Saturday, April 20, 2024

Jörg Jaksche – “If you get caught, keep schtum”; Interview Part I


HomeInterviewsJörg Jaksche - "If you get caught, keep schtum"; Interview Part I

Jörg Jaksche is an interesting man to talk to; a top rider in his day – until he was one of the relatively few actually punished as a result of being implicated in Operatión Puerto.

But unlike most, Jaksche didn’t, ‘deny, deny, deny.’

He did the right thing and ‘fessed up’ – but the UCI twisted his words and to the teams he was a pariah.

Please bear in mind that it’s only recently that spilling the beans makes you a ‘hero’ – but you have to be cute/handsome/parent to nice kids/American to pull that trick off.

Jaksche’s name has been in the spotlight recently, with Jonathan Vaughters decrying him and reporting that the German is coming back to amateur racing.

As he’s involved in the “Change Cycling Now” meeting this weekend in London with Vaughters, Paul Kimmage and David Walsh amongst others, we thought we’d give the man a call and see what his thoughts are on the recent madness.

But before we run that interview tomorrow, we thought that you might be interested in what he had to say when we last spoke to him a couple of years ago…

* * *

November 2010

The trouble is, when you talk to one of those ‘evil dopers’ they just sound like any other cyclist; the vast majority of whom are open, honest and affable.

Take tall, slim, classy German Jörg Jaksche, he’s quietly spoken and polite – but he’s also one of the ones that Operatión Puerto did net.

I still remember that chaotic day in Strasbourg at the start of the 2006 Tour de France – complete madness as disgraced favourites slipped away under cover of darkness.

Jörg Jaksche
Jörg was one of the few riders that Operatión Puerto did net.

But some big names – who have since won Grand Tours – whose involvement was cited in L’Équipe the day before the exclusions, race on.

We have to believe that it’s better now, or there would be no point in writing about cycling, it would just be documenting a lie – as I must have unwittingly done many times over the years [and continued to do for two more years].

I make no attempt to defend Jaksche for his actions; they were his decisions and some riders did race ‘clean’ – but not to ‘prepare’ during the worst of the EPO years meant condemning yourself to certain defeat – in Grand Tours, at least.

And to believe that team management and the UCI did not know what was happening is laughable; that’s where riders like Jaksche, Ben Berden and Joe Papp came in handy – the ones who naively thought they were doing the ‘right thing’ by admitting their guilt.

Sacrificial animals to be thrown to the lions; the media could gorge on their flesh whilst the rest quietly got on with ‘preparing.’

Three years after Jaksche’s decision to ‘come clean’ on what was really necessary to be a pro cyclist during that era we spoke to him about his career and that fateful decision to ”fess up.’

Jörg Jaksche
Jörg first spoke to us a couple of years ago.

Where’s ‘home’ Jorg and what do you do?

“I live in the Austrian Tyrol, I was working for two years as Italian distributor for SRM but at the moment I am looking for a new career opportunity.”

You were German junior champion in 1994?

“I had good results as a junior in Germany and at the junior world championships, yes.”

Was there a particular ride got you the pro contract?

“I had a string of strong results in amateur stage races in Germany – I was second on GC in the Sachsen Tour for instance – and that attracted attention from the pro teams.”

You turned pro in Italy for Polti, why not a German team?

“The German teams were more conservative and thought that I was too young to turn pro, but turning pro when I did for Polti was a decision I never regretted.

“I was a good team to start with and to learn with, the atmosphere was friendly, happy.

“The only thing I did wrong was not to speak up for myself, I should have told them when I was feeling tired because I was riding to many races.”

But after two seasons you went to Telekom.

“It was like going to Real Madrid, glamorous, with all of the big stars, the professionalism – it was a good team; but then, all of the teams I rode for were good.

“Again though, the programme was very heavy, I was riding a lot of races; that was a big part of the attraction for joining ONCE in Spain – a different programme with less races and more time to train specifically for them.”

Jörg Jaksche
Jörg rode for Manolo Saiz’s teams for several years.

Two years at Telekom and five seasons with Manolo Saiz.

“Manolo created a family atmosphere in his teams; he was a good person to work with.”

But you left for one year in 2004 to go to CSC?

“At the end of 2003 Manolo could not give me the financial assurances I needed because ONCE had decided to end the sponsorship.”

You went to CSC in 2004 and had a good year.

“Yes, I won the Tour of the Mediterranean and Paris – Nice but when Manolo put the Liberty Seguros team together I went back to join him for 2005.

“Bjarne Riis was a very special person and CSC was a good team but I always had my best times with Manolo.

“Guys like Beloki were my family; we won and lost together, we got drunk together.”

[Liberty Seguros collapsed in 2006 due to Saiz’s involvement in Puerto and the team morphed into Astana].

Tinkoff was your last team, 2007.

“It was another good team with a friendly atmosphere and I had some solid results, I won the Circuit de Lorraine; but I wasn’t good for them because there was all the stress around me of Puerto by then.”

Jörg Jaksche
Jörg racing the time trial in Lorraine in 2007.

After your suspension you were still young and had good results in your last year; why not come back?

“I tried to but couldn’t get a contract; I talked about what I had done and that ended my career, even although I only ever talked about my own activities.

“I kept training and was talking to teams but because I was always in the Press due to Puerto, no one would give me a ride.

“When I look back, confessing was not the cleverest thing I ever did; my mistake was to say how it was.”

Confession aside, do you have regrets about your time in cycling?

“I still love cycling, I still train and try to stay fit; no regrets.”

And what’s the morale of the story?

“It would seem to be; ‘If you get caught, keep schtum.’”

‘Schtum?’ Defined as; ‘Say nothing – especially in circumstances where saying the wrong thing may get you into trouble.’

But is that how it should be?  You’d need to ask the UCI for the answer to that one.

Keep tuned for Jörg’s take on Lance, the UCI, JV and the ‘comeback’ – tomorrow, on VeloVeritas!