In the spring we selected him as one of Czech sport’s greatest young talents. After almost a dramatic year, Mathias Vacek convinces us that he is still on the right track and that we made the right choice. He bikes up to six hours a day, travels constantly, speaks three languages fluently and is learning the fourth, has incredible dreams of what he wants to achieve and shows that he has it with every sentence he says. everything was solved in his head. And he is happiest with fish. We discussed all these and much more within the scope of the New Year’s Balances Interview.
Mathias, how are you spending your Christmas time?
In Spain, in the heat of the sea, with my brother, not far from Málaga. The guys here go to the hills of the Sierra Nevada to train. We also have a tree, it’s really alive, but it wasn’t easy to cut it down. Beneath it were some presents, a T-shirt from my brother, a new phone case, a thin jacket…
What a year you’ve had, must have been a rocker. First a great success, victory in the UAE Tour stage, then the cancellation of the Gazprom stable due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but finally, again a beautiful settlement?
It started so well in the Emirates but then they shut the team down and all of a sudden I was out of work. I also discussed with the Trek team whether they would take me earlier on an exception basis, but the International Cycling Federation (UCI) would not allow it. So I had to work hard and just look ahead and wait. Still, I think I’ve managed to get the most out of it. I’m very happy with how it turned out. I had the help of the national team and the main motivation of knowing that I would eventually move on to the best Trek team. Also the trainer, the material, ultimately how I would deal with it was up to me.
What achievement do you see the most – winning a stage at Emirates, silver from the World Cup or the European Championship?
The World Tour stage in Emirates with the elite was great, but the silver medal in the U23 road race at the World Cup is probably more for me. All three achievements were excellent.
When the Gazprom stable was stopped due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, did you consider giving up cycling altogether?
No, I don’t think so. I wanted to train, I’m still young, I soon settled in my head, I did not see a reason to stop. But it was difficult. Luckily I have been working with an excellent trainer from Trek for the second year and thanks to him I am confident. I knew what I was doing, how I was trained… The first two months were the worst. Then I put up with it and moved on. And at the end of the season, the races started, I had something to work on, I had motivation.
Tell me, didn’t the cancellation of the Russian stable paradoxically affect more Western riders than the Russians?
True, there were 60% Westerners or others and only 40% Russians. Moreover, the money that went to the barn was not directly from the Russian, but from the German branch. Fortunately, in the end, Spaniards, Norwegians and other drivers managed to find a reserve crew and were not left out of work.
Now that you’re on the new Trek team, how did the dating actually start?
This was before Gazprom, a scout contacted me saying he wanted me to join Trek. But I was still a teenager and we agreed it would be good to gain some experience for two years before fully joining the world tour team. So, I actually signed a preliminary contract with Trek before signing the short episode with Gazprom. And it’s good that I did it that way, that I spent two years on a smaller team. Now I have no problem integrating into a large barn.
How does it look in Trek? Big and strong team, how’s the atmosphere?
The atmosphere there is great, I get along well with children, there is no tension, no arguments… During the training, we three cyclists celebrated our birthdays, the chefs made us a cake, we became a big family. I feel good, there is no pressure and we all trust each other. I think teamwork is important and the team has a perfect organization. It was a good move. Now there are still good results to be had.
What did you experience with them? Did you meet in America?
The first was a dating site in America right after the season, as it usually is. We were at a bicycle factory in Wisconsin, I saw the manufacture and history of the bicycle. We were also in Chicago at Sram (a company for high-end components) to see how everything is tried and tested. Great experience.
Does Trek speak English? Do you speak good English? How many languages do you actually speak?
The main language there is English, but you know, Italians speak Italian among themselves. I understand Italians and speak good German because I learned the language while living as a family in Austria. We have a German doctor and a sports director at Trek, so German is also useful for me. And I speak excellent English. I’m also trying to speak some Spanish now and I think I’ll be fluent in two years.
Languages are important on the bike too, see?
Definitely, that’s the key to adapting to the team. Otherwise no one will take you there. If you can talk, you have half the worries in the barn. You need to be able to communicate well with people. I don’t care, I like to have fun. I am trying.
Who are you best friends with?
All the guys on the team are very good. I don’t have a favourite, I want to get along with everyone. But I understand, for example, Emils Liepins from Latvia.
I know one of the coaches is also important to you – Markel Irizar from Spaniard, actually Basque. Why?
