lördag 18 december 2010

Intervju: Sportdirektör Aike i Team Cykelcity

Aike vinner hemmatävlingen Tour of Krommenie 1999, före holländska mästaren Johnny Bogers.
Aike Visbeek kom till Sverige för några år sedan, och hamnade ganska snart i sin rätta miljö, dvs mitt i den svenska landsvägscyklingen och dess tävlingsverksamhet. Tillsammans med grundaren av laget Johan Ottosson, jobbar han tätt med cyklisterna stora delar av året, både före, under och efter racen.

Reck - First, a short introduction to the life of Aike. Who is Aike Visbeek and what made you move to Sweden?
Aike – I am 34 year old cycling crazy Dutch man. My family has two bike shops so i think you can say i was born and raised around bikes. Studied in Amsterdam on University and got my Bachelor in General Management. After my study i worked as Account manager, Consultant and i have managed the family company (the two bike shops) for 3 years. During this time i met my Swedish girlfriend Christin. I moved in 2006 September to Sweden. I started my own company and imported products for the cycling and equestrian market. Christin and I live in Häggeby, a village between Stockholm and Uppsala. Christin has an equally developed passion for Horse jumping and breeds with her family mostly Dutch jumping horses. This year one of our Dutch horses became 2nd in the Swedish championships for 5 year old horses. If you wonder why we breed with Dutch horses the answer is simple. Holland is leading the world rankings in both Horse Jumping and Dressage.

Reck - Where in Holland are you from and what does it look like over there?
Aike – I was born in Zaandam a suburb of Amsterdam and have grown up in this area. I lived most my life in the village Krommenie where my father has his bike shop. Krommenie is also the village where Niki Terpstra the current Dutch champion comes from. It’s a pretty flat area. Towards the sea it can get a little bit hilly but compared to Sweden it’s really flat. Around Amsterdam there is no forest and it’s pretty congested with cars and people. During my study time I moved to an apartment in Amsterdam where I lived for about 8 years. Strangely moving to Amsterdam made me discover the area South of Amsterdam. The Southside of Amsterdam is really a beautiful area for cycling. Around the river Amstel it’s very quiet and almost no cars. Lots of old Land houses are situated along these rivers. Painters like Rembrandt painted here some famous masterpieces of the same buildings that are still standing there.

Reck - Tell us a bit of your cycling experience in Holland when you grew up?
Aike – Growing up around my father’s bike shop I developed a passion on a very young age to ride my bike fast. My earliest memories of seeing cycling was watching one of the local pro criteriums Heerhugowaard after the tour de France in 1982 when I was 5. I still remember the famous Raleigh team from that time. I knew all the big riders like Jan Raas, Gerrie kneteman and Joop Zoetemelk. At the age of six I already could recognize the pros earlier than the TV reporters. I had to wait until I was eight because that’s the minimum age for cycling races. I joined the local Zaandam cycling club ZWC. DTS Zaandam. A club with a rich history producing national champions already in 1946. Current and latest pro riders from my club are riders like Niki Terpstra (Milram), Reinier Honig (Aqua Sapone), Rik Flens (Rabobank), Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank) and famous track six day rider Danny Stam and Cycle cross pro Thijs Al. Considering the amount of pros right now and the long history the club is one of the most prominent clubs in Holland.

I started racing when I was 8 and I am one of the few riders in Holland that has won a race in every category up till combined pro races when I was amateur. I was not the best rider in my age group but I was always among or close to the 10 best in my category. The only rider that like I made it up from the youth till the semi professional level and further was Stefan Van Dijk the current pro at Willems Verandas. For some reason I was always very motivated to prove myself. My father always made me ride on the nicest bikes, so a lot of people saw me as spoiled. So every winter I motivated myself to become better. Off course it really started for real when you move from juniors to Amateurs. As a second year amateur I won the classic Dr. Foots race and had other good results in the classics so I got a contract at Team Agu Sport (former Koga Miyata team). This was the best amateur team in Holland and development team for TVM-Farm Frites. (It produced riders like Jeroen Blijlevens, Steven De Jongh, Bart Voskamp and Servais Knaven). Team manager of this team was the famous Egbert Koersen. At my first race of the season I got a very heavy knee injury that kept me off the bike for most of the season. After my injury I was amateur for 2 more years and could get back to a pretty high level and I won several races but I could never really reach my old level because of my weak knees. So I stopped in 1999 as an amateur, and focused on my study.
Aike ger lite tips inför lagtempoträning i Girona Spanien.

