At the beginning of the year, Karel Hnik had one clear goal: to be better then he was in the previous season. Just 22-year-old at that time, the talented Czech rider showed he means serious business right from his first race, the Istrian Spring Trophy, where he finished second. Just two weeks later, he came third in the Volta ao Alentejo, a race in which many U23 cyclists made a name for themselves over the years.
Winning stage three of the Trofeu Joaquim Agostinho was just a sign of the big things that were to come in August, when Karel Hnik finished first in the GC of the Tour Alsace, as well as taking the stage to Markstein. Those results landed him a role as a stagiaire with MTN-Qhubeka, and later, a pro contract with CULT Energy, which already applied for a Pro Continental license.
What are Karel’s thoughts after his last season in the U23 ranks? What goals does he have for the future? Find out these and more from the following interview.
– Karel, 2014 is over. How was this year?
It was my second full road season, without combining it with the cyclo-cross races and I must say I haven’t had a better season until this point. Racing with Etixx-Ihned and then with MTN-Qhubeka gave me the opportunity to have a really great program from the beginning until the end of the season. I’ve raced almost 10 000 kilometers and for sure this was a move forward. My biggest result was winning a stage and the GC of the Tour Alsace. In that period – late July and August – I felt excellent and I had a great form. But my biggest satisfactions came from being able do be consistent and get results throughout the year.
– What did you improve during the past two years with Etixx-Ihned?
The team helped me a lot to step up. I came here as a cyclo-cross rider, who used to do just a couple of road races per year, but now I dare to say that I am full road rider. Definitely, I still need to get a lot of experience, but the last two seasons have given me so much. Without Etixx-Ihned, I would not be where I am now.
– Besides Etixx, how important was cyclo-cross for your development?
It really helped me a lot. I got technique and a good control of the bike, and these are things I’ll never forget. My opinion is that all the young riders should begin with cyclo-cross or MTB.
– You rode as a stagiaire for MTN-Qhubeka and at some point there were talks of a contract there, but nothing happened. Why was that?
Team manager Douglas Ryder told to me that he was very satisfied with my results, but after signing big names, like Edvald Boasson Hagen, they could not pick any other riders from Europe, as the sponsors were interested in having cyclists from Africa.
– During your spell with MTN, you’ve raced against many World Tour riders. How was it?
In was very important, because in those two months as a stagiaire I had the opportunity to live new experiences in quality races, and now I know what I can expect from next year.
– How did you end up signing with CULT Energy?
I got a call from the team’s general manager, who said that the team was following me for some time now and was very interested in me. I talked with my manager, Brian Smith, and he told me that it’s a very good step for me to go to this team. So, after a couple of days, the contract was already signed.
– What goals do you have for your first pro season?
My main focus will be on gaining more experience in the professional peloton. I also look forward to doing some big and hard races, where I want to show what I’m capable of. Long-term, I want to do good in the Grand Tours and the Classics. If I will score a win in a big race, it will be great.