Peter Schaupp: World Championship euphoria and the weakness for speed.
The national mountain bike coach will have a lot to look forward to in 2020. There will be the first home world championship in 25 years in Albstadt, there will be the four-year highlight – the Olympic Games in Tokyo. And all this within five weeks. This is reason enough to take a closer look at Peter Schaupp, who has held the position of national coach since 2013. But the Swabian’s connection with MTB sport goes back more than a quarter of a century. His sporting biography is all about one thing above all: speed.
When it comes to Peter Schaupp, you first have to explain to many people in the scene that you talk about “Speedy”. Not the other way around. Where otherwise a nickname can seem disrespectful, in the case of the national cross-country coach it refers to his sporting past. You can take speed literally.
He himself talks about it quite bluntly, but 211 kilometers per hour is a spectacular speed. Not on the motorway, but on skis. Peter Schaupp, who was born in Weissenhorn near Ulm, was a speed skier. Speed skiers are people who simply race down the mountain on two boards as fast as possible. In 1992 the discipline at the Olympic Games was once a so-called demonstration competition – and Schaupp was there.
Peter Schaupp, you were a speed skier. What made you end that career and become a downhill mountain biker?
I had reached my goal of skiing 200 kilometers per hour and I had three falls, so it became kind of dull for me. Besides, I was already downhill biking in the summer anyway which went pretty well. I have a weakness for speed. That’s why I switched from slalom and giant slalom to speed skiing at the age of 26.
In 1995 you were in Kirchzarten, at the last World Championship on German soil.
Yes, of course. At that time, from masters to juniors, everyone cycled on the race track simultaneously. Afterwards, the assessment took place according to the categories. It was my first World Championship and I was fifth, 1.6 seconds behind Walter Brändli from Switzerland. Brändli, that was an animal (laughs). I slid into a tree and had to put my foot down. That was decisive. The course was long, about seven minutes. You were pretty exhausted at the finish.
What is the most memorable thing from this World Championship in Kirchzarten?
The crowds of spectators, it was gigantic.
The 61-year-old tells seemingly crazy stories with calmness, sometimes accompanied by a smile. Like the one about how he let his buddies strap him with skis to the roof of a BMW on the not yet opened A7 motorway to get a feeling for high speed.
Even back then he used the bike for summer training. In 1987, he bought his first mountain bike. And someday he was at the start of a downhill race in Kaprun, Austria, “just for fun”. In 1994, he ended his speed-ski career and switched completely to mountain biking.
After 25 years we have a World Championship in Germany again in Albstadt. How did you take the news when Albstadt won the bid?
To be honest: with a certain euphoria. The other day at the ISPO (sporting goods fair in Munich) I met old colleagues from back then again and said: You absolutely have to come. This could be a kind of revival.
That sounds like a lot of anticipation. But isn’t it also the case that there is additional pressure on you as national coach?
Well, of course there is. We, or rather Albstadt and the German Cyclists’ Federation want to present ourselves from our best side in terms of organization. I’m sure there are great expectations in terms of sport, too, but I can deal with that quite well. We have to prepare ourselves in the best possible way and do our best, also as coaches, then there will be no reason to be nervous. We are also preparing for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, but I think I can handle that.
Speaking of Tokyo. Do you, or rather the athletes, have to make sacrifices for the World Championships because they have to prepare for Tokyo at the same time?
No. We will be preparing specifically for the World Championships and we have scheduled it in such a way that we can deliver the same performance four weeks later. But it’s true, there could be little surprises in Albstadt, because some people are completely focused on Tokyo. But we will certainly be at 100 percent in Albstadt.
It’s not easy what the athletes have to face. The women and the men have not yet secured their second place on the starting grid and therefore have to collect as many points as possible in spring before the World Cup kick-off in Nové Mesto.
Yes, that’s why we are currently in Spain with some of the athletes. There are many different preparation scenarios and we have to make sure that we keep the lead. If nothing goes wrong, if nobody gets sick or injures themselves, everything should be fine and go smoothly.
Without getting burned out early?
You have to aim for both goals. For example, we can’t let Ronja Eibl do the stage races. As a young sportswoman, she can’t put up with that yet. Elisabeth Brandau is a different story, however. Nadine Rieder is also on the right path to serve as a backup. But it’s a bit like a chess game, you have to proceed strategically.
It’s also special that the European Championships in Graz will take place in May, even before there would be a World Cup. How will the nominations be made?
Four HC races and the coach´s judgement are used as criteria.
Let´s get back to the topic of pressure of a home World Championship. How do you see your athletes when it comes to pressure? Especially Ronja Eibl, who is even a local heroine?
I believe that it will not be a problem for Ronja so long as she will be able to prepare herself optimally and everything goes the way she imagined it would. If that is not the case, we have to try to guide a little bit. There might be one or two candidates we have to work with, but the rest can handle that. However, it’s a situation they’ve never had and may never have again in their career. When public television broadcasts and the attention is much greater. Mental coach Hanna Klein will be there to help us with that.
Peter Schaupp started to get his first coaching license in 1996 and supported the then Baden-Württemberg state coach Thomas Schediwie as a technical coach. In 1998, his first son Dennis was born. Due to family and professional demands, the trained energy system electronics engineer stopped his active sports career in 1999. A few years later he became the technical coach of the national team and in 2005 he became the national coach of the U19 national team. In 2013, he took over the position of head coach of the national team, being responsible for the elite and the U23. Right at his first World Championship as the responsible coach, the German Cyclists´ Federation was awarded five times precious metal in Pietermaritzburg – a success the team was never again able to achieve.
We don’t want to speculate about possible World Championship medals at this point. But I guess you would surely accept a result like the one at the World Cup in Les Gets any time, where three Germans stood on the World Cup stage in one day. Was that a tendency or a coincidence?
No, it’s not a coincidence when you stand on the World Cup stage. When you see who was standing there – Ronja Eibl, Max Brandl and Lisa Brandau – you know that they are capable to deliver such performances. Everything has to fit.
After the 2020 season the national team will probably look a little different. Sabine Spitz has already quit, top performers like Manuel Fumic or Markus Schulte-Lünzum have announced their career end, others might follow. How do you see the German cross-country bikers prepared for the future?
We won’t be able to replace all of them. Manuel Fumic in particular, with his sporting prowess, would be irreplaceable right away. It will be difficult to find someone like them. If you look at last year, we have taken a good path. But you shouldn’t expect miracles. With Max Brandl, Georg Egger, Luca Schwarzbauer or Ben Zwiehoff we have people we can help grow and develop.
And what about the ladies?
We have a quite young team besides, and including, Ronja Eibl. That doesn’t look so bad. All in all, I am also hopeful that the changes in the junior classification (U15 and U17) will be well received and that we have a slight increase in the number of participants, at a time when there are declines in other sports, even in football.
Father of Dennis (22) and Julian (18)
Role: National Coach Elite
As speed skier: took part in the Olympic demonstration competition Albertville in 1992, personal record 211 km/h
As Downhiller: 3rd of the Masters World Championships 1998 German Champion in the Masters category 1998
Since end of 2005 National Coach U19
Since 2013 National Coach Elite
Further information on: www.wm2020albstadt.de