With less than 30 days to our 10th Edition of the Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic, we spoke to 2010 winner, Michael Berling.
Such is the recognition of his success in Denmark, the CiCLE Classic is affectionately known as “The Race of Michael Berling”. With three top 10 finishes, a 1st, a 2nd and a 4th, we take a look at how he went about getting that all important victory.
Q: Hello Michael, you said it took you ‘4 years to get a victory’ here. What made the difference in 2010?
Michael Berling: A combination of many things. First of all, it took me a few years to get to know the circuit, both by racing and studying it. So when I finished in 2nd place in 2009, I was determined to work dead hard to do one better in 2010. A key moment was when I bridged across to the break quite early (on the Rutland Water loop), where my teammate (Kasper Linde) worked hard all day to keep chasers away, bring the attacks back towards the end, and managed to finish 4th himself.
Q: You have a passion for this race. How does the CiCLE Classic differ to other races you’ve taken part in?
MB: It is so intense. You need to stay focused for the entire race, there is no room for error, and you can hardly sit on and save energy. For me when coming back, year after year, learning and studying the circuit, I got to understand the thought and ideas put into the making of this race. Colin has made his back yard into a fantastic bike race, a race you have to experience to understand how hard and beautiful it is, and not enough words are adequate.
Q: Apart from your victory, what’s your best memory of the race?
MB: To have been able to share my experiences with close friends. But also the warm and great atmosphere all around the event from the organisation to all the spectators along the parcours.
Q: What sort of a rider do you need to be to win this race?
MB: You need to be in peak condition, have the capabilities to stay at the front of the pack, not be afraid to do some hard work when needed. Then you need experience, without thorough knowledge about the race, you wouldn’t get far.
Q: What bike were you riding when you won the CiCLE Classic?
MB: A Python RF-MO7 with Sun Race, and Zipp 404 with Vittoria Pave EVO.
Q: What’s your favourite section on the course?
MB: I love the party buzz in Owston and around the circuit during the race, but my favourite part, is the narrow path from the A606 up the hill towards Cold Overton. That’s a really great bike road, that I can recommend all cycle enthusiasts to do at some time.
Q: How hard a race is it? Can you compare it to any other race?
MB: It is one of the hardest races on the calendar. The circuit itself is very hard, with short steep hills, dead turns etc. But the long-range of narrow roads makes it impossible to feed from the car, it is not like the larger classics on the continent where there is 5 km of main road where you can get supplies. The CiCLE classic is more like a 180 km of Tour Series, flat out and fighting for every corner.
Q: What’s the most difficult thing you had to deal with in this race?
MB: That was in 2013, my first time in 7 years not doing the CiCLE.
Q: Did you have any special routines before a race?
MB: A proper lager or ale on the night before, but just one of course!
Q: What was the most important thing you learned when you were pursuing your goals?
MB: Focus, commitment and hard work.
Q: How important a role was your family in your success?
MB: Very important. Without the help from my family, I would never have been able to go as far as I have.
Q: Which teammate comes to mind when you think of someone with a good work ethic?
MB: I have raced with many real professionals, who also made it into Pro Tour teams, so to mention just one wouldn’t be fair. Nevertheless, for me Kasper Linde, is the hardest working cyclist I have seen. He is the definition of a domestique, and has spent more time in the wind for a wide range of different team captains, than any other rider I raced alongside.
Q: What did an average day training consist of?
MB: Eat, train, eat, rest, eat, and, sleep more or less, with coffee in between, European style of course.
Q: How different do you have to be from other people to succeed in a sport like this?
MB: You need to be selfish. You need to focus on how to become a better cyclist 24/7.
Q: Your favourite cyclist of all time?
MB: I grew up watching Greg Lemond winning the Tour, so he was the big deal. He was, more or less, the first cyclist that only rode one race to win it, and did it, an unpopular move in conservative cycling. Now, everybody plans as he did back then.
Q: What are people saying in Denmark about British teams and British Cycling at the moment?
MB: British cycling has been top of the pops for many years on the track, then Sky made a name for itself with the last two Tours. Many Danish teams are looking at how Sky is doing things, and is trying to copy “the Sky way of doing things”. However, generally the boom in British Cycling, with strong teams in the line behind Sky, and great events on the British Calendar is still only known by the few.
Q: Has cycling been in your family history? Do you still cycle? Are you thinking about a comeback?
MB: My grandfather was a good track rider back in the 40’s and 50’s, back when Reginald Harris was at the top. He was a great inspiration, when I was a young kid. I am still cycling for the fun of it, but a comeback is not on my mind, even though I’d like to do the CiCLE again.
Q: Cycle racing is full of history. However, is there ‘one new thing’ you’d like to see happen in cycling, generally?
MB: More understanding between cyclists and motorists. It is getting better, but there is still a long way to go.
Q: Is there one ‘old thing’ you think important to keep in cycle racing?
MB: white socks, my granddad taught me that pro cyclists wear white socks.
Q: Is there a favourite ‘must-do’ route you’d recommend in Denmark?
MB: As a “Capitan de Route” I know many, but my all-time personal favorite is riding the “Mols Mountains” loop. There is almost no traffic, a mix of rolling hills, steep peaks and open fields between the hamlets, in one of Denmark’s most beautiful places.
Q: At 9am on the morning of the CiCLE Classic, we have our new Junior CiCLE race, What do you think about that addition?
MB: It’s great, I would have loved to do this as a junior myself.
Q: We’ve also added a new women’s pro race and sportive to our CiCLE Classic family in May 2014, in Thoresby, Notts– any thoughts?
MB: I’m glad to see the CiCLE Classic developing and growing, I would love to see it become a world Tour race one day.
Q: What are you looking forward to most about coming back to see the 10th anniversary race?
MB: Meeting my UK friends and seeing some world class racing.
Q: What’s your biggest tip to give anyone if they are looking to be a pro cyclist?
MB: Hard work, and commitment.
Q: Sum up cycle racing in 3 words.
MB: The Brain, brain and more brain.
Thanks for your time, Michael.
And we look forward to seeing you at the race on 27th April 2014.
Rutland-Melton CICLE Classic