"We had requests from all over the world"

Sam Weber gives an interview together with the Haller Tagblatt about the changes in the team for the new 2021 season.

Sam Weber, Team-Manager des GTR-Teams

The German Technology Racing Team has been in existence since 2017. It was formed from the merger of the Untermünkheim MHW Cube Racing Team with the Franconian CEP Racing Team. In these four years, the field of riders changed only moderately. But things are different in 2021. Although there are still the constants, for example the Neff brothers, but this time a lot of new riders wear the GTR jersey. The 26-year-old team manager Sam Weber had a lot of work, but is very satisfied with the current result.

The biggest unknown in 2021 remains the question of whether the competitions on the race calendar will actually be allowed to take place.

Mr. Weber, when people talk about the biggest upheaval in the history of the GTR team, would you agree?

Yes, you could say that. In fact, we haven't had any major changes in recent years. And we didn't need to. However, after some departures, we now needed fresh blood. For example, Tim Feinauer is now racing in the elite field. We wanted to give young German talents a chance to prove themselves again in the junior field.

When did it become apparent that the team would change so much?

Not so much at first. At the beginning of 2020, Max Holz announced that this would be his last season as a driver. He had founded the GTR team together with my father four years ago. The German Cross Championship should have been his last race, but it was canceled due to corona.

What was the situation like in the middle of the year?

Things still looked relatively quiet then, too. From August onwards, as always, I held the first talks about how things would look for 2021. Ultimately, we need the final decision from the riders by the end of October/beginning of November so that we can prepare properly for the next season.

Who else but Max Holz had announced his departure early on?

Among others, Melissa Calhan, Joris Enk and Lennard Brolich. All three came to us from the team of my home club Tura Untermünkheim. Joris had made it to the U23 state squad. While Melissa had to struggle with health problems and therefore quit competitive sports, Joris and Lennard have professional reasons why they are no longer with us.

Lia Schrievers and Jakob Hartmann - two of the GTR team's mainstays - will also be driving for other teams in 2021.

That's right. Lia will be racing for a UCI team, i.e. a team in the highest category. Lia wasn't really looking for a new team, but then received an offer that she wanted to accept. I'm the last person to put obstacles in her way. She is a two-time German sprint champion and has also achieved top-15 finishes in the World Cup. Jakob will focus more on longer marathons and therefore switched to a team that focuses more on the long distance.

But since this was determined quite late, you didn't have much time to recruit new drivers. What did you do?

Of course I looked around. It helps that the GTR team is considered one of the best young teams in Germany. That in turn means that we also receive inquiries from drivers all over the world. Not all of them are interesting for us, but there have been some exciting ones, such as that of Florian Hamm. He will be entering his fourth and thus last U23 year in 2021. He finished sixth at last year's DM, one place ahead of Enslingen's Tim Feinauer.

He lives near the Chiemsee. And a second rider also joins the GTR team from there, namely Fabian Eder.

Yes, of course it's a good fit that the two of them live just a few kilometers apart. They have also already trained together. I had written to Fabian via Instagram. Social media have become an important tool, and not just for our marketing. Fabian is in his second U19 year, while Lars Gräter from Gailenkirchen is in his first.

The commitment makes sense to have strong riders here in one category who can learn from each other. Fabian is now part of the national junior squad after a strong year in 2020, he wants to take the next step with us.

Why did you sign up the Theobald sisters Ronja and Johanna?

We always had strong female riders in the past, we wanted to have them again and women bring variety to the team. Both are technically very good, Ronja is racing in the U17 and has chances to make the junior national squad. This also applies to our new U17 rider Nils Schmidt. The newcomers are completed by Lukas Ittenbach. He is in his second U23 year and will especially complement our marathon and stage team.

These six newcomers, together with Luis Neff, Sven Straehle, Tim Feinauer, Noah Neff, Janine Schneider and Lars Gräter, will form the GTR team in 2021. How strenuous was it for you to put this team together?

I'm still young and therefore don't have years of experience in management. You have to grow and learn. That's why it was a real challenge for me to reach my limits in addition to a 40-hour job. After all, I wanted to do justice to everyone and put together a strong team. The expectations of the sponsors are high, so I had a certain amount of pressure.

What are your goals for the 2021 season?

Of course we want to be successful, but that's not always our top priority. It's just as important to me that we perform as a team and that the drivers develop personally.

In the scene, people look to us, and that's why I made sure during the negotiations with the "newcomers" that they fit in with us on a personal level. All of those we ultimately signed up seriously wanted to be part of this team. That can't be taken for granted. I am proud of the fact that my father has managed to lead the team in such a way that we have this good reputation in the German mountain bike circus. That was years of hard work!

What about the competition calendar?

Let's put it this way: it's completely planned out. Nobody knows whether everything will take place. For example, when I think of the International Bundesliga race in Heubach - that's a huge event! It is supposed to take place at the end of April. But if no spectators are allowed, then I can't imagine that the race will take place. For the organizers, this is more than difficult to handle financially.

What is the situation regarding sponsorship for the team?

Our financial resources have become somewhat smaller, but we are currently fortunate that fewer races took place last year and there was therefore less travel and therefore fewer overnight stays on site. Nevertheless, there are running costs that have to be covered to keep the team alive. Our sponsors are loyal to us, but of course they are struggling with the effects of the Corona pandemic.

In the meantime, the online challenges boomed. The GTR team also participated in them. But the trend subsided again. Can you confirm that?

Yes, we also offered a few challenges via Strava (an app for cyclists and runners), and Luis Neff was very involved. At the beginning, many people took part, but as time went on, there were fewer. At some point, most of them didn't want to do online stuff anymore, and the pandemic didn't make it any better. But we are still in a comparatively good situation. We mountain bikers are still allowed to go out and train normally, even if alone. But we are very happy about that in view of the current situation!

Birthday: June 2, 1994

Place of birth: Green Bay/USA

Place of residence: Michelfeld

Marital status: single

profession: multimedia designer

Hobbies: mountainbike, soccer, sports in general

Previous stations: Freeriders Kochertal since 2002, MHW Cube Racing Team since 2007, Manager of the German-Technology-Racing-Team since 2019

Greatest sporting successes: Baden-Württemberg champion 2012 (juniors), 6th place DM 2011 (juniors), World Cup participations 2011-2016

Excerpt from Haller Tagblatt, 30.01.2021 / Sport Regional p. 29


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