He won Milan-San Remo during his first season with the MTN Qhubeka team and now, moving to another Pro Continental squad for 2016, Gerald Ciolek is hoping to land similarly big results with his new team.
The German rider confirmed five days ago that he was moving to Cult Energy-Stolting, with a message from him on Twitter and a brief update to the team’s Facebook page being a somewhat low-key confirmation of the move.
However he has now elaborated on the reasons for the decision, and said that he was hoping to rediscover the impetus he had during year one with MTN Qhubeka in 2013.
“A change is always a new possibility and a new chance,” he told CyclingTips. “I’ll get all the support and opportunities I need to perform on a high level. I’m looking forward to a new environment after three years.
“The time at MTN-Qhubeka was good and it was great to see the team grow over the years. I’m now looking forward to Cult Energy-Stolting Group where I’ll have the support to win races again.”
After picking up that San Remo victory plus four other wins in 2013, he had a quieter couple of seasons since then. His 2015 results saw him go close to a victory but he had to be satisfied with second on stage six of Tirreno-Adriatico plus third on stage two of the Tour of Austria.
He also missed out on selection for the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España.
Those were surprising omissions for a rider that had been the cornerstone of his team two years earlier.
Ciolek believes a change will be useful in getting his momentum back and said that this, rather than joining his friend Linus Gerdemann, is the biggest reason for heading to Cult Energy rather than another squad.
“It’s nice if you already know some riders from the new team and with Linus I’ve a good friend there,” he explained. “But the decision I made was because I think it’s the best choice for me as a rider.
“I’ve seen the team in races and the successes they have had. I like the atmosphere and their approach to racing. When Linus won [the overall classification] in Luxembourg I could tell it was a pure team effort and that got my attention.”
Like MTN-Qhubeka in 2013, the team is an up and coming squad that is chasing a wildcard start in the biggest races. It’s somewhat of an underdog – at least when compared to the teams already in Grand Tours – and he feels that he will be more comfortable in those surroundings.
He also sees a parallel with MTN-Qhubeka two years ago.
“I think especially for hilly races we’ll have a strong team and a really good mix of experienced and young riders,” he explained. “I believe I’ll get the full support from the team, but on the other hand I also have a lot to give back to the team.
“I think it will be similar to MTN-Qhubeka where we had a lot to prove in the beginning and, as time went on, people liked the team more and really started believing in us. I see the same happening at Cult Energy-Stolting Group.”
Now 29 years of age, Ciolek knows that he is coming into his prime years as a bike rider. He has arguably lost a little momentum in the past two seasons and wants to get things back up to speed.
“We want to have a good start from the beginning,” he said, explaining goals. “I don’t have any specific races marked in the calendar yet, but I would like to have a good start and hopefully get some wildcards for the World Tour races.
“We will have more details after the first team get together but that’s the general thinking for me now.”