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By Gabriella Ekstrom
Bio: Stefan Adamsson
Date of Birth: January 3, 1978
The cycling ladder
Division I Team: The 22 teams that have the right to start in all World Cup races.
Division II Team: The category of teams that together with Div 1 makes up the "real" trade teams.
Division III Team: Not considered a "real" trade team, it remains a category of it's own.
Amateur Team: The class of different amateur teams might differ a lot, Team Mälarenergi/Wirsbo mentioned in the text is one of the more successful clubs.
Local Club: Where most of us first learn how painful it can be to have your feet attached to the pedals.
Hockey: Swedish National Sport where big fellas beat each other up.
Örebro: Its citizens are well known in the rest of Sweden for their whining accent.
You wanna be a pro? You think you got what it takes to make it all the way? I spoke to Swedish Champion Stefan Adamsson about the different levels of racing and ambition in the world of cycling. Which is the right path to stardom and success? Here is what we found out during our two hour chat.
CN: I happen to know that both your father and your grandfather were successful cyclists in their days. Your father Anders Adamson rode in the Giro d'Italia in 1982, and your grandfather Owe won the Swedish Championships for four consecutive years. I assume this must have affected your choice of sport when your were young?
SA: Of course. I always knew what I wanted to become. A hockey pro!
CN: Scuse me? A hockey pro?
SA: Yeah, that was what I wanted to be. My grandfather wanted me to try cycling though, and I thought it could always improve my condition , which I needed on the ice. I started to ride when I was 11, and then often with my dad. I joined a local club, Örebrocyklisterna. I rode my first races the same autumn, but it was not seriously meant.
CN: So when did it get more serious?
SA: Probably in my first year as a junior. I quit the hoc
key, I wasn't big enough anyway. I was contacted by the national team selector in the autumn the year before I would turn junior, and I rode my two junior years as part of the national team. I have NO results on my own as a junior, but I performed decently I guess. I had already decided that this was what I was going to do, now when the hockey was out of the picture and all.
It's really nice when they call you and want you to ride in the national team of course, it means you've done something right, and it triggers you to train even more.
I started my first years as a senior with Örebrocyklisterna, and I was doing my last six months in school then so it suited me fine. Then after I had finished school I got a call from Patrick Serra, manager of the amateur team Team Wirsbo (now Team Mälarenergi today) He asked me if I wanted to come and ride for him. Frankly he said: "You won't get any money, and you won't get much food, but you get to ride!"
In July I moved to Västerås and joined Team Wirsbo. It was a bit tough to move to another city when I was 19, but I got my first normal job through Wirsbo that year. I worked for six months as a helmet informator.
Wirsbo takes part in a lot of international races every, so I was racing with them in Spain and France for example. I remember racing against Salvatore Commesso in 1997. He was brutal!
I rode with Wirsbo the next year too, but then we had lost riders like Marcus Ljungqvist (Team Fakta today) and Martin Rittsel (CSC World Online today). So in 98 the team was built around younger riders. I remember that we all ended up with salmonella during le Trans Alsace to mention one episode. I didn't have a good year at all.
Hans Falk became the new national team selector in 98, and I remember him having us fill in this objective form about where we wanted to end up, in short terms and long terms. I decided there and then that I would go on to year 2000 to see what happened. My goal was a medal at the European or the World Championships.
I rode my third year with Wirsbo. It's true, I didn't win much, but I think that those who are spoilt with a lot of victories early in their career will give up sooner, in a way.
CN: I understand that your family supports you a lot, with its long cycling history, but what about friends and girlfriends. What do they think when you leave them for months on end?
SA: My girlfriend has been with me since '95, so she pretty much knows what this is all about. She has seen it from the beginning. Friends, well when you travel so much every year, your friends become the ones you travel and ride with.
CN: In 2000 you changed from Team Wirsbo/Team Mälarenergi which was an amateur club, to Team Crescent that is a registered Div III team focusing on U23 riders. Was this a natural move?
SA: I felt I needed new challenges, and I wanted to ride in new races. Team Crescent also races international races, but not always the exact same races as Wirsbo did. In Crescent I was also the oldest rider, someone the others could look up to. Before that I always used to be the youngest. The change also made me move back to Örebro. It makes such a difference to be back home, I could walk around for a week in Västerås without meeting anyone I knew. I would actually meet more people I knew when sitting down in Brüxelles reading a Swedish newspaper, than what I would ever do in Västerås.
The team had a pretty good year, we had some victories in Belgium, so it was okay.
CN: ...and you won the National Championships that year.
SA: Tommy Prim (manager of Team Crescent, winner of Tour de Romandie, Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour of Sweden in the eighties) had decided that we should take a medal that day. It was a good day. The weather was lousy though. We had three riders in the decisive break. It meant a lot to me, since we could have one guy resting while to were working and chasing breaks. I had great legs, I wasn't tired at all when we prepared for the sprint. I went early, and I was thinking: "I can afford two of them passing me, but not a third!" None did though.
After that I was being watched more, both in national and international races. I trained very hard for the European Championships. The course wasn't impossible, and it was my fourth European Championship, so I knew I had a good chance. With three kilometres to go Graziano Gasparre (Bergamasca For 3) just disappeared. I sprinted for all what I had behind him and I got so mad when I won that sprint. I had planned to win that race!! It took a while before I started to smile on that podium.
CN: So in 2001 you had to move again?
SA: Yes, Samsonite is now my home. I've had 35 flights so far this year. I've been on two training camps with Team Coast this year, first on Lanzarote, and then at high altitude in Mexico.
CN: Embarrassed yourself yet?
SA: Oh yeah. How about crashing when passing a railway crossing that we usually passed every day, with Escartin on my wheel? I had just been wondering why I wasn't allowed to train the same distances as the older pros. I dislocated my elbow. I thought I had been in pain before, but obviously I hadn't. I still couldn't move my arm when they took the plaster off two weeks later.
CN: Stressful feeling?
SA: Not really. Of course there are a lot of things I want to prove, but I need to prove them to myself, not to my team. I have a two year contract, and I don't feel any pressure.
CN: Where was your professional debut?
SA: The GP Chiasso was my first race with Coast. The speed was amazing, and I didn't have the form I wanted to have, after the crash, but I ended up in the same group as Gasparre, so I was OK. After all, he won the European Championships!
CN: So which is the biggest difference from the amateur and Div III racing?
SA: The SPEED! It's not like they are a level ahead of you, it is more like five or six levels. Then the distance is always long, and every rider has won at least one junior world champion title.
CN: What happened after GP Chiasso?
SA: I crashed in Guldensporentweedaagse, and I crashed in GP Rudy Dhaenens, and then I got dropped big time in Dwars door Vlaanderen. Life wasn't very funny. Belgium isn't the nicest place to race as a first year pro.
The riders were pretty much the same as I had raced the year before, only now I was last! I was back where I was in '97! However, after that it started to change. In Circuit de la Sarthe (cat 2.4) I was 16th in a bunch sprint on the second stage, and then in the fourth stage I was eighth! Then in Rund um Köln, (cat 1.3) I was 11th. It is an incredible feeling when you suddenly notice that you can actually be up there with the good riders in such a big sprint.
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