Just 22-year-old and riding for the Leopard Development Team since 2012, Alex Kirsch is turning out to be one of the best all-rounders in the U23 ranks, with solid results in the Classics, individual time trials, sprints, and even some stage races, like the prestigious Tour de Normandie and Le Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux. This season, he had 11 top-10 placings, the highlight being a podium he got in the prologue of his home race, the Tour de Luxembourg.
But how did he became fond of cycling? What are his goals for this season and what plans does he have for the future? You can read more about these in the first-ever interview of Alex Kirsch.
– Alex, how did you start cycling?
My dad has always been a cycling fan, traveling to watch the Tour de France. One day, the Tour de Luxembourg passed through my hometown. I saw the bunch passing and even got a bottle. After that I said to my father that I wanted to start cycling.
– What do you recollect from your first years?
The first years were not so serious. In my amateur team we learned a lot about team spirit and they put importance on bike handling skills. In Luxembourg nobody puts pressure on you in opposite to other countries where you have to fight early on to get into the national team. We had all these experiences without stress and had a lot of fun during the years.
– How important were for your progress the seasons spent with Leopard Development?
The Leopard project was an important step in my development. In 2012 I said to myself: “now you focus on cycling and see how far you get”. Maybe I was still physically not ready for that, because I suffered a lot the first part of the season. But I got through and just progressed steadily from that point on. A Continental team is really what you need to progress, because the step from amateur to World Tour level is just too big.
– What are your strong points?
I think my strong points are that I’m very serious and hard working. I had a lot of setbacks with knee injuries and sickness in the early years, but I always kept going and tried to pursue my dream, although the results didn’t come so early. I work a lot on my weaknesses to prevent injuries and just try to be the best athlete I can.
– And what do you feel you still need to improve?
I’m still young, so I feel like I can improve in every field. Physically I think I can make further steps in the next years. Mentally I improved already a lot, because I can manage the pressure better, but I still need to be more confident. For example, it still feels strange that people see me as one of the favourites of a race.
– This season you’ve got strong results in one-day races and stage races, but not a win. What do you thing you missed?
It is true that this season I am very consistent. I’ve been on the podium four times and regularly in the top 10. I think the difference between winning and getting second or third is experience. I was not used to be in the game for the victory so I still make some mistakes like attacking too much or at the wrong time. But the more often you come into the situation to win, the more experience you get to make the right decision or taking risks in the good moment. Of course, you also need that tiny bit of luck, like always in sport. But as we say in sports: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity”!
– Is there a mental pressure on you to get that first win?
No, there is no mental pressure at all. Until now my whole season has been a surprise to myself. Third in the prologue of the Tour de Luxembourg or in the time trial in a famous race like Le Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux felt already like a personal victory. It is true that now I came close a lot of times. My goal for the second part of the season is to go for that win, but it is not an obsession.
– What’s the result you’re most proud of so far in your career?
Without any doubt it is 3rd in the prologue of the Tour de Luxembourg. I remember going to watch that race when I was a child. I could hardly imagine starting there one day, not even thinking about being close to winning. It is a category 2.HC race and I beat a lot of big names from World Tour and Pro Continental teams. That makes me proud and motivates me a lot for the future!
– What is your schedule for the rest of the season?
I will line up for the Oberösterreich Rundfahrt and the National Championships. I hope I can keep my shape high for these races, before taking a good rest. After that, my eyes are on the Tour de l’Avenir, which starts with a prologue, and the World Championships. I will have a good build up for those races with the Czech Cycling Tour and the Tour d’Alsace.
– And what goals do you have for these races?
My main goals are the Tour de l’Avenir and the World Championships. I really want to do well there. But until that, there are so many beautiful races and I want to take every opportunity I can get.
– Did you give a thought about turning pro next year?
Turning pro has always been a long time goal, but now things start to get more serious. I don’t want to spend too much energy on thinking about that. I mean I’m still very young, I just try to get as many results as I can and do my best in every race and hopefully I get rewarded with a pro contract at the end of the season.