Reck - So you had to quit cycling due to knee-problems? And that’s when you decided to work as a director instead?
Aike – Well the chairman of our cycling club DTS Zaandam asked me in 2000 to start up a new amateur team for the club. Like I told you before, there was so much talent and they were always too good to stay as an amateur in the club, they went directly to the top amateur teams. So the club wanted to create their own top amateur team. I liked the idea. When I was about 10 years old and I had to write a presentation at school about what I wanted to become later. Then I already told them I wanted to become Team manager of a cycling team. When I was young I was always making imaginary cycling teams and was always very interested in this part of professional cycling.

I started the amateur team in 2002 and it was called Team Moes-DTS and I asked one of my best friends Merijn Zeeman to work with me on this team. Merijn is now team manager and coach for the Dutch pro Team Skil-Shimano. I rode with him in the same team during my last year as an amateur and we became friends. We both had very similar ideas how to run a team so when this opportunity came around we went for it! We had pretty new ideas about how to run a team. Problem was that our budget in the first year was 15.000 euro! Still with our ambition and getting the right people involved we raced that year 10 international stage races. We had a very good eye for talent. In our first year we had in our team Wouter Mol and Floris Goessinne. Wouter and Floris stayed with us all 4 years. This year Wouter Mol won the Tour of Quatar organized by ASO, he became pro with Vacansoleil and Floris Goessinne at Skil-Shimano. With about 8 continental teams at that time in Holland with far bigger budgets we really where doing things right considering how much riders turned pro from our teams. Within 4 years we went from being a Dutch club amateur team to become a pro team because in the last year our team got sponsored by Skil and we started a pro team next to our amateur team. Biggest name there was Bart Voskamp winner of two stages in the Tour de France.

Riders that came out of my teams are:
Wouter Mol (Vacansoleil), Floris Goesinne (Skil), Huub Duyn (Garmin), Arnoud van Groen (Vacansoleil), Peter Mazur (Saunier Duval), Darius Rudnicky (Intel-Action) and the most prominent one Maciec Bodnar (Liquigas) this year 9th at World Championships Time Trail. Also track rider Jenning Huizenga who took silver on the World Championships pursuit in 2008.

During my year at Skil I met Christin so in 2006 I moved to Sweden thinking my team manager career was over. I helped Merijn a bit as assistant team manager for Continental Team Krolstone in 2007, until I was asked to help at Team Cyclesport in Sweden that’s where we first met. For the 2008 season Team Cykelcity.se asked me to become Team manager there.

Reck - We in Cykelcity have recently been on our first real training camp for the new season. We were in Falun, so we could benefit from the newbuilt track. In Sweden track is of course very new and we don’t know so much how to use it yet. How do riders in Holland use the track?

Aike och Patrik håller koll på cyklisterna på banan i Falun.
Aike – Well I think the new generation of cyclists has been part direct or indirect part of a growing Track cycling culture in combination with road racing. It’s not for nothing you see countries like England and Australia rise so fast! Holland is the same story. The results of the track were built on former road racers. In Holland the track is used for specific training such as intervals, sprint training or simply to increase the speed in the legs and the souplesse. It’s an alternative for when it’s bad weather. Often if riders train outside in the morning and the weather turns really bad they come home after 2 or 3 hours and then train 2 hours on the track in the afternoon or evening. One other really important part is that riders use it to train on racing speed just before the season to prepare the races!

