Hans-Michael Holczer: "The value of what we have achieved is higher than ever before."

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18.12.2007 / Despite the current crisis of pro cycling in Germany, team Gerolsteiner had a strong year. On September 4, main sponsor Gerolsteiner announced the company will not renew its contract with the team, which will end on December 31, 2008. Cyclingheroes spoke with Gerolsteiner's team manager Hans-Michael Holczer.

Copyright Cyclingheroes
Gerolsteiner's Davide Rebellin won this years Fleche Wallonne (picture: Cyclingheroes)

Cyclingheroes: Main sponsor Gerolsteiner will pull out by the end of the 2008 season. How is your search for a new sponsor progressing?

Hans-Michael Holczer: Diverse. We are in talks with potential main sponsors – of which some have already backed out – as well as with agencies promoting the team and investors.

Cyclingheroes: During this year's Tour de France the MPCC (Mouvement Pour un Cyclisme Crédible) has been founded. The Dutch teams Rabobank and Skil-Shimano have joined the MPCC in addition to the founding members T-Mobile, Gerolsteiner and the French Pro Tour teams in the meantime. What are the objectives of the MPCC and how are they supposed to be accomplished?

Hans-Michael Holczer: Basically it is about implementing the Code Éthique with no argument. Building upon a high level of transparency we try to share information among each other and exchange views in terms of an ethical stance with regard to doping. All teams have thoroughly approved of the biological passport and the ADAMS system [editor's note: WADA's Anti-Doping Administration & Management System]. These schemes alone, however, can not resolve the problem that doping presents for cycling. Only in combination with an ethical approach of the team managers can this become possible.

Cyclingheroes: Have you been surprised by the withdrawal of sponsor T-Mobile?

Hans-Michael Holczer: I never comment on this kind of incidents in other teams.

Cyclingheroes: Looking beyond all the problems of cycling in general: Are you satisfied with your team's performance in 2007?

Hans-Michael Holczer: Yes. While our list of achievements is noticeably shorter, the value of what we have achieved – two wins in the classics, our first German championships, a bronze medal at the worlds, and the second place in the ProTour rankings – is higher than ever before.

Cyclingheroes: What do you think about Stephan Schreck and Mathias Frank the newcomers in your team?

Hans-Michael Holczer: Stephan Schreck is a reliable and experienced professional. He is to capitalize on his strengths in the pavé classics. Mathias Frank is a young talent from Switzerland with great potential particularly in the mountains.

Cyclingheroes: Which are the main aims for your team in the coming season?

Hans-Michael Holczer: The same as in 2007: spring classics, Tour de France and Tour of Germany.

Cyclingheroes: Does the 2008 route of the Tour de France suit you?

Hans-Michael Holczer: Most of all, I find it remarkable that the organizers made an unambiguous statement in terms of stage lengths. Surely, the stages won't get less demanding, though. It is known from experience that shorter stages are ridden harder right from the start. Yet, the time that all riders involved and staff gain for recreation and work respectively is remarkable and appropriate.

Copyright Team Gerlosteiner
Hans-Michael Holczer
Name: Holczer
First name: Hans-Michael
Place of residence: Herrenberg (Germany)
Date of birth: 22.12.1953
Maritial status: Married, three children, two grandchildren
Learned profession: Teacher of history and mathematics

Gerolsteiner ends sponship by the end of 2008.
In a press release of September 4, 2007 main Sponsor Gerolsteiner announced that the company will not renew its contract with the team. Here is the full press release:
"We will fulfill our contract with Team Gerolsteiner until the end of 2008 as agreed. We will not however renew the contract," says Jörg Croseck, head of marketing and distribution at the Gerolsteiner Brunnen GmbH & Co. KG. "The decision was not taken lightly and only after careful deliberation on whether it will in future still be possible to reach our consumers and inspire them through cycling sports. The future of the company with its 800 employees is, as always, at the core of our decision making."

The date for this decision was set in spring and was prearranged with
Hans-Michael Holczer in order for both partners to retain the highest possible degree of planning reliability beyond 2008.

The change from mineral water specialist to “provider of natural, non-alcoholic refreshing beverages” is Gerolsteiner's answer to the increasingly tough competition on the national beverage market, and so far it has been successful. In the last two years products with the most promising turnover and sales perspectives were introduced to the market: Gerolsteiner Moment, Naturell plus Fruit and Linée products. The target is to clearly increase the circle of Gerolsteiner consumers. Cycling sports however plays only a subordinate part in the interest spectrum of these consumers. "We will in future have to position ourselves far more widely, whereas before our marketing efforts were concentrated on mineral water. This repositioning has already started in some areas, such as for instance in TV-spots," says Croseck.

The recent doping occurrences are thus not the basis for the decision made by Gerolsteiner. They did however serve to temporarily devalue cycling sports as a communications-platform.

Hans-Michael Holczer's team is the hope for the future in German cycling sports.

Since its founding in 1998 Team Gerolsteiner has gone through a most impressive development. To the public the team not only stands for success but also for team spirit, honesty and naturalness. Current studies show that Team Gerolsteiner is regarded as the most likable team in German cycling sports. Especially in view of recent developments in cycling sports, the public regards the team with its many young German riders to be the future of the sport, the great hope for German cycling.

Company manager Jörg Croseck: "We are convinced that Hans-Michael Holczer will manage to find a new partner. With his strict and believable anti-doping stance and the team's image he is in an excellent position for negotiations. We will without restrictions live up to the partnership until the contract runs out in 16 months time. The team will have our full support."

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