Gera – celebrated Olympic champion from Seoul, celebrated as a sports star in the GDR and later as a team manager another stripper in the cycling scene: Olaf Ludwig knows the very big professional business and all its pitfalls – but has long since left it all behind.
Before his 60th birthday on Easter Monday, the Thuringian is at home in Gera – where else, in these turbulent times? He has remained loyal to the bike, even if he no longer has anything to do with the professional tour today. Instead, he organizes bike trips to Bulgaria or hobby races on Rügen.
«We have the title Fitness, Wellness, Country and People. We drive to the sights. There is a group that is not about who can drive how fast. You should also get to know the country, »says Ludwig of the German Press Agency about his« Bulgarian Cyclingtour », which he runs together with his partner Jörg Stranger. Travel is not just about driving as fast and as far as possible, but also “about eating, drinking and having fun”.
Ludwig is – how could it be otherwise – responsible for the guided tours on the bike. And he likes to cycle 500 kilometers in groups in six days. “That is quite an achievement,” says the former team boss from Team Telekom, who at the time included Germany’s only Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich.
But of course, Ludwig’s professional activities are also affected by the current coronavirus pandemic. “May is going to be canceled,” says Ludwig, and a race planned for June in Rügen has already been canceled. “Of course it is difficult at present,” says the former professional, who would like to have celebrated his 60th birthday with 60 guests. But he also had to cancel that.
In addition to three stages, Ludwig once won the green jersey of the best sprinter on the tour, and even today he follows cycling so intensively from his home town of Gera that he has an opinion on all key issues and likes to discuss them. He doesn’t exactly see the future of his sport in Germany as rosy. «There is no will to support the organizers. As long as we are in a country where there is support for everything else – it will become less and less, »he criticizes. With fewer and fewer races, there will be fewer and fewer racing drivers.
The family man emphasized that professional cycling and the Tour de France would always be around. What role the Germans played in this was a different question for Ludwig, if “less and less is coming from below”. Such a bottleneck could also affect the leading German team Bora-Hansgrohe at some point. Ludwig also sees the current corona crisis as a huge challenge for cycling. «It brings huge problems with it, that is clear. Cycling is not healthy, it lives in the cycling industry. »
While all races have been canceled by June 1st, the Tour de France is currently still fighting to hold this summer. Team principal Ralph Denk from Bora-Hansgrohe told TEH: «If the Tour de France takes place, we can get away with a black eye. The tour is the most important event of the year, not only for us but also for our sponsors. » If so, Olaf Ludwig would, of course, be there again as a TV viewer – not every day, but regularly.