One Track Mind

21. 06. 2019

We have a long-standing friendship with Christian Grasmann, and if there is anyone who truly goes his own way, it’s him. Whether it’s in professional cycling or in training young talent one thing is certain, “Grasi” doesn’t ever seem to run out of ideas.

We have a long-standing friendship with Christian Grasmann, and if there is anyone who truly goes his own way, it’s him. Whether it’s in professional cycling or in training young talent one thing is certain, “Grasi” doesn’t ever seem to run out of ideas.

Christian, why is track cycling such animportant aspect of your life?
Track cycling is my passion. A single speed bicycle represents purity and that’s what resonates with me. Track cycling is highly technical and yet totally minimalist.

How did you actually get into it?
Dumb luck, really! I used to ski, and during summer training we would mountain bike, and through that I got in with a road cycling group in Holzkirchen. And after always ending up with the fastest riders in the group, despite riding a mountain bike, it wasn’t long before I needed to convince my parents that I needed a race bike. Back then they didn’t have the money for it, so at 17 I forged my mom’s signature and went to the bank in Munich, emptied my savings account and went straight over to “Baldi” on Lindwurm Street to buy a yellow and blue Martinello frame and a set of wheels. It was clear to me that it had to be that bike. It cost me 3,000 Marks, which was everything I had earned and saved de- livering newspapers, cleaning bike shops and doing other odd jobs.

Why did it have to be a Martinello frame?
At the time, Silvio Martinello was track racing, and most importantly he was doing the six-day races. He was my big idol.

Were you interested in six-day racing back then already?
I went with my parents to watch the six-day race in Munich. I was 16 then. Sports had always fascinated me, but because I was mostly skiing and mountain biking, road cycling was not really on my radar. It really started with that Martinello frame. I got myself a license, a friend introduced me to a club and that’s when I rode my first street race. I crashed a lot and my knees were always cut up. I basically destroyed myself or broke something on my bike every weekend. By this point my trainer, Heinz Bäumler, had already seen that I was a strong rider. His view of things was, if he makes it to the end, he’s with the riders up front. At some point Heinz said to me, “You’re coming with me to the track.” I said, “What? I can’t even ride on the road.”, but of course I went with him. I was so scared that I just rode out front and that’s how I won my first track race – out of pure fear.

Today you still prefer riding around the oval and you’re still successful with it. You took part in 80 six-day races and won two of them. Still, your name in Germany is mostly only known among insiders. Any idea why?
Six-day races aren’t too big in Germany, but countries like Aus- tralia and England are much more enthusiastic about them. There’s much more value placed on them there and the standard is better as well. The young riders are better, there are other structures in place and the sheer size of the scene is huge. There are thousands of people to choose from in terms of who has talent and who should be developed as a rider.

Why is it different here?
Well, the media here is dominated by football, following that it is biathlon. Don’t forget to remember that the press coverage of cycling in the 2000’s was not exactly positive. That led to parents saying things like: “I’m not getting my kids into cycling, because those guys are all doping” and at that point, the gap was closing for talented young riders. Today clubs have growing again and the children of parents who ride a lot themselves are coming in.

You are also really involved with young riders.
For me it’s something quite special to get young people into cy- cling. That’s why we set up the youth team at RSV Irschenberg, the “Maloja Pushbikers Future Stars”. Since 2009 we’ve been able to attract a lot of talent that way, even among some really young kids. And just like with the Maloja Pushbikers pro team, we’ve forged some new paths with the youth riders as well.

Can you paint that picture for us a bit?
Well, for example, all of the youth trainers come from other sports, like cross-country skiing. Cycling experts support them in their work, but that makes the training really diverse. Our young cy- clists get to ride on the track as well as on the street, and they train with both road and mountain bikes. As well they get to wear the same cool, high-end clothing as the pros do from Maloja and WSA Pushbikers. They’re super proud of that.

I can imagine, you are likely very proud of the young riders as well?
Of course, it’s a joy to see that this group now has over 50 girls and boys between the ages of 6 and 16. We’ve already had riders from the Under-15 group pull in the German championship for both road and track riding. 2017 also saw Ludwig Bichler from Fischbachau become the first rider to come up from within our own youth group to bolster the Maloja Pushbikers pro team. That is the goal we were working toward.

There’s one other goal you’ve have as well: A cycling track on Irschenberg? Or is that more of a dream?
Having our own track is a long-term goal. If we had that type of facility in the region it would surely help the sport. People wouldn’t have to fly somewhere to train in winter. Instead they would be able to do it right here and they could send their kids here just like they do with skiing or mountain biking. The track would create a community that would give cycling a huge push in Upper Bavaria and it would bring something to the towns around there. One has to ask, what would Inzell be without the speed skating or Ruhpolding without the biathlon?

Christian Grasmann (37) is the founder and captain of the Pushbikers as well as the initiator and chairman of RSV Irschenberg: www.pushbikers.com | www.rsv-irschenberg.de

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