HomeCyclingAlex Zülle - The 'Mr. Magoo' of Biking

Alex Zülle – The ‘Mr. Magoo’ of Biking

Rider Characteristic: Our man in Spain, Alastair Hamilton, has been reminiscing over his Vuelta a España ‘Race Chasing’. He first noticed la Vuelta 24 years in the past and remembers one of many large stars – Alex Zülle. Zülle: The short-sighted bike owner with a variety of expertise, no luck, an intimacy with doping and with a propensity for crashing. Al appears at his biking profession, good and dangerous.

Vuelta’93 TT

Considering again to the primary time I noticed the Spanish Grand Tour ‘within the flesh’. I’d moved to Spain on the finish of 1999 and was wanting ahead to the 2000 race passing close-by on stage 6 from Benidorm to Valencia. A brief trip out to the Calpe coast highway and discover a quiet spot and a few shade from the August solar beneath a tree. The bunch was all collectively because the stage was nonetheless in its first 20 kilometres. Zülle was within the chief’s gold jersey (because it was then) and driving on the entrance. I used to be satisfied he regarded straight at me, I now realise he might have been wanting on the tree, the view, my bike… or absolutely anything.

‘Mr. Magoo’ or in Spain; ‘Rompetechos’

All biking followers will keep in mind Alex Zülle, particularly for his poor imaginative and prescient, his numerous crashes and his horrible dangerous luck. Additionally, you will keep in mind this discreet and humble bike owner for being a unprecedented time trialist, for by no means giving up and for standing out within the Grand Excursions. He was a fantastic rider who was good on any kind of terrain, besides when it rained and his glasses have been fogged up, on these events he misplaced his imaginative and prescient and nerves, the mountain descents grew to become a headache for him and his director, having to desert many instances resulting from crashes. Zülle wanted 4.5 dioptres in every eye (1 dioptre = 1 m-1), so on descents when it rained he had no selection however to hope and be guided by the braking of the opposite riders.

St. Brieuc Tour prologue TT crash

Twice winner of the Tour of the Basque Nation, the Vuelta a España twice and the time trial World champion in 1996. He additionally completed second twice within the Tour de France. He might have gained greater races, however his dangerous luck and the large rivalry that existed in these years with riders like Miguel Indurain, Lance Armstrong, Tony Rominger, Marco Pantani… and so many others, prevented him.

Tour’96 crash on the Cormet de Roselend

The Starting
His ardour for the bike couldn’t come from the rest however from a fall. Alex, like many Swiss athletes, wished to dedicate himself to snowboarding, however an harm whereas competing prevented him. To enhance the rehabilitation he determined to coach within the Netherlands. His father, Walter Zülle, purchased him all the required tools for biking, and little by little he would persuade him to maneuver on to this sport.

Zülle needed to be rescued by a number of photographers from the bushes

After a couple of years as a stand out beginner, he determined to maneuver as much as the professionals. His first contract was signed with Manolo Saiz’s ONCE, however the sports activities director was not going to make it straightforward, since he would refuse to rent him at first, for amongst different issues, as a result of Zülle wore ear-rings, one thing he didn’t permit any of his riders.

No ear-rings at ONCE

The Crashes
In Spain 1993, on Could 14 the nineteenth Vuelta stage was between Gijón and Alto del Naranco. By then Tony Rominger and Alex Zülle have been combating collectively for the ultimate victory of the Spanish Grand Tour, after some sensational duels within the time trials and mountains. However this stage was going to be the important thing for Rominger to take the ultimate victory. It was raining within the Asturian mountains, and after they hit La Cobertoria, Zülle might see solely mud and water, and will to not differentiate the curves from the straights. “Water… bike, flowers, ass, floor” that is how the unlucky Alex described his scenario. The climb of this mountain go is tough, with an 8% slope, however the descent may be very harmful. With 50 kilometres left to race, he misplaced management on the descent and went right into a ditch ripping up his shorts, and his probability of successful the Vuelta by shedding greater than a minute. Such was his despair and his poor imaginative and prescient, what apprehensive him most on the time of the autumn was not discovering his bike. Even along with his accidents, he tried to shut the hole, however it was an excessive amount of. He gained the ultimate stage 44.6 kilometre time trial to Santiago de Compostela, however it was not sufficient to take again the time he misplaced within the crash, and he couldn’t take his first victory in a Grand Tour, simply but.

