Contributed by Nelson Hansen
The 24 year-old neo-pro’s punchy climbing style attracted Garmin’s attention two years ago when he went toe to toe with Francisco Mancebo at Mexico’s Tour of Chihuahua. This year, cycling fans have been seeing the Canadian jersey at the front of the bunch, where Meier has been putting his nose in the wind as part of his duties as a domestique.
Meier has been at the front, working hard for Garmin all season.
Meier took PEZ contributor Nelson Hansen for a quick 40km spin before sitting down for an interview. Quiet and focused, Christian Meier opened up to PEZ on his experiences as a first year rider on the ProTour, his ambitions for himself and the sport, and what it means to be a Canadian in the pro peloton.
You’re Canada’s national cycling champion, shouldn’t you be playing hockey?
Ha ha! I have actually never followed hockey in my life. I hope that’s not a bad thing and I’m not disrespectful but there’s more to Canada than just hockey.
Nothing like a little dirt to make any ride a little more entertaining!
This is your first full year on the ProTour, how did you catch Garmin’s attention?
2 years ago at the Tour of Chihuahua in Mexcio I was 2nd overall, essentially tied for 1st with Francisco Mancebo. That was a very mountainous race at altitude. Johnny Weltz was there with the Garmin guys and I think he liked what he saw. We got talking and got to know each other a bit. That year the team was already full. We kept in touch over the winter and I got to talking with Jonathan Vaughters about potentially joining as a stagiaire. My team (Symmetrics) was going through some tough times financially and I did the 2nd half of last year with Garmin as a stagiaire, and they liked what they saw enough to sign me to a contract.
Meier working hard on the front.
What was your inspiration when you were getting started a few years ago?
When I was with the Symmetrics team in Vancouver I just had to look to my team for inspiration. Svein Tuft was always a big inspiration to me. He has such potential to do great things. He got 2nd at the worlds and I think 7th at the Olympics. It was right there in front of me. I trained with the guy all the time, we lived together and we were neighbours. To have that right there in front of me I realized that it was possible. I could race at the top level of the sport and I could do it clean. That made me realize that it my goals were real and attainable.
How is your first year on the ProTour shaping up?
It’s going very well. I’m doing a lot of cool races. This being my first year, the main thing is to just get the experience of racing those big races. I’m racing against guys that have done Liege-Bastonne-Liege or Amstel Gold 6 or 7 times. I read that when guys like the Schlecks or Damiano Cunego did those races for their first time they finished 100th or 110th, it’s not like they won them on their first try. Gaining experience of the courses and how those races play out is the big thing for me this year. I still try to find my way into a break when I can.
At the start of his first Liege-Bastogne-Liege with Jason Donald.
You did find your way into the break on a big day at the Dauphinй Libйrй, what was that experience like?
That was really cool because when you are away in the break you can relax and take things in a bit. I got an appreciation of the history of the roads I was racing on. I know that 80 years ago there was probably a rider going up the Col du Galibier on a 300km stage and that we were both probably experiencing the same things. It’s such a crazy experience to think that you’re going through the same experience and pain even though it’s 80 years apart.
Meier easing his way down the stairs after the sign-in for his first Paris-Tours last year with David Zabriskie.
You came from Symmetrics, arguably Canada’s best ever team. When it came to doping they had a philosophy very much similar to Garmin Slipstream, how did that prepare you for your new team?
There’s so much emphasis on racing clean now, but that was always my experience. Symmetrics had a strong anti-doping stance, so when I signed on to Garmin it really wasn’t a big deal at all. When I hear a lot of the talk about doping it’s really kind of foreign to me. I’m hoping that soon journalists will be writing about the epic battles that are taking place on the roads because that’s the beauty of cycling. I think this is the generation that’s going to clean up the sport and not just the cyclists. I think that this generation of riders and managers and soigneurs is going to be the generation that really makes a big differnce.
As a sponsor, Garmin has a pretty neat product, do you use yours much?
It’s amazing, it’s so cool. With the maps when I go somewhere I can train immediately. If I’m in a foreign country I’m not wasting time finding a road to ride on or worrying if I’m going to get lost. I just hit the road and hammer. I click back to start and it points me back home. It’s a big time saver when I need to get things done. It’s pretty cool.
Christian will be looking to defend his Canadian National title this weekend in Beauce.
As Canadian champion how are you received in Europe?
Canadians are always received well in Europe. Steve Bauer and Michael Barry have always represented Canada well in the peleton. The jersey is kind of funny, I’ve been mistaken for the Swiss national champion before.
Christian Meier’s stay in Canada will be brief but busy as he’s headed to Beauce, Quebec to defend his national title. After Beauce it’s back to Girona where Meier lives with his fiance whom he credits with taking care of the high maintanence needs of a professional cyclist. Cycling fans should keep an eye out for one of Canada’s brightest cycling stars as he just may find his way into a winning break at this year’s Vuelta.
Looking for more? Keep up with Christian on Twitter!