Moving from Germany in the early 2000s, Nils Wartemann now calls The McLaren Vale one of his ‘absolute favourite’ regions in which to ride.
The Cycling South Australia Board Member took some time to talk to us about his start in racing in Australia, his love of masters cycling, and his predictions and his goals for the Masters RoadNats.
On moving from Germany
When I came to visit Adelaide for the first time in 1999, it was pretty much love at first sight. The beautiful countryside and enormous cycling potential made me come back every summer to prepare for the German road season. A great day in the saddle can start with a coffee at the beaches of Glenelg and finish two hours later on top of Mount Lofty enjoying the views - it doesn’t get much better than that. No need to go to Mallorca. The riding around the Adelaide Hills is definitely up there with the best, roads are good and traffic is hardly ever an issue.
The comparison of riding and racing in Australia?
Back in the early 2000’s the racing scene in SA was pretty small, much like a small family. The grades sometimes had less than 10 starters and racing got cancelled when raining, which was kind of surreal for me. I was used to racing with 150+ riders back home no matter what the weather was. The level of local racing back then was an interesting mix of high calibre riders who were clearly on par with the best guys on the European circuit (i.e. Russell van Hout, Brett Aitken, etc.) as well as very average riders at the other end of the spectrum - all in the same grade! In Germany, the grades are strictly governed by a qualifying system. Every rider coming out of Juniors or first-time license holder, starts in C grade and you need 5 placings in the top-10 to move up a grade. This repeats in B to move up to A. Considering the size and depth of the bunches for each grade, it is not unusual even for reasonably fit riders to never reach a higher grade. Most riders probably never win a race in their entire career.
I later also raced local events in other states of Australia and it was fascinating to witness how the level of competition changed so quickly. It felt as if within 10 years, the level of riders and especially the quality and depth quadrupled. A strong A-grade bunch in Australia is no longer much different to racing in Europe, just smaller numbers and less technical courses for Crits and Kermesses. But the most noticeable difference is that the cycling scene in Australia appears to be so much more welcoming to new riders. The social aspect also seems to be more important and many cyclists continue to stay involved, even if they don’t make the cut after leaving the U23’s. The general lifestyle in Australia is definitely more suited to combine family, sport and career, when compared to Germany. That is if you can get used to starting your training ride at 6am.
As a local, you know the course pretty well.
The Masters RoadNats coming to Adelaide is obviously something I really look forward to, especially considering that I don’t live far from the start of the road race. The South of Adelaide is perfect terrain for road cycling - it doesn’t really need much more explanation after many years of Tour Down Under. The McLaren Vale region is one of my absolute favourites. On paper, the course looks like a rollercoaster and that is probably a fair assessment. The majority of the course is relatively flat, with a nice descent down Wickhams Hill. But the painful climb up Pennys Hill Rd will make all the difference. It’s definitely not an easy course and clearly favours a strong allrounder. I expect a heavily decimated bunch after the first lap already and only a small group of riders to contest the finale.
Favourite event (RR, TT, Crit) and why?
My favourite event would have to be the road race, even though it doesn’t really suit me at all. But the roads we will race on have featured in the TDU numerous times and are perfect terrain for an interesting race that will only allow the strongest to go for the win. The hilltop finish is definitely great for the spectators. The Range will host the TT course and is a pretty simple affair: out and back on more or less flat roads. The Criterium circuit is another good example of how easy riding and racing in Adelaide is. The purpose-built race track at Victoria Park is in the fringe of the CBD, easily accessible with good parking and great amenities close by. Cafes and restaurants for post-race celebrations (or distractions) are only a stone throw away.
Why Masters cycling?
I am not surprised to see Masters racing gaining more and more traction in Australia in general. Cycling becomes a lifestyle and is a sport where you can have fun and race at very solid levels even at a high age. It is also a great way to explore a new region when on holidays, of which some age groups can clearly enjoy more often. I really hope that all organisations and facets of cycling in Australia will grow together, join forces and provide even more opportunities for Masters and others in the future. For me personally, Masters racing was simply the logical next step, when I wanted to continue to race without the enormous time commitment for training. The distances are shorter and there is usually a good balance in the competition with most riders being at a similar same stage in their life. It still provides for a great challenge and sometimes feels a bit like a throwback in time when bumping into people you raced with almost two decades ago.
Goals for 2019 Road Nationals?
My goals for the upcoming RoadNats are probably aligned with some of the Olympic creed. Whilst I’m not fit enough to hope for a result, its all about taking part in the event and showing my support. Cycling Australia and Cycling SA are putting on great racing with their volunteers, which in itself deserves the attention of all involved in our sport. I hope the gold and green jersey will go to someone like this: parent with 5 kids, 2 dogs, a stressful job and yet still manages to get up for training every morning at 6am - rain, hail or shine.