Lord Mayor Klaus Konzelmann
With the 20th interview with Klaus Konzelmann, Lord Mayor of Albstadt, the series 20 heads for 2020 ends one and a half weeks before the original date of the 2020 UCI Mountain Bike Cross-Country World Championships presented by Mercedes-Benz in Albstadt. Unfortunately, the World Championships cannot take place in Germany due to the Corona Pandemic and had to be cancelled a few weeks ago with a heavy heart. According to the motto “What you start, you should finish”, the interview series was continued and people from the “World Cup circus”, the cycling industry, associations, politics and local celebrities with various connections to mountain biking and the World Championships were brought closer to the readers.
We would like to thank all interview partners for their time and openness as well as the various media for their willingness to print these texts. Special thanks go to our media partner the Schwarzwälder Bote and our advertising agency Atelier Türke who were always available for advice and support during the conception and implementation.
Finally, we would like to thank Erhard Goller who had the original idea for this series, selected the interesting interview partners, contacted them and conducted the interviews via videotelephony, telephone or in person. Without him this series would not have been possible.
The series 20 heads for 2020 will be completed by Lord Mayor Klaus Konzelmann. The mayor was responsible for the cancellation of the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Albstadt, which the Swabian Alb and the German MTB community had been looking forward to for a long time. The Albstadt native explains in the interview why the cancellation could not be avoided, and that he continues to focus on mountain biking and the World Cup, and admits that he has not yet completely given up his dream of a World Championship in Albstadt.
On April 30, the city of Albstadt, in agreement with the UCI and the German Cyclists’ Federation, cancelled the Cross-Country World Championships in Albstadt, which had originally been scheduled for the end of June. The Austrian Leogang, with whom Albstadt have cooperated in marketing and communication, is now organising the Downhill World Championships with those in Cross-Country in October. Actually, this was supposed to be the excited outlook on the World Championships, but now the the topic of the series’ end will be the cancellation.
Mr Konzelmann, we are talking on the phone at a difficult time. How do you experience the Corona pandemic as mayor?
Well, basically I had more time to be at City Hall than usual, because almost all the events I would have attended were cancelled. But of course it was difficult in the past months because we had to react promptly to short-term requests from Berlin or Stuttgart. It will certainly take a long time until normality returns, but so far we have managed to cope quite well.
And then there were the planned Mountain Bike World Championships in Albstadt, which we had been looking forward to for years.
What happened with the Worlds was tough. I’ll tell you how it is: there’s a lot of heart and soul in it and it almost tore me apart. When I phoned Minister of State Theresa Schopper and was told that we couldn’t host a major event in autumn, we couldn’t help but cancel. A Worlds in Albstadt without spectators is unthinkable. Leogang (substituting Albstadt in October) can perhaps do that, but for us it would be an absurdity.
For financial reasons?
Also, yes. The proposal of the UCI (World Cycling Union) was to strive for a replacement date in October. But then came the statement from Ms. Schopper, who even said that there might not even be Christmas markets. Only recently, Social Minister Manfred Lucha confirmed again in an interview that major events would probably not be able to take place until the end of 2020. We can’t keep any distance rules in Bullentäle either, that’s impossible. The atmosphere there is what makes our event what it is. BDR President Rudolf Scharping expressed understanding. We would have had to make investments of just under 750,000 euro if we had chosen a replacement date, and that would have been a real problem.
The cancellation of the World Cup is one thing. But the World Cup applications for 2021 and 2022 are not completely unaffected by this.
We have signalled to the UCI during the negotiations about the contract cancellation that we want to organize the World Cup next year and the year after next. Since 2013 we have built up something that we do not want to give up. In addition: World Cup is also an economic factor and club promotion. The clubs that were always present at the World Cup, not only the RSG Zollernalb, but also the Stadtkapelle Tailfingen, the Turnverein Truchtelfingen, the Narrenzunft Schlossbergturm and so on, for them the World Cup is a significant support. The Stadtkapelle uses the money to buy instruments for its youngsters, the gymnastics club pays its instructors and so on. This is another reason why we need the World Cup. Apart from the food service industry. They say, when the respective date is known publicly, it’s fully booked. This is not only true for Albstadt, but also up to Reutlingen.
The history of top-class cross-country sports at the event site in Bullentäle begins in 2005 with the German championships. This was followed by another German championship 2006, international Bundesliga races with Olympic champions as winners and in 2008 also a European Marathon Championship.
When Willingen in the Sauerland region of Germany decided not to host a World Cup event in 2012, the city of Albstadt showed courage and applied for the hosting of a 2013 World Cup race with the support of the German Cyclists’ Federation. In the end, only seven months were left for the preparations. The organizers succeeded in this feat and a seven-year World Cup history began in Albstadt. In January 2017 – at the second attempt – Albstadt won the bid to host the World Championships.
So the World Cup has become a location factor?
