The Multivan-Merida Biking Team started competing in Cyprus two weeks ago. The Cyprus Sunshine Cup served the professional squad based in Magstadt as a preparatory building block for the World Cup season. In this interview you can find out how team manager Fabian Aust views the start of the season, his 21-year-old German newcomer and the importance of the Albstadt World Cup for the team.
Fabian, you started the season with the team at the four-day Afxentia stage race. How happy are you with the start?
Very satisfied. That was a very good week. All drivers were very motivated and there was strong competition here. Nobody was sick, we had a very good preparation. In the end everyone was in the top nine and I also liked how they worked together in the race.
A little surprised by newcomer Julian Schelb?
Yes, a bit (laughs). It was clear to us that he could do something. After all, he is Vice World Champion in the U23s. But that he pushed forward so briskly in the elite on the first stages (sixth overall), I wasn't really expecting it. That was a nice surprise.
The races in Cyprus serve to prepare for the season. The first fixed point will be the World Cup opener in Pietermaritzburg, right?
Yes, in any case. This is the first serious race. The Cape Epic is also a big race, but the World Cup is what counts. But the races in Cyprus were good, they had good speed. It was four full-throttle cross-country stages.
Seen from Pietermaritzburg, there are still six weeks until the World Cup in Albstadt. What role does he play for the team?
Well, as a World Cup, it's important anyway. As a race, Albstadt is practically on our doorstep and therefore even more important. In addition, the event is sponsored by Merida, which makes it even more important and is of course a highlight. There is always a good race there, with many spectators. We're looking forward to it. That will be funny.
Yes, in the sense of exciting, entertaining and thrilling.
How important is it for Multivan-Merida to have a German World Cup on the calendar?
It's important to us, of course. Germany is an important market for Merida and of course also for Volkswagen. It would be nice if Albstadt stayed in the program permanently. At least that's what we would like. It's really well organised, the track is interesting and the spectators are always spinning their bikes. It's just fun to drive there.
Last year the team didn't fare so well with the results. There was none in the top five.
No, but we were all in the top 15 and won the team classification. It was a tough race with the rain and mud.
Would you like to push the individual placements forward?
Yes (laughs), a podium finish would be nice. But if we could win the team classification again, that would be good too.
With Julian Schelb there is also an option in the U23 race.
Yes, this is a second option for a podium photo. We definitely think he's capable of that, but how often he can do it remains to be seen. I don't want to put too much pressure on him. The other U23 boys aren't bad either.
Is the block with Nove Mesto, Albstadt and the European Championships in St. Wendel also of great importance for your record World Cup winner Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa?
Yes, of couse. Then she wants to drive fast. However, this year a lot revolves around the home world championships in Hafjell.
What about appearances in the Eliminator Sprint?
Thomas Litscher definitely wants to do the sprints, he's our specialist in there, if you can put it that way. Overall, it depends on the track and the current form. Basically everyone is ready for it. And on the part of the team, of course, we like to see such starts.