. There was a new section added this year called "spitfire" and it seemed to be a hit with the racers and had the feel of a amusement park ride as it dipped and rolled through the woods surrounding "North Creek". On race day the Shimano youth racers took to the trails first with some exciting race action and then at 9:30 the yellow wave hit the first turn and the Protano Law $50 holeshot went to Shawn Smith this week as the riders quickly filed into a fast pace line for the rest of the four lap race. It was one year ago that Bob McCarty – Team Stradalli - Safetti was suffered a hard fall on this trail and was hospitalized for multiple injuries while racing for the lead and on this day Bob returned with true determination and won a hard fought battle with his competitors and the course to take the Elite class win on his full suspension Stradalli carbon 29er
Nikodemus Holler raced with a constant performance to a great 7th place in the GC of Tour of China while Meron Teshome finished two times Top 10 in the sprint.
Everybody knows what large country China actually is. But not many of us could imagine how big it really is. Allthough we knew that with its 1,4 billion people China has almost 20% of the world's population, it was hard to realize what that means in reality. People where everywhere you look, cars everywhere and just crowded places one after another.
While cities as Berlin are already huge in our middle European understanding, it is not worth to talk about small towns like this in China. It starts with 10 million people to be a city. And when you land in a city named Chongqing, you start to understand that this is just another dimension of everything.
Chongqing – the biggest city on this planet has a surface of 83k square kilometers – the same as whole Austria (a country in Europe) – but with 4 times the population of Austria, 32 Million inhabitants. Awesome, insane or whatever you want to name it. Just unbelievable.
A normal day at this Tour was a little bit the same as at every other stage race so far, but just longer with everything, except the race. Wake up early morning, had breakfast and hed to the race start. 4 hours of racing and then a short shower followed by 6 to 7 hour transfer by bus. Yes, indeed, transfer by bus as the distances in this tour are also unbelievable. On two days the organizer preferred to put the riders and teams into airplanes for transfer as the distance between the cities was about 2.400 kilomterers .
Translated in European way of thinking: race in Frankfurt, transfer to Rome by Bus, then next day flying to Portugal for race and after transfer again to north of Spain. Awesome!
But the riders of team STRADALLI – BIKE AID were highly motivated to show another good stage race and play an important role both in GC and also in the daily sprints of this race that is ranked in UCI category 2.1. While Meron Tehsome finished two times Top 10 in the sprint of stage 1 and 5, Nikodemus Holler also performed well in the mountain stages with his 5th place on stage 3 and 9th in stage 4 that took him to the 7th place in the GC at the end of the race.
Both of the riders got great support from their team-mates who worked really hard to put them in position or defend the position in the GC by chasing down dangerous break-aways or just destroy the break in the beginning. Cycling is a team sport and without a team behind a captain it is nearly impossible to achieve good results. That's what makes a team into a team, to act together, to suffer together and to ride one for all, all for one without any compromise.
„It is really great to see, how the guys sacrificed themselves for me to keep the opportunity upright for me to take this great result in this hard race. I am so proud to have them on my side and that this year this special team spirit is in the team“ Nikodemus Holler said after the final stage.
Meanwhile, Tour of China II is on the run, with mainly flat stages in this second week in a country that is so unbelievable and unique.
We will have updates soon for part II