Great guy, he’s got a family, he knows business, he knows what he’s doing, a little crazy but they’re all cyclists. I had a great season thanks to him. He sees me as a bit of a son. When we talk on the phone, his wife always says, are you calling your son again?
Let’s get to the wheels. What is the material?
Perfect, everything I have is TOP. The new Trek Madonne model with Bontrager + Sram components works great all in one, it’s a super fast bike. Now it will depend on me…
Are you a detailer, do you take care of the little things, or do you leave it to the mechanic?
I always have it installed by a mechanic. I’m not a detail person. I’m not confrontational about it. Our tire pressures are stated in kilos. Otherwise, I can’t say I have anything special. I’m probably most concerned with the handlebars so that they fit well in my hands.
What form are you in right now, what are you training for?
I’ve been running bulking for a month now I’m starting to add intensity now that I started competing in January. I’m already losing weight. I do everything honestly. The first race in the second half of January will be the one-week stage of the Vuelta around San Juan, Argentina. I’ll be 74kg by then, no problem, or my summer weight will drop another two kilos.
What big races are you planning during the season? Prefer weekly scenes, Ardennes classics?
I don’t know yet, I can’t say for sure, it’s still a secret but I should get a little bit of a ride on the classics. The team will release it after the new year.
Do you think there will be a Grand Tour?
It shouldn’t until next year. But let’s see, maybe someone drops out of school, gets sick…
By now, have you often gotten used to the lead role as it would be in Trek?
This is alchemy. If I were to ride a bigger classic, I wouldn’t be leading there because the team would put their experienced riders there as the leader and I would be the water bearer. But in smaller weekly scenes, they let me try out the lead role. I’m definitely not going into the season just to do housework all year.
Do you have a big dream that you want to achieve or win?
Absolutely – a great classic, a “monument” (five of the world’s most famous one-off races). And rainbow leotard, that’s my dream…
What else do you need to work on?
There is still much to be developed. I’m still improving, slowly finding my direction. Now I’m working on everything, speed, stamina, time trial skills…
Do you have any bike patterns? Who do you admire from today’s cyclists?
I have Belgian Wout Van Art. Probably a competitor similar to what I could be. A great versatile…
When you were five the family moved to Austria and you lived there for 10 years…
It was a good life move, also because of school we lived in Ramsau below Dachstein, not far from the Czech Republic. And they can get good education under the supervision of their father and brother.
You were also doing a lot of cross-country skiing at the time, were you able to compete at the highest level?
We thought, the possibility already existed. In the end we turned it down because you only have to do one sport and in the end the bike won. But cross-country skiing is a great sport. Unfortunately, financial rewards alone do not match hard work.
By the way, cross-country skiing was probably a great addition, you just didn’t use the bike…
It was definitely better than any gym. Using the legs, the arms, the strength was a high-end supplement sport, and I’m definitely still trying to do cross-country skiing at the start of the season. They are intense, hard work and take the whole body. It’s actually a bit like cyclocross.
You suffered a serious injury when you were young, how do you rate it today? You’ve been gone for a long time, did that make you stronger?
It definitely empowered and impressed me. I wouldn’t want it to happen to anyone but it did happen and you had to deal with it. When you are successful, you are stronger.
Who is Mathias Vacek?
Mathias Vacek was born on June 12, 2002. The talented Czech professional road cyclist competed for the Gazprom-Rusvelo team, which was disbanded after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. UCI WorldTeam Trek–Segafredo today.
This year, he won the sixth stage of the UAE Tour at the start of the year, thus becoming the youngest winner of a race that is part of the UCI World Tour. After finishing Gazprom-Rusvelo during the year, he took second place in the U23 category in the WC and ME road races.
He was also competing in cross country skiing and was seriously considering a career as the national cross country team. His older brother Karel is also a professional cyclist.
What are your hobbies, are you saying that I am fishing?
I love it. When I want to relax, I go carp fishing, sit and rest.
What else do you like to do when you’re not training or racing?
When I’m at home in Šumava, I go mushroom picking, I like to go fishing or to the forest. I’ll play pinch too.
Do you like to travel? Which country do you like, where do you like?
There are so many places. For example, I would like to look at Argentina. I love to get to know new places, culture and see other things, not just cycling.
Source: Seznam Zpravy
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