In my first few installments of Chatter, I want to look at some of the
stories that didn't make it into the print version of the Klier
interview in Issue 02 (February 2011) peloton. (JG)
No matter how many times I might tell myself otherwise, that professional cyclists are just normal people, it's never any less intimidating to pick one up at the airport that you've never met before after a training camp, crazy day of travel, and just after finding out that his bike hasn't shown up. Such was my unsettling predicament when I met Garmin-Cervelo's Andreas Klier for the first time back in December.
Going along with most of my life experiences, conversation doesn't seem to take off too quickly when the guy you picked up is exhausted and had his return flight home to his family delayed to do a one day photo shoot in Belgium in the middle of winter. Klier defied expectation though and after a few moments of silence, began to warm up in exactly the opposite way that the weather outside wasn't. Perhaps it had something to do with the large bag of rice tarts that I had purchased and clumsily offered him, or maybe he just felt bad for me, but either way, we had an enjoyable chat on the way home.
A little while after we returned, we sat down in the lobby of the Hotel Molenwiek with beer(s) and some cheese. Despite the insanity of his travel schedule, despite the fact that his bike had not arrived, Klier was happy. The Munich native has lived in Mallorca for a couple of years now, but there’s no questioning the fact that his heart was and will always be in Flanders.
We talked about the next morning’s photoshoot, and he chuckled, “That’s if I get a bike! Otherwise, we’ll be doing this in running shoes. That will be ok, right?” He sat back, smiled quietly (he does everything quietly), took a sip of his Ename blonde beer, nodded with a bemused smile at the ice and snow billowing outside the window, no doubt wondering how we’d ever get up the Koppenberg in a few hours with or without the bike, and then we began.
He told some amazing stories, but with each one, you knew there was more. His mouth detailed the basics of the tales, but his eyes promised so much more. You look at him and you understand that there are some stories and knowledge, that just aren’t meant for repeating, especially to a magazine. After all, a man who spent hundreds of thousands of kilometers on the roads of Flanders and trained and studied under a legend - Peter Van Petegem - who arguably knew the tiny country lanes, cobbled monsters, and secrets of the lands better than anyone, has some things reserved for only those that earn it.
Speaking of Peter Van Petegem, Van Petegem himself made a young Klier earn his way into the vaunted Flandrian's training group. A two-time Ronde van Vlaanderen winner, Peter Van Petegem was always known as a rider that knew the roads of the Tour of Flanders better than arguably anyone else. After a rocky start, it was under the tutelage of Van Petegem, that Andreas Klier would begin his education and subsequent evolution into the curator of all roads Flanders. Klier did so well in the school of Van Petegem, that he ended up with a nickname. As I mentioned in the print version of the interview with the Garmin-Cervelo road captain, it's GPS. Seems pretty fitting for a rider racing for Garmin, no?
Jered Gruber: How was it getting started in Belgium?
Andreas Klier: The first three or four months in Belgium were not so easy, but it got better of course. I met my wife, my girlfriend at the time, right before I moved to Belgium. I told her that I was moving to Belgium. She was at the University in Munich, and then she worked. Every free chance I got, I would jump in the car and drive the 900 kilometers, sometimes overnight, to be with her. Sometimes I would drive after finishing my training, sometimes just for half a day. I wanted to be with her. I was here alone.
(At this point, Klier points to his best friend from Belgium, former professional Christophe Stevens. Christophe had made the very short drive from his home in Geraardsbergen to see his friend and former
Klier: The first three months I couldn't train with him and Van Petegem, because Van Petegem didn't allow it.
JG: Van Petegem didn't allow it?
Klier: Yeah, he didn't allow me to train with him. I don't really know why. When you're in Belgium, Germans don't always have the best name because of the two World Wars. Why should Van Petegem train with some young German rider anyway?
JG: How did you become friends with Christophe?
Klier: We met each other on the bike for the first time. It was my first day. I got here at one in the morning.
(Christophe chimes in: He was wearing this ridiculous beanie. That's how I remember him.)
Klier continues: That was just before Van Petegem was second in the World Championships in Valkenburg. He was at his best, and I was just finishing a four week break. I got here in the middle of the night, moved all of my furniture into my house, then my sport director, I don't know why he was there, told me that we were training at nine in the morning. Somebody is going to pick you up he told me. I shrugged, ok. What the hell, it was the week before Valkenburg and Van Petegem was really good, and I was really shit. I got lost in the fog in the forest.
(Christophe laughs at the memory: He got dropped. We were still training hard at the end of the season, and he was just getting back into training. We were going really hard up one of these hills, and it was so foggy, he couldn't find us.)
Klier: That was the first and the last time I got to ride with Van Petegem for three months.
(Christophe laughs: All I remember is that big beanie.)
Klier smiles sheepishly: After that, we always trained together, five or six of us.
Stay tuned for more Klier, including his plans for an "outdoor-focused" retirement...