MMTB: So you have the trauma of getting all of these guys over to every race – do they appreciate it?
FS: Yes, for sure. I mean, it’s not a “hey, thankyou” after every single race, but yeah, they definitely appreciate it, and there are situations where your efforts are paid back tenfold.
MMTB: What’s involved logistically in getting five riders, goodness knows how many bikes, mechanics and physios over to this event?
FS: At first, for sure we have eight riders in the team, here we have four professional riders who race marathons and stage races, and it’s pretty clear that they will be here at worlds – their qualifications are enough. For Markus, who is an U23 guy, it was a little different because we couldn’t be sure that the federation would select him, and at the same time we didn’t really put the focus on the world series which is another way of qualifying. So he just did one race where unfortunately he didn’t make it, but then I talked to the national coach some weeks later who said “Markus for sure” because he got the bronze medal at the marathon Europeans at U23, and he also recently won the Trans Schwarzwald with Simon Stiejebahn, so from the federation’s side there was no doubt that they would select him.
MMTB: So once you have the riders, then what?
FS: So first, it’s checking who is racing, especially for the Worlds, and then I booked the hotel. We know the place from last year, and we know that there are only very few places to stay, and only one or two good ones, especially because we like to be close to town and close to the venue to make things easier for the riders. So when we raced last year we knew worlds was here in October, so I said then “okay, please can we have seven rooms for October next year” – so I basically booked a year in advance, just to be sure. The in June or July, which is still kind of early, there was almost no space left!
MMTB: I have seen numerous teams riding up and down the valley road to their hotels, and things like that sap your energy at an event like this.
FS: If you know the venue, you know if you need to book super far in advance if it’s in a tiny place, whereas if it’s in a big city like worlds in Madrid a few years back, there’s no need to be so organised – you could book a week ahead and still find somewhere good. Of course, you do it a little longer before, but there’s no need to worry more than a month ahead.
MMTB: So who do you need to book accommodation for?
FS: Depending on the number of riders we have going to a race, we have one full-time mechanic, Lukas, who will always be there, and there is me who is full time too, and then we have a handful of physios who are paid on a daily basis. And we try to have always the same people at races, plus if we need more because there are a lot of riders at a particular race, we have extra guys to bring in as well. So it’s more or less always Moritz, Lukas and me – that works for up to four riders. If it’s more than four riders, then I try to have double numbers, so two mechanics, two physios, at least for the bigger races. It makes it easier because, especially at the big events, everyone is running around, and for sure we could have a guy on the massage table at 10pm, but it’s better to have more people so things run smoothly.
MMTB: Worlds counts as a big race then?
FS: Yeah, we have five riders, and at another race we could get away with one mechanic and one physio, but it’s worlds, so better to have two! We have this expo area booked because it’s a good place to work, okay we can’t seal it properly against everything if the weather is bad, but we have the proper space to work and to store everything. It’s better this way than trying to work at the hotel, trying to find the proper space to set everything up, and trying to work out how do we work on this and that?
MMTB: You book everything well in advance, then your next problem is how to get everyone here?
FS: Yeah, then we need to work out how to best use the space in the cars, how to fit everyone in.
MMTB: So everyone drove here, then, or did the riders fly and you met them?
FS: No, for this race, everyone drove, because the race is not too far from where we are based. The team is officially based in Stuttgart, and we have riders, mechanics and physios living nearby. We have one official team vehicle which floats around and lives wherever it fits best, and then Karl brought his own car because he leaves on Sunday to fly to Malaysia. So then it’s checking who is where and who needs to get to and from places for things to work.
MMTB: How do you work all this out, do you draw diagrams, do you have a spreadsheet.
FS: Nah, it’s not that complicated really. We have a basic system that we try to work on. Most of the races are south for us, so we get the guys from the North to drive down, and then pick others up on the way. Google maps really helps, we can work out the quickest way, and where guys can meet to share transport. It wouldn’t be possible to do it just with the official team vehicles, the camper, the mechanics van and the team car – we also need two personal cars to do the race support to get to the feed & tech zones. So usually one of the riders brings his own car as well for that, usually Karl.
MMTB: The equipment you need all travels in the camper and the mechanics van then?
FS: We can store eight bikes in the mechanics van, and the bikes stay with him during the week between races, so he can work on them during the week. At the end of the race, the riders can come to him and say “the chain is worn out, and the brake pads, and the bottom bracket” and he can fix the bikes during the week ready for the next race.
MMTB: I suppose if you’re racing every weekend, it’s not like you need your bike much during the week.
FS: The riders all have training bikes that live at home, and then with the van and the mobile home we can bring everything we need to the races. Then during the week we can look and see “okay, what did we use?” and order what we need to replace from the sponsors to have everything ready for the following weekend.
MMTB: And then you have the excitement of feeding five riders on the day, at this race there are seven feed zones, how do you cover that?
FS: It’s honestly not that difficult, especially here where the feed zones are the left and right sides of the valley, so we just take two teams and leapfrog. So one team will do first, third, fifth etc – that will be me, so I get to go to the finish and see my guys finish on the podium! – no pressure Karl!. So that works quite good. And then you have two per team, one guy at the start of the feed zone with wheels and bottles, and then a backup guy at the end so that if someone misses a bottle, they can still grab something. If you have three or four coming together, especially in the early feeds, it can be even tougher.
MMTB: Team Bulls are well known for their appearances at stage races. I guess that’s a whole other level of organisation, with booking hotels.
FS: Yeah, so that all starts in December, when you check the schedule and think “okay, this is a really small town, so you have to book super-early”. I really love booking.com – it’s such a great website, with a good overview of places to stay. Okay, it doesn’t have everywhere on there, but it makes the job so much easier. Google maps and booking.com – I don’t know how I lived without them. I have been running the team for six years now, and the first four years it just took way more time – writing to the hotels, checking lists on the websites. Whereas now, booking.com to see what places are like, and google maps to see where they are – job done!
MMTB: So, as team manager, what do you do away from the races?
FS: So I do all the organisation, I do the press stuff, I do the social media, I do the website, I do all the so-called accounting for managing the budget. I agree the budget with the head of the company, and work out what we can spend on what! It’s such an interesting job because you work in so many directions, and you get to go to cool places.
MMTB: Finally, what makes Team Bulls work so well as a team?
FS: Our focus is marathons and stage races so we have a common focus, but we also have a cross country woman, Anja Gradl, and a junior Simon Stiejebahn, but the main thing that makes things work is that we have enough people and competent people. And we are all friends. I’ve known Karl since ’96, Stefan since ’98 – it’s travelling with friends! This even works with the guys who come and join the team, like Thomas who joined us in 2009, we knew him a little bit beforehand, and we knew he fitted with the people we have already. Even up to the CEO of the company, he knows if we are talking about some new person for the team, he will ask “does he fit with the team”? We all look after each other, all for one, one for all!