Matti Breschel’s next act

Dane to learn the ropes of sport directing

Today marks the first day of Matti BreschelMatti Breschel’s next chapter.

 

Last Sunday, he celebrated the end of his racing career with his teammates after helping Sep VanmarckeSep Vanmarcke to victory at the Bretagne Classic. He then flew home to Denmark to see his family. On Thursday, he will fly to Spain to join EF Pro Cycling at the Vuelta a España and begin his apprenticeship as a sporting director. In 2020, Breschel will be a DS with EF Education First.

 

For the past couple of seasons, Matti has been the team’s Nestor. No longer able to attain the kind of form with which he won classics and grand tour stages and twice stood on the podium at the world championships, he did his best to provide guidance to his younger teammates and encourage them to race smart and hard. Not being able to do what he used to do in races was very frustrating.

 

“I’ve been fighting with arthritis, so it’s been pretty tough,” Breschel said.

But it opened a door for the wise and respected Dane. When he told the team earlier in the year that he was going to have to retire, they asked if he might want to become a sport director.

“It was totally a no-brainer for me. When I was starting to be in my 30s and had to think, ‘what am I going to do afterwards?’ I realized that my whole education and my whole life was in cycling, so I’d thought about going in that direction,” he says. “I was really pleased that the team asked me. To be a part of cycling—it’s kind of my whole identity. To think about it—just jumping off the train—it would have been a weird feeling. So, for me to be able to be in cycling and still be a part of EF and the whole World Tour thing—it’s a big deal.”

 

As a director, he hopes to continue where he left off as a racer.

 

“I would love to work with the young riders,” he says. “I want to get a little bit more aggressiveness out of the guys. As a young professional, I remember, you can be a little bit lost sometimes in the big WorldTour circus, and sometimes it only takes a phone call.”

 

It will be hard to no longer be quite one of the boys. As a director, Breschel will often have to make difficult decisions that will affect riders who are his good friends. That won’t always be simple. Still, he wants to make sure that he doesn’t become too distant.

 

“I’ve experienced many sports directors who have kind of forgotten how it is to be a bike racer,” he says. “I will try not to forget myself. The job of a sports director today demands a lot. It’s all about using the right words, pushing the right buttons, working with negative thoughts sometimes and trying to turn them around to something positive. It is difficult, because you are working with people and not machines, but that’s the interesting part, I think.”

 

 

At the Vuelta, Matti will be able to learn from two of the best.

 

“I’m going to go and see how it’s done by watching over the shoulder of Juan Manuel Garate and Ken Vanmarcke,” he says.

 

What makes him nervous?

 

“Driving the cars,” he says.

 

Being able to handle a car at high speeds on twisty mountain roads as riders fly past takes a great deal of skill. Thankfully, Breschel loves speed.

 

“It shouldn’t be a problem,” he says. “I’ve heard that you just have to get used to eating a lot of bad sandwiches. I am really looking forward to it.”

 

He is also looking forward to life without all of the pain brought about by training and racing.

 

It won’t always be easy though.

 

“I have three kids,” Matti says. “I haven’t really explained it to my kids yet. They think that daddy is stopping and is going to be more at home, but that’s not the case. I do think it’s good for me and good for my family that I keep traveling a bit. Otherwise, I think I would go crazy.”