Team Volksbank is the first ever Professional continental team to come out of Austria and they have grown from very humble beginnings in 1999 into the multi national squad they are today. They now race internationally against the big teams in Pro Tour events like the Tour of Germany along with other races all over the world. The long term main sponsor Volksbank (Austrian people’s bank) has been joined by numerous small sponsors including Ideal bikes, and even an American sponsor in Xango juice. Riders from the team come from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, USA, Greece and New Zealand making the team truly international.
Pez followed Pascal in the DTour’s stage 7 TT, where Pascal finished a not-too-shabby 57th.
We interviewed the Swiss, Pascal Hungerbuhler straight after his performance in Stage 7’s time trial of the Tour of Germany.
Pez: You looked pretty good out there today, pretty smooth I thought.
Pascal: I looked good, yeah? Thanks. I’m always looking good on the bike (laughing). I wanted to give all I can today, but it was hard.
Pez: You went all out?
Pascal: Ya, but it was hard. Heart rate could not go over my, how do you say….
Pascal: Yes, heart rate didn’t come up over it, cause maybe I am too tired. Maybe sitting on 164 today.
Pez: And what’s your threshold normally?
Pascal: Maybe 174, 175. So it was actually not too good. 8 stages I think with yesterday was really hard, maybe I am too tired.
Judging by his relaxed demeanor, you’d think Pascal was an old pro.
Pez: Overall, how have you found your first Protour race?
Pascal: Great, really great (smiling), you see the spectators? Anywhere, big crowds and it’s great with all the big riders. For me the race is actually not too hard, I mean the finish like yesterday was hard (big mountain stage) but I think sometimes in the smaller races there are more smaller riders, bigger motivation they want to get more results and there is more hectic and more chaos. Sometimes these races are more harder and more crazy. I think in these races (Protour) the races are more…..structured? With more control.
Pez: How have you been accepted as a rider in a smaller team by the big teams here?
Pascal: Actually, I think not too bad. I thought we would be less accepted, but it has been okay. I respect the riders here with the big results….but they are only riders, you know? I can attack when I can here (Pascal was very aggressive throughout the whole tour) and if somebody says something to me that is not right then I can give it back….(laughing)
Pez: What for you has been the highlight of the race so far?
Pascal: Yesterday, from the High category mountain where I overtook Vinokourov (smiling) and I sprinted for the sprint of the mountain. [Pez note: this interview was conducted the day before Pascal’s superb 100km breakaway on the last stage with 2 others when he was caught with only 15km to go].
Pez: And the lowlight of the tour? Has there been any?
Pascal: Actually, no, not really. Always special fun and it is a great event. I like it.
Pez: And the team itself? What were your goals going into the tour?
Pascal: We hoped to get into the small groups, the TV groups I call them, the ones that go at the beginning of the race and getting as much as possible TV time. Unfortunately we didn’t get too much of it, maybe the first stage and two days ago when we made the pace in the peloton.
Pez: And do you think your sponsors are happy?
Pascal: Aaggh, I hope so! We have tried hard. (I’m sure they would have been happy with Pascal’s 3 hours in front on TV the next day during the final stage)
Pascal wins the ‘Rund um den Flughafen Kцln-Bonn’ – a race even harder to ride than it is to pronounce.
Pez: Ok, trip back in time now to 2004 and possibly your biggest win of your career at the ‘Rund um den Flughafen Kцln-Bonn’. A UCI 1.3 category race and you were up against some big teams (Gerolsteiner, De Nardi, Mr Bookmaker to name a few) take us through the day.
Pascal: We were present in the groups from the beginning and it was really hectic. It was a hard circuit, always up and down, up and down with a lot of wind. Finally we were 3 of us (Volksbank) in a 20 – 25 rider group. It was just a good situation and we went for every sprint, there were some sprints for prizes and we went for it. Then on the mountain they attacked and there was a group and I chased them and joined them and then there was 10 riders and 2 of us. For the final, 25km I worked for my team mate for the sprint because the last kms were flat and I didn’t want anybody to leave the group as I thought that Harry(former Austrian champion, Harald Morscher) could win. I was always making pace and I covered all the attacks. I then made the pace again and I looked behind and nobody was with me and I thought, ok let’s go! With 2km to go I was getting very nervous and with 1km to go one rider came to me and the rest of the group was 15 seconds, maybe 25 seconds behind. I got nervous and really nervous and more nervous again and then came the sprint and it was uphill a little bit. I was concentrating on the position of him and I had the first position in the sprint which was really bad. I thought, Ok I must sprint and I choose the good gear and then I went up the hill and I started to sprint harder and harder and then I saw him come out of my windshade and I thought, ‘no, no, you don’t pass me’(laughing) and he came to my bottom bracket and he was coming coming, coming and then I push harder again and I see him lose contact and that was it. (huge smiles)
Pez: At the time, that ride pushed you into the top 250 places in the UCI(now defunct) rider’s tally. Not bad for a rider from a 3rd division team?
Pascal: It was a good position, ya. Maybe it was even a bit higher than that. I can’t really remember…
Pez: For a small team, how do you go about getting rides in big races, such as the Tour of Germany?
Pascal: Aaaghh, it’s hard. We always look for wildcards and sometimes we don’t know where the next race will be or when.
Pez: Obviously the bigger races are better for your sponsors too. Do you know if your team has got any more big races coming up?
Pascal: Yes we have the Zuri-Metzgete (Zurich world cup) coming up. That will be the highlight for me. 10ks from my hometown.
Pez: You would obviously know the course very well. Do you think it is a circuit that suits you?
Pascal: I have looked sometimes at the course, again, again and again and I like it. It is going to be a really, really hard race. I think I will like it…..I hope I will like it in the race (laughing), hopefully it will not rain though and the weather will be good.
Pez: Anything can happen in Switzerland though.
Pascal: Ya, it is Switzerland in October (1st) we can hope (smiling).
Pez: Well, thanks for your time Pascal and all the best for Zurich. We will all be hoping that you ride well in your hometown.
Pascal: Thanks, I hope I go well too!
• Check out Pascal’s Homepage
• And his team’s website: Team-Volksbank.com