It’s hard to break into the six day circuit; but if there’s a local rider with promise or a road star that needs mentoring then there has to be a rider on the circuit to provide hands on guidance.
Enter Austria’s Andreas Müller.
Müller: was a member of the German track squad during the last decade with strong results, like silver in the 1999 Moscow World Cup team pursuit; Madison bronze in the Chinese round of the World Cup in 2002 and Madison gold in the Moscow and Sydney rounds of the 2003 World Cup.
He was German points race champion in 2005 but also won the Austrian title in the same discipline in 2008 when he changed nationalities.
An accomplished road rider, Andreas : won an international criterium in Port of Spain, Trinidad in the spring of 2010.
But it’s as the ‘taxi driver’ on the six day circuit that he: has found his niche.
We caught up with him at the recent Six days of Rotterdam.
You’re the ‘Austrian from Berlin.’
“Yes, I changed my nationality to Austrian because there were better prospects for me — the German team is more and more team pursuit focussed.”
How many sixes have you ridden?
“This is number 64, with a best of 5th at Munich, that was a fast race, but my role isn’t really about winning them.”
Tell us about your role.
“There was a German rider on the circuit until recently, Gert Dorich, we called him the ‘taxi driver’ — he always looked after the riders who were new to the sixes; if I can do the job as well as Gert did then I’ll be happy with myself.”
Which is the toughest six?
“It used to be Munich, before it disappeared from the calendar.
“Now it’s Gent, the field is good, it’s a very tough programme with few breaks and the people are there to watch the bike racing.
At Bremen for example, it’s all about partying for the spectators.”
Which is your favourite six day race?
“Gent, even though it’s hard, I really like it.
“It’s an old style velodrome and the fans are normal people who come for a drink and to watch the racing — they’re not all dressed up in suits and ties.”
What’s your favourite aspect of the six days?
“The chases, I love them, they’re my favourite discipline; I could ride them all day.
“I wouldn’t care if I never rode another road race, pursuit or the like — as long as I could ride Madisons!”
And least favourite?
“Time trials — I never liked them, stupid races!”
Who’s your favourite partner?
“Frank Corvers he was a good Belgian road rider — he won the GP Isbergues — and not a bad six day man with third places in Gent and Moscow.
“We only rode one race together before his retirement but we ‘clicked’ straight away, he had great technique, there was a great understanding between us on the track and he was a cool guy, too.”
Are the sixes missing Bruno Risi?
“For sure, he was the strongest rider and he gave the lead; the races are actually harder now because there’s no ‘second group’ on the track, it’s more of a free for all.”
You’re riding with roadman sprinter Kenny Van Hummel, here — how’s that going?
“He gets a little better every night; as a road rider he has a big ‘engine’ but doesn’t have the leg speed — he’s been riding 51 x 15 rather than the normal 49 x 15.
“I was actually riding 50 x 15 for the first few days because it was a while since my last six – in Zurich – but I’m back on 49 x 15, now.”
Are you an ‘equipment fanatic?’
“I do focus on it, yes — but I’m not as bad as I used to be; I was a nightmare for the mechanics, changing things every day!
“I have to tell you about my saddles – I like the Rolls Turbomatic model and would never want to change from it; I heard they were discontinuing them, so I bought 20 of them.
“The thing is, the one I am riding has lasted three years and now they’re talking about reintroducing them — and I still have 20 in the house!”
Is there a lot of racing for you in the summer, in Germany?
“No, cycling has declined in Germany; there are almost no races around Berlin.
“That’s why I go to the USA, the Caribbean and Belgium to race.”
When do you take a break from cycling?
“I always say that the brain empties before the legs — if the mood is good then the legs are good and I don’t take a break.
“I used to take a break after the Worlds but in 2010 I didn’t because my morale was still good.
“But in 2009 I took four weeks off after the Worlds.”
Do you ever think about riding for a team?
“I’m in a small Austrian team which is run by the former points world champion, Franz Stocher.
“I like the freedom to decide my own programme as an individual; but it also means that you have to do absolutely everything yourself — equipment, plane tickets, cars, hotels.
“But the fact is that when you’re on the start line, it’s because you really want to be there — not just because the team says so.”
Why do you think the German sixes have declined so much?
“That’s a good question.
“The doping situation didn’t help — all the scandals, one after another.
“And of course there is a poor economic situation generally in the world.
“But probably the main reason is that the organisers didn’t change — if it was working well they thought that they didn’t need to change, but things slid, little by little. And when they finally became aware of how serious the decline was – it was too late.
“At the last Munich six they introduced good new ideas but by then it was too late.”
If you could change one thing about the sixes?
“It wouldn’t be one thing, it would be the whole system; we need new things, new races, new music — some of the German sixes were playing the same music for ten years (some older observers have said more like 25 years!) all the people who liked that music are dead!
“Here at Rotterdam they are live streaming the race over the internet, that’s the type of thing that’s required.
“Until recently, some of the sixes didn’t even have a proper website — but that’s where people go for information in 2011.
“You must embrace the internet — if you want young people to come to the sixes then you must realise that TV and the internet are the kings with this generation.”
Thanks to Andreas for his time, and enjoy the summer outdoors!