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PEZ Talk: Austria’s Peter Luttenberger
Austrian Peter Luttenberger had the pro world at his feet in 1996 with a win in the Tour de Suisse and fifth in the Tour de France. But that was as good it got; we caught up with him recently to chat about his career – and what he’s doing now.

PEZ: What do you do for a living now, Peter ?
Peter Luttenberger: I’m running a charity foundation called ‘UnitedWorldTour’. I’m travelling with my bicycle from Austria to Singapore and help poor people on the way. I raise money on my website and Facebook through the aid of sponsors and donations. People can follow the trip online or can even participate. There are no limits, the plan is to not have a plan, everything happens occasionally. I don’t follow any specific route and I don’t have a time window. Now, after travelling through 10 countries and 5000km I’m in Jerusalem and just finished a ‘mission’ by helping a deaf and dumb Bedouin kid from the West Bank with hearing aids and speech therapy.

PEZ: Which teams did you ride for ?
PL: Carrera, Rabobank, ONCE, Tacconi, CSC.

PEZ: Do teams from different nations have their own characteristics? Tell us about them, please.
PL: Yes they do, ‘Latino’ teams are more traditional and stick to old cycling and training traditions like; ‘what has been good for 50 years must be good right now too.’

‘Northern’ teams instead are more open minded. They are very interested to develop new things and improve. In Southern teams you can also notice that there will be always a majority of local riders and staff.

In CSC we had 18 nations from all over the world.

PEZ: You rode for Saiz and Riis, two of the biggest management names in the sport; tell us about them, please.
PL: The two are very ambitious and determined guys with many things in common. They also had big egos and that is not always helpful for them and the team. To go perfectly along with team owners is impossible for a rider because there are too many different interests. Even if they are playing the ‘friendship card,’ for a team owner giving a rider a contract is like buying a share on the stock exchange market. You pay a price for it and speculate that it will give you more back in value. If the share makes you richer, than you love it, but if it doesn’t perform you try do get rid of it as soon as possible. And Friendship will disappear at the same speed it came.

PEZ: Which was your favourite team?
PL: Trying to find the perfect team is a waste of time. As a rider you should find out which team is the best on the ‘market’ and where you can live your ambitions. You should also be aware that times change, what’s good for today, doesn’t mean that it’s good also in two years. I really liked Spain and the mentality, even if the collaboration turned out to be impossible in the second year at ONCE. CSC was a good team to be on because we were great friends and it was always a pleasure go to the races.

PEZ: Which was your favourite race ?
PL: The Tour de France.

PEZ: Which performance gave you the most satisfaction ?
PL: Winning the Tour de Suisse. I was only 23 years old and I won over riders like Bugno and Berzin. Winning is always special.

PEZ: In 1996 you won the Tour de Suisse and were fifth in the Tour de France, that was your best year – but it was your peak.
PL: Like everything I do in my life, I do it great when I do it with passion, and that was definitely the case when I went pro. Because I always wanted to be there and I realised my dream. But after ’96 many things happened and I lost my passion step by step, it was only work to make money. I still liked the bike, but not the rest anymore.

PEZ: Why did you quit when you did ?
PL: I turned pro when I was 21 and after 12 years I had enough. I definitely needed to recover and find something else to do.

PEZ: What was it like being a ‘civilian’ for the first time?
PL: Of course, the biggest change in life, ever. The complete schedule changes, no training is needed anymore. But you also realize what great efforts you have been doing. As a rider you really don’t realize it because everybody around you is doing the same and you think it is normal. But once you step out of this circle you can see how hard this sport really is. It’s not just the racing, also the constant travelling, stress, training, pressure and only three weeks ‘off’ in November.

PEZ: Are you happy to have been in the sport when you were, or would you prefer to be in it, now?
PL: It’s absolutely ‘right’ like it is now. A sports career with all its challenges was for me a preparation to do what I’m doing now and what will come up in the future.

PEZ: Any regrets?
PL: No.

PEZ: What’s your take on the current drugs sagas?
PL: Sport is the mirror of the society that we are living in. Doping exists but before anybody starts pointing the finger against anybody else he should look at himself and what is going on in the ‘real world.’ Corruption and false promises of politicians; the huge disaster and breakdown of the financial world which left millions of people bankrupt due to the high risk speculation of banks; the media knows it’s power and manipulates whole nations. There is an endless list of cases that show you that in every angle of society people are trying to get an advantage, ‘those who are without sin may throw the first stone.’

PEZ: Do you still ride?
PL: I didn’t touch my bike for a year after I stopped in 2006, but now with the UnitedWorldTour I travel around the world with it.

PEZ: Tell us about the Corvette, please.
PL: Being a pro rider means sacrificing your whole life in favour of the sport. There is not much space for pleasure. Having a sportscar and feeling the brutal power of a V8 was one of the luxury things I gave as a gift to myself, but I sold it years ago. Now I’m looking forward to a similar car but powered by hydrogen or other ‘natural’ fuel.


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