Reck - Holland has had a lot of Grand Tours visiting them in the last couple of years? Why is that and has that made cycling even more popular in the country?
Aike – Well it has a couple of different reasons. One is that the Dutch have understood that if you have a Grandtour starting for one weekend in your city it earns a lot of money for the city. Latest calculations show that a start cost about 5 million euro and the city’s earned between 25-40 million Euros. The other reason is that the government is stimulating cycling to work a lot because of the heavy traffic and environmental issues. Cycling has become similar to countries like Usa and England increasingly popular as a recreational sport and a good way to commute.

Reck - How big is cycling in Holland if you compare to other sports and countries? Which riders are the most popular ones in Holland right now? and do they have some real super talented riders coming up behind riders like Gesink and Vos?
Aike – Cycling is behind Football one of the top 5 sports in Holland. It’s depending always a bit how good the Dutch riders are off course. But in Holland the organization of races and clinics has become more professional and that helps. At the women’s side its only Vos that really sticks out. On the men’s side: behind Gesink we have some good riders coming up also. Gesink is a super talent but riders like Bauke Mollema and Coen Vermetelvoort are future stars also. And I expect quite a lot from Lars Boom, Theo Bos and Michel Kreder.

Reck - What is your role at team Cykelcity?
Aike – I do most of the international races for Team Cykelcity.se and I am responsible for the sport-technical side of Team Cykelcity.se. This means Training camps, Racing program, weekly contact with riders more or less the coaching part of it. I say coaching because you are the team trainer/ personal trainer of a large part of the team and I work closely with you on designing the Training camps and winter training. During the season I try to give you the information on the rider’s performances in races so you can make better training schedules. I have also contact with the organizations of the international races. Where I can I try to support Otto in the organization. Otto is in end responsible for the whole team and he handles the organizational part and does most of the Swedish races as a team manager. Me and Otto really work well together, we trust each other and learn from each other. I had a lot to learn about Swedish cycling and I could help Otto more on the international side.

Teamet säsong 2010, januari på Gran Canaria. Det blir samma tid,
samma plats i januari 2011 till Aikes stora glädje, inte minst
med tanke på den vintern som håller Sverige i ett järngrepp. 
Reck - Have you experienced any sportdirecteurs that you look up to because they are such good leaders?
Aike – Well it’s a bit complicated to answer that because you have sportdirecteurs that are very good organizers and put a good team together but add not so much on the coaching part. In that sense Peter Post the former Raleigh and Panasonic team manager was an example. I like how Bjarne Riis has built up his team and his eye to detail. But one of the best team managers tactically that could really make a difference during a race was Jan Raas. If he was at a race his team did always better. He could simply tell his riders where the race would split and he could make the right decisions on who to watch or how to win a race. He won races with his riders that would not have been won without him. I learned a lot from my former Team manager Egbert Koersen. He had an eye for details but was tactically also very strong and was very focused on developing riders. But like Jan Raas they were a bit old school when it came to communication with their riders. Nobody’s perfect it’s about creating your own style and vision.

Reck - Do you have contacts in Europe which can help Cykelcity and other teams get into good races abroad?
Aike – Yes, the contacts is not a problem. Also In the USA I have good contacts. If teams need help they can always contact me. I want to contribute to help make Swedish cycling better. Now we are becoming a continental team and there are some races we cannot do any more.

Reck - What would you advice a young talented 20 year old Swedish rider to do, to get a good development?
Aike – Invest money first in hiring a good trainer like you or somebody else and invest money in a proper SRM Training system or Heartrate monitor instead of buying nice Oakley glasses. The future pro tour rider needs to be good in riding on Soupless/high cadans and needs to be able to ride on power/heavy gears. Cycling is very complex sport. I mean you have to be strong and train smart, it’s very tactical, material and bikes are important etc. etc. Because it’s such a complex sport the difference is made in the details. So don’t try to invent the wheel again in all this areas, but look how others do things and ask other good riders how they do things! It makes your development much faster.

