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An interview with Olaf Pollack, February 15, 2008

Pollack looks to help young Austrian team

Sprinter Olaf Pollack is on his third team in as many years, but hopes to stay with Team Volksbank and help to form the young Austrian Professional Continental Team for the future. This year he has his eye on both the road and the track, especially the track events in the Beijing Olympics. Cyclingnews' Susan Westemeyer looked at how the German settled in with the new team and found out what his goals are for the season.

Pollack in his new jersey.
Photo ©: Team Volksbank
(Click for larger image)

Pollack rode for Team Gerolsteiner from 2000 to 2004 before transferring to rival T-Mobile, where his greatest achievement was wearing the leader's maglia rosa in the Giro d'Italia. But he was not offered a new contract for the 2007 season, and ended up spending last season with Team Wiesenhof-Felt, a now dissolved German Professional Continental team. He started the season well, surprising everyone by winning the first stage of the Critérium International.

But Pollack is also a track specialist and in the German national championships finished second in pursuit, team pursuit and Madison.

Track continues to play an important part in his sporting life, and he rode several Six Day races over the winter. Pollack has his eye on the track events in the upcoming Beijing Olympics. "My concentration in my season preparations was all on the track and the Olympic games in Beijing, my big season goal for 2008. It was like jumping into cold water to try and find my rhythm for road racing again," he told cyclingnews.

Part of that preparation for the the road season was getting to know his new – and young – team-mates at the team training camp in Tuscany. "The first thing was to find our way to each other and to build a homogeneous unit, which we were able to do at the training camp. They're all funny and friendly guys, who are all willing to pull together."

He is joined at Volksbank by fellow newcomer, but old acquaintance, sprinter André Korff. The two, both 34 years old, are among the oldest on the team and see themselves responsible for helping the younger riders. "We have a lot of young riders, who are capable of accomplishing a lot," he noted. He and Korff "have set as our goal, to share with them our years of experience and to awaken their killer instinct. Everyone has to find their own specialty. We can still form the team."

"My concentration in my season preparations was all on the track and the Olympic games in Beijing, my big season goal for 2008."

- Pollack will still add some road racing, but his season is well defined..

How much the young team will be able to accomplish this year is still unclear. "This question will be answered in the coming weeks on the road. Our young riders are very ambitious and want to come to the top with the team. If we are lucky we will accomplish something big in 2008."

Pollack isn't counting on just the young riders to accomplish something, but would like to do it himself as well. The team is still hoping for a late invitation to the Giro d'Italia. Despite his successes at the Italian race, Pollack has never won a stage there, but he doesn't rule the possibility out. "Why not? Petacchi is not younger than I, even if he is maybe a bit faster. But I am in the best sprinter age. With luck and hard work, a win in a top tour is always possible."

Olaf Pollack won the opening stage of the 2007 Critérium International.
Photo ©: Jean-François Quénet
(Click for larger image)

While riding last year with Wiesenhof, he noticed Volksbank as "an incredibly active and aggressive team. Sometimes too aggressive. In this season we must use our strength more selectively and work as a team." By that, he means, "Each individual must be willing to give his all for his team colleagues when needed. And put his own interests aside."

The team interested him enough to establish contact for a joint future. He was especially impressed with team manager Thomas Kofler. "It clicked between us in our first discussion, and still does. I am very happy and look forward to bringing the team another step forward. I want to help bring things here in movement."

Pollack appreciated the team's professional approach. Without that, "I would never have made the move to Austria." He added, "It is somehow impressive, how much is being done here with relatively little money. You can't buy harmony."

Meanwhile, the sprinter is turning his attention again to the business at hand. He has already opened his season at the GP Costa degli Etruschi. "The season opener is always hard and therefore not always good to use to judge yourself. It wasn't at all right for me. I came directly from the track and was used to higher frequencies."

Olaf Pollack in pink in the 2006 Giro d'Italia.
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Which meant that he managed to surprise himself with his good performance, finishing 13th. "I didn't expect that. But I must say, I slipped out of the pedals after André had prepared the sprint for me. That was it then, a higher placing wasn't possible."

And what conclusion does he draw from the team's first appearance this season? Laughing, he answered, "We presented ourselves as a compact team and in the end were in a good position, which isn't easy, but which is never a bad thing. That gives us an appetite for more."

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