Q&A with Trek-Segafredo neo-pro Michel Ries
At 22 years of age, Michel Ries has made the jump to the big league after landing a professional contract with Trek-Segafredo. In 2018, the young Luxembourger had a taste of what was to come when he rode as a stagiaire for the USA-registered WorldTeam. However, rather than immediately stepping up to the WorldTour, it was decided another year of development in the Under-23 ranks was the best path. Remaining firmly on Trek-Segafredo’s radar, Michel earned himself a contract after an impressive season which saw him take a stage win at the Giro della Valle d’Aosta, one of the biggest races on the U23 calendar.
Michel just finished his first race with Trek-Segafredo at the Santos Tour Down Under. This interview was organized ahead of the start.
TFS: Luxembourg is a tiny country, but it has a big name in cycling. Can you tell us how the pro scene was in Luxembourg growing up?
MR: I think Luxembourg has always had a lot of top cyclists when you look at the history. I started cycling in 2009/2010, and Luxembourg was at the top of cycling with the Schleck brothers, so there was really a big boom in cycling in Luxembourg. Everybody was a bit crazy about it, and I think that was also a big motivation for a lot of young riders to start, also for me. The history of cycling in Luxembourg has made the sport what it is today in my country. It has become a very popular sport, and that made it a great place to start cycling.
TFS: How is the route for a talented young rider to develop and eventually turn professional?
MR: You have a lot of clubs in Luxembourg; UC Dippach, the club that I rode for already had a lot of good riders like Alex Kirsch and Bob Jungels. There are a lot of experienced people around to teach the young riders, so from the very start, you can learn a lot.
And when you are in the National Team, the advantage of a small country like Luxembourg is that there are not too many riders, so they can really concentrate on you. And directly in the Juniors, you can do some big races like the World Championships.
At a young age, I started racing outside of Luxembourg because there are not so many races here. An advantage is that it’s not far to travel to Germany and Belgium, so I did a lot of racing in Belgium when I was young. I was able to gain a lot of experience and see something different.
TFS: How old were you when you started racing?
MR: I was 12 years old, so in 2010 I started racing. I remember my first race, a small local road race in Luxembourg. I was not so bad; I finished in the front group I remember. I had to learn fast because a lot of the guys I was up against were already racing for a long time. I had to quickly learn about racing tactics and how to ride in a group.
TFS: You achieved some beautiful results last year, notably winning Stage 3 of the Giro della Valle d’Aosta. Could you tell us about that day?
MR: That was pretty special because I came back from injury after I broke my scapula at the beginning of May. It was my comeback race after six weeks of not being able to train outside – only one month before the race I could train outside again. For a long time, I was really focused on this race because I had a goal to get a pro contract for the next year. It was a big relief to win on that day.
I felt really good; we were about 10 riders in front after a hard day, and I attacked in the last kilometers and stayed away. I managed to arrive to the finish alone, which made that win extra special after a period which was quite tough mentally.
TFS: You had a solid progression through the Under-23 ranks. How do you envisage the jump to WorldTour?
MR: In the last years, I already did some pro races with a few WorldTour teams on the start line, so I know more or less what I could expect. When you’re racing the WorldTour races, it’ll be different because all the top teams are there, and for sure, it will be a change from U23. Over the next years, I hope to find my place in the pro peloton, and why not try to win some races?
TFS: What are you most looking forward to about your neo-pro season?
MR: I’m looking forward to doing the big races and being in a top professional team where everything around us is perfect. You just have to concentrate on your own things, racing, and training. And racing with some of the biggest names in cycling in your team? I think this will be good motivation for my first year.
I’m looking forward to the hard, climbing races and also maybe the Ardennes because they are really close to Luxembourg; I went to see some of these races when I was younger. Also, the Tour of Luxembourg is something I am looking forward to. When you travel around the world to races, it’s nice to be able to come home and race in front of your friends and family, not to mention that I already know all the roads.
TFS: If you were looking back on the season at the end of 2020, what would you need to have achieved to have made it a successful year?
MR: If I had really shown my potential. It doesn’t have to be with a special result, but more that I can be there in the final to support the team. And why not if I have the chance to go for a result? If I can be consistent during the year and be there when the team needs me, then I will call it a successful season.
TFS: You join Trek-Segafredo alongside your teammate Juan Pedro, what’s it like to make the step to WorldTour together?
MR: It’s definitely strange. Last year at this time we both were at a training camp with our old team, and at that moment nobody expected we would be in Australia a year later, racing a WorldTour race together. It’s strange, but for sure it’s also exciting to be here together.
TFS: What’s the most exciting thing about turning pro?
MR: At the training camp, you receive so much stuff! Super nice bikes and kit – everyone always says it’s like Christmas, and it is! A few years ago, I would have been really happy to get all these things, but now there are also some moments when I realize what I have achieved. When I was younger, I would watch the races and dream about being in a team like this – sometimes you need to take a step back and think about it – this is what makes me really excited.
TFS: How would you describe your character off the bike?
MR: I am serious about things that I do, whether that’s on the bike or off the bike. When I do something, I want to do it 100 percent. I’m the kind of person who has objectives and works towards them. I’m also someone who prefers to have everything in its place; I’m not a messy person. I can see this in my job as a cyclist, but also my normal life. I don’t think I change when I start to race. I don’t get crazy when I’m racing, that’s not me.
TFS: Do you have a pre-race ritual?
MR: No, not really. I’m not that kind of person, I just do the regular things, have a coffee, then head to the start line.
The Schleck brothers
Dream race to win?
Tour de France
Favorite off-season food?
Favorite race to watch on TV?
Tour of Flanders
How do you like your coffee?
A nice cappuccino with some good milk, I’m not really an espresso person.