The Mehlting Pot: An Interview with Andreas Klden

Sitting down at training camp in Albuquerque last Friday with former German National Champion and two-time Tour de France podium finisher Andreas Klden, I was able to enjoy a long chat with the quiet German rider. Coming into the interview as almost a complete novice on "all things Klden" I found him to be engaging, soft spoken, confident and a true team leader. Andreas talks about his disappointments as well as his hopes for the 2008 racing season. This interview was conducted Friday, February 1st. Enjoy! - Cathy

Cathy: You've had a very successful career. You've been in the Olympics, you've been on the podium at the Tour, you've won major races, you've been the German National Champion. Are there still other things you still hope to accomplish in your career?

Andreas: I ride because I like riding. Last year I had a good early season but after the Tour it was not so good. But in cycling you can work hard and maybe win some races and then see that if you work a lot and train hard there will be successes. I like that. I also like the traveling for cycling. I train a lot in South Africa and in Spain. I hope that I can win more races in 2008 or 2009. Some people say the end of a career for a cyclist is around 35 or 36 and I'm 32, so I hope I can keep going for some more years.

Do you have the Olympics as a goal for this year?

I've been to the Olympics two times before, once to Sydney in 2000 and then to Athens in 2004. It's not really the same as other road races. There are so many people there and if you want to go do something at the Olympics there are so many security checks. I don't really like that. Maybe after the Tour de France I will go to the Olympics. I can only say I will not train 100% for the Olympics, no.

Last year after the Tour de France when Astana was pulled from the race, it was widely reported that you were very unhappy and depressed and that your morale was very low. Was that a hard time for you, Andreas?

Yeah, yeah, it was a very hard time. I trained well last year. I even started my training early in the winter time. In fact I worked for eight months leading up to the Tour de France and my condition was very good and the team was very good. So we were four days before getting into Paris and there was a chance for the podium and then it all disappeared, it was all gone. So I went home and I took my bike into the garage and left it there for a month. I didn't want to ride. I took some time with my family; I have two kids and a wife, and it was nice to be with them. After a while the desire to ride came back to me a little bit at a time and now I am really motivated again. My family really helped get me through that time.

When you first heard that Johan Bruyneel was going to take over Team Astana what did you think about that?

For the team it was good that Johan was coming. I thought maybe at first I wouldn't stay with the team, that it had all been too much. But for 8, 9, 10 years Johan has been very successful at the Tour de France plus he was a successful rider so I knew he had a lot of experience and I realized I might be able to profit from his knowledge. Plus I think we have a good team so I decided I was lucky.

But you thought about moving to a different team?

At the very first after the Tour de France, yes, I wanted to leave the team. It was too much and all the problems with doping were talked about all the time. It was written that maybe all of the riders with Astana could be doping too and I didn't like that. But now we have the medical check program from Damsgaard and I think it's very good. So I knew I needed a team and I saw the team Johan was putting together and the riders moving over with him from Discovery Channel. And now I am very glad I stayed with him and with Team Astana.

I'm sure Johan is happy to have a great champion such as yourself on his team too. It works both ways of course. A lot of people see you as a team leader in your own right, yet you are usually on teams that have other team leaders. That is the case now at Team Astana with your teammates Levi Leipheimer and Alberto Contador. Does that concern you?

Oh no, I do not see this as a problem. In the beginning of the season Levi will go for Tour of California, Alberto will go to Paris-Nice and I still hope to go to Tirreno. Everyone has their own program in preparation for the Tour and then we all ride the Tour de France together. I think we have more chances to win with all of us. Maybe someone will get sick or crash, and if there was only one team leader it would be a big problem.

Once Lance retired Johan didn't build a team around just one leader anymore and I think some fans have had a hard time adjusting to that change.

With Lance it was a different situation. He was a special rider. He had a team and he could win the Tour so he could say, "Alright, I am the captain and you will all ride for me." But all seven years when he won he also had such good luck and didn't suffer bad crashes or too many flat tires. At any moment something could have happened but it didn't! Now we have three team leaders and we will see how things work out.

Have you been to America before this? Have you raced here?

I have been to America for holiday, down to the Florida Keys and Miami but I have not raced here. For me it is not so easy making the time change adjustment. The body needs time to adjust and that is hard for me.

What do you think of the rides you've been doing around Albuquerque?

I had a good start on my training in Mallorca before I came here where the weather was warm. But I got sick when I came here so I have actually lost some of my training time. The altitude has affected me too and my body is having a little bit of trouble recovering. I think the weather was too cold for me here. I like warm weather.

Cold for Andreas? Not so much...

How has it been getting to know the new teammates here at camp?

I know so many of the guys from racing anyway and they are all nice guys. We do have some problems with language as everybody does not speak English. Some speak only French and some only Spanish. Last year it was the same in the beginning but people start speaking more English in time and it gets better. Not good English, but still English.

Has the staff been good and helpful?

Oh for sure, everybody is friendly and helpful. It's a good team and everyone does their best to do a good job.

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