Reck - In what ways are Swedish and Dutch riders different?
Aike – Well the Dutch are more outspoken and racing much more on a younger age. This also means they have more experience in race situations. The tactical part comes more naturally to them. The Swedish are quieter but more disciplined especially in training. Have less experience but are for example much better in time trails than the average Dutch cyclist. The Dutch riders have more self confidence where the Swedish riders are some time a bit too fast intimidated. One more thing I think is very different is the fact the Swedish cyclist often want or feel the need to “invent the wheel” them self again. For example if a Dutch rider for the first time have to ride a race like Paris-Roubaix he will pick up the phone and start calling around to get some advises. A Swedish rider would not do that so fast. But you can understand that if they are equally strong the Dutch rider with some good advises most likely has a better chance to ride better on the cobblestones than the Swedish one that thinks you just have to ride fast… Having this said I have to say I really like and enjoy working with the Swedish riders. They are for sure more all-round athletes than the Dutch. I don’t think a lot of my Dutch riders would have survived our Teambuilding/survival camps for example. All my Belgium and Dutch mechanics and masseurs say the same when they have worked with Team Cykelcity.se.

Reck - And how will 2011 be different racing-wise for CC in comparison to 2010?
Aike – Well the 2 major changes are that we will start a bit earlier. We will do 2 Uci races in Belgium before our first big race Tour de Normandy. Biggest change is that we do more international racing in September leading up to the World Championships. SCF has not invested anything in getting riders properly prepared by some (stage) races in September leading up the World championships. And that you could tell from the results from our U23 riders. But considering the World Championships are in our backyard Copenhagen next year I suggested to CC we put more focus on the preparation because with riders like Jonas Ahlstrand, Patrik Stenberg and Tobias Ludvigsson you have riders that can win a medal there. But without a proper preparation you hardly have a chance against countries like France, USA, Australia and Germany that ride races like Tour de L’Avenir to prepare. In 2009 Stenberg and Balck had to prepare the worlds in Sista Chansen Ramnas, a criterium of 40km! But to win a medal SCF also have to be willing to approach the preparation more professional.

Besides changing the racing program we have made other improvements also. We did an extra trainings camp in Falun in December. All riders will have a training bike at home so the riders don’t have to travel with racing bikes. We have improved our winter training plan for the team. Most riders have started the winter training a bit earlier for example.

Reck - Do you follow the pro-scene on TV a lot, and do you have any personal favorites?
Aike – Well the last three seasons I have been away a lot with the team on average a 100-110 days. Normally I would not miss Paris-Roubaix since it’s my favorite race. So I don’t see a lot on TV, but I have a lot of contact with the pro-scene partly because of my friend Merijn being team manager at Skil and also because of my former riders that are now pro and my network. Well I am a fan of Thor Hushovd although that is now pretty cheap to say since he became world-champion. I rode Paris-Roubaix for U23 in 1998 that he won. I was in the first group with him. Because I was keeping track of the results in France I knew I had to stay close to him. With like 4 pave’s left he attacked and after 100 meters I punctured. He was outstanding but also a nice guy. He has developed his career very good and he also can ride offensive although he is a good sprinter.

Reck - Finally, have you changed since you moved to Sweden, and if, in what ways?
Aike – Well I think I still have the same values and ideas. But my life changed a lot since I moved to Sweden. In Holland I was a single man in an apartment in the centre of Amsterdam that was working 60 hours a week running his father’s bike shops and at the same time was I team manager of a really fast growing Cycling team that ended up being a pro team. Now I live in a village with not more than 600 people, on a farm in the countryside with kids, horses, dogs and cats. It’s only the fast growing Cyclingteam that’s the same… I appreciate the nature and living in it more. I feel at home here with my family and Christins family. I enjoy working with Swedish Cyclists and I hope I can contribute something to Swedish Cycling with my work.

Reck - Thanks for your time, Aike!
Aike - You´re welcome!

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