Also for our tourism concept, which we have been developing in Albstadt for ten years. With hiking, outdoor and above all mountain biking. If we get the contract and the local council agrees, which I assume it will, then we’ll have to improve the tourism and marketing network even more. This concern has also reached the local council. The term “Bikezone Albstadt” should have a recognition value for the viewer. Albstadt as a bike destination, that has to become even more visible. We have invested a great deal and must reap the rewards with foresight.
Are you thinking of combining top-class and popular sport with bike tourism?
If we win the bid for the two World Cups, we will have to combine this more. Almost five years ago we started with the city marketing concept under the motto “Living. Far beyond normal”, in which tourism must also be integrated. The bikezone, the eaves, the World Cup, all of that has to be linked. Appropriate added value has to emerge from this. Albstadt, hiking, eaves, bikezone, World Cup, it’s all connected.
The German mountain bikers naturally hope that the World Cup will continue in Albstadt. But let’s talk about you personally, Mr Konzelmann. What does your own sportive biography look like?
You will laugh. A week and a half ago I was looking for something in my study and came across a folder with sports certificates from my childhood (laughs).
Interesting. And what did you find in it?
In fact, I discovered that on 14th May 1972, at the tender age of almost ten years, I made 14th place in a road race in Ebingen. (laughs). I knew that we used to ride a bicycle race. I still have an older brother and an older sister (and a younger sister). We actually took part in a bicycle race. Whether my affinity for mountain biking in the Bullentäle originates from this, I can no longer say for sure (laughs).
And beyond this one cycling experience?
I always wanted to play football, but my father never wanted that. He didn’t want me to spend every Sunday at the football field with my family. My brother and I were in athletics, but apart from the Gaukinderfests (gymnastics event for children) we didn’t compete. I am generally not a good athlete. The only thing I am good at is skiing.
And as for cycling?
I have had an e-mountain bike for two years now and I ride it quite a lot. It’s so much fun. I never thought I’d ride so much bike again. My significant other already had one a year before and I rode the trekking bike. But I couldn’t keep up. Then I discussed it with Stephan Salscheider and I bought one. Over Whitsun we were also on the road twice.
And what about alpine skiing, do you still do that?
Yes. Ever since it’s no longer possible here in the Alb, I go to the Alps every year.
In Albstadt the bike marathon is already cult. Were you there, too?
I never took part in a race before. I’m not that fit. As Lord Mayor I was offered to ride in the lead car, but I have always stood at the track before and so I continued to do so. The first stop is at the top of Degerfeld, then to the ski jump in Onstmettingen and earlier to the Hasenwinkel in Truchtelfingen, there it goes steeply downhill and then immediately up again, a very prominent point. There I always had to get my brother-in-law something to drink – red wine spritzer mixed with an egg, that’s what the Tour de France riders used to do. He always said he needed it before the last climb. But now they don’t ride there anymore, the route has been eased a bit. I’ve always been at the finish in Kiesinger Square though. It’s also a great event.
And at the World Cup?
Sure. That fascinates me. The large number of spectators, the enthusiasm. The way the athletes get pushed, even though they’re hard-core professionals. When thousands of people cheer, especially at the spots you can overtake. I really enjoy it a lot.
Do you have secret favourite riders?
Of course Ronja Eibl inspires me. Last year I was really excited about how she did last year (second in the U23 race).
Of course it also hurts that she can’t ride at the world championship. Especially since she comes from close by and rides for the RSG. My partner is Swiss and of course she roots for Switzerland. A few years ago, when there were alphorn players, she liked it, of course. And the fact that Jolanda Neff as Swiss woman won, of course, too.
Speaking of alphorn players. The World Cup also includes the atmosphere surrounding it.
For example, when I see the people from TV Truchtelfingen who run the campsite up at the Bol sports ground. The management team of the gymnastics club goes to Switzerland on a regular basis. Friendships have developed, that’s also nice. What comes to my mind in this context is that the chairwoman of the TVT, Kerstin Conzelmann, told me that many who booked for the World Championships and made partial prepayments have waived a refund. This is a great gesture.
Let us once again talk about an outlook. When will it be clear whether Albstadt will host the eighth World Cup event?
Probably this month. The local council will have to confirm this, but according to the statements of the last meeting, they are also supporting it.
Do you already think beyond 2022?
The 2026 World Championships would be a dream come true. That would be the earliest time we could reapply. But six years pass quickly and you have to apply much earlier. The grounds are there, people ride on them all year round. We are constantly working on improving our mountain bike offer in the Bikezone. My daughter and my son-in-law were here over Whitsun, they did the calf biter trail and told us that an incredible number of people were on these trails. That’s great. As I said, the connection has to be made – also in the interest of the economy, the food service industry, which is now also heavily shaken. Guests for one day and guests for several days. We have to give Albstadt another boost as an outdoor destination, as the outdoor destination on the Swabian Alb.
Short profile Klaus Konzelmann
Born in: Albstadt-Truchtelfingen
Profession: Degree in Public Administration FH police
Function: Lord Mayor of Albstadt
Photos: Armin Küstenbrück