A few months ago, we decided together with our riders on a trip to Eastern Europe. Thousands of kilometers in the car on the road, two exhausting tours in quick succession: Belgrade - Banjaluka (UCI 2.1) and Tour of Croatia (also 2.1). No optimal conditions for maximum performance, but logistically and financially only so feasible. From Banjaluka it should go directly to the Tour of Croatia.
The riders had prepared for weeks for this tour, it was a highlight in the race calendar. Then, while Banjaluka came the message: Croatia will be canceled. The organizers have quarreled and a former colleague managed to sabotage the race at the last minute. The planning for several hundred riders, staff, flights, vehicle transfers, overnight stays were canceled.
In Banjaluka the BIKE AID riders rocked the tour and Aaron Grosser made his first big appearance. He missed his first UCI win by a hair's breadth. Nevertheless, the riders were a little frustrated on the journey home: hours of driving, no Tour of Croatia, more hard training hours to keep the shape until the next race.
Behind the scenes, Timo Schäfer tried to somehow open up an alternative, but that hardly seemed possible in the short time. But somewhere on the way back between Salzburg and Munich, the phone rang: "Can you come to the Tour of Mersin tomorrow?". What? How should this work logistically? Riders like Peter Koning first had to go back to Amsterdam, Adne van Engelen to Rotterdam, Aaron to Hamm, Justin to Dortmund, the jerseys dirty in the suitcase, no staff planned.
What happened in the intervening hours? Well, we better not go into that at this point. But one night later somehow all BIKE AID riders started to arrive in a hotel on the Turkish Mediterranean coast. In the luggage everyone had at least a jersey set and a bike - absolute minimum equipment.
None of the great glamor that professional cycling wants to arouse: no mechanics, who every day again draw from boxes full of material to mount new chains on the polished high-gloss machines. Everything lined up nicely in front of large 40 - tonne material trucks, while the riders in the luxury touring coach set their feet up at a comfortable temperature.
This appearance is deceptive even at the Tour de France, if you look around in the dark. Not infrequently then park the shiny vehicles before but rather worn Formule 1 - hotels. Cycling is not tennis, people like to say.
A bit tired from the travel stress, 6 BIKE AID riders start the first stage the next day. It is mountainous, heavy terrain and Peter Koning and Lucas Carstensen are in a promising top group. In the end, however, the mountains are too hard for Sprinter Lucas and Peter too is not a proven climber, he just manages to finish with the group, making him the BIKE AID rider for the overall standings. Elmar Hantzsch was able to jump in as a sports director at short notice, jump on the plane and now has his hands full, so everything runs on site.
But exactly at the point shows once again the quality of our team and what great guys ride together here bike race. If the circumstances are difficult, and if one were to say with the eyes of a "normal athlete" "I can not claim the best," then our boys flourish, toughened by much more difficult experiences in the deepest Africa. A group can resign at such moments or grow in tasks.
The next day is 192km on the program and in the end Aaron Grosser drives first across the finish line, his first UCI victory. How is this possible? The whole team said "we get the best out of here". An entire team has harnessed themselves for the youngest ridder. Aaron has thus achieved the best results of his young career in the last two races, but probably also made the biggest steps in his development as a cyclist.
Tied by this spirit, the guys now also forged a plan on how to properly position Peter Koning on the third stage. Just 67km long, but over 2,200 vertical meters and a mountain arrival: just the thing for Dutchmen.
The sprinter Aaron Grosser himself provided the final pace improvement in the climb before Peter Koning switched to the time trial mode and Mental somehow faded out the uphill road. The Belarusian Branislau Samoilau, who until then had been wearing the yellow jersey, tried to stay at the back of Peter for a few kilometers, but gave up frustrated and Peter Koning could finally win in the solo stage win and take over the yellow jersey.
Make no mistake on the last stage, control everything as a team, and then it's time for the day: overall victory for Peter Koning at the Tour of Mersin. Aaron Grosser rounded off the result with second place in the daily result.
Peter Koning is not a young rider, already drove the Vuelta Espagna, has already experienced a lot in cycling. But he could not decide a tour GC so far. Because this requires a team that works together without any restrictions and that's what our guys did again and makes us proud.
Just kidding: 3 days left, then the next stage race is on.