Tour’96 stage 7 – Les Arcs

Tour de France, July 6, 1996, the Chambery to Les Arcs stage 7. The day when Miguel Indurain was proven to be mortal. It was the primary main climb of the Alps and the 5 time Tour winner misplaced greater than 4 minutes on the end. That very same day was additionally going to be unlucky for Zülle, who fell twice on the descent of the Cormet de Roselend, an advanced descent that requires a variety of approach, persistence and… imaginative and prescient, one thing that the Swiss bike owner lacks. The second fall was extra spectacular, and he needed to be rescued by a number of photographers from the bushes. This was the Tour that Alex Zülle led for the primary two phases after a sensational prologue time trial, displaying that he was a severe candidate for the ultimate victory.

Vuelta’93 stage 19 – Alto del Naranco

In 1997, in simply two weeks, he was going to have two different essential falls. The primary within the Dauphiné Libéré that left his physique fairly bruised after a spectacular crash. The second within the Tour of Switzerland, that was extra severe, since he needed to be operated on for a collar-bone fracture. Within the Tour of that 12 months he suffered one more fall, and had no selection however to depart as a result of his collar-bone pains had returned.

Zülle spent a variety of time chasing

Tour of 1999, the primary of the seven Excursions that Lance Armstrong would win (yeah, I do know). In that version Alex Zülle would end second at 7 minutes 37 seconds down on the American. The important thing was stage 2, and the Passage du Gois, a two-mile causeway which, relying on the tide, might be beneath water. A rider got here down in the course of the peloton, resulting in the crash that value pre-race favourites; Alex Zülle, Christophe Rinero and Michael Boogerd greater than 5 minutes to the lead group. Alex not solely misplaced his glasses, but additionally his possibilities of the ultimate general victory. Within the large crash he misplaced 6:03, along with his glasses, which he couldn’t discover on the highway that connects the continent with the island of Noirmoutier.

Passage du Gois – Tour’99

The Scandal
In 1998 he signed for the highly effective French Festina crew, however on the Tour de France the scandal exploded, the entire crew was immersed in one of many greatest doping circumstances within the historical past of biking. Alex admitted to the usage of EPO, which he stated he took to fulfill his sponsors. Consequence; expulsion from the Tour and a suspension of seven months.

ONCE in Tour pink

“I’ve used EPO for about 4 years,” he advised the police. “The primary time was after I was driving for the Spanish ONCE crew. I used the product for each essential race, just like the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of Spain, with two injections of EPO 2000 per week from three to 4 weeks earlier than the race, and through the entire of the race.”

“For the 1998 Tour, I started injecting myself with EPO 2000 in mid-June. Fernando Jimenez (crew physician) gave me the doses of EPO for the Giro firstly of the 12 months. He gave me eight doses. That was throughout a small race in Spain firstly of the season. Afterwards, through the races, the crew offered me with EPO. It was at all times Fernando who injected it into my arm. Typically, with him supervising, I injected myself.”


Zülle used EPO whereas at ONCE, the crew he left to affix Festina. “EPO was utilized in the identical method, and I can say that about 20 riders took EPO beneath the supervision of the physician; Nico Terrados… I can’t show it however I feel that at present EPO might be present in all the main biking groups,” he stated on the time in 1998.

Over right here, Alex

Zülle added that he had experimented with human progress hormone for the primary time that 12 months, at his personal request. “That 12 months I a lot wished to win the Tour. Dr. Rijkaert gave me a dose of human progress hormone each two days through the first week of the Tour, and I injected it myself. However I observed that it didn’t have the impact I anticipated.”

Zülle with fellow Swiss rider Fabian Jeker

After leaving the police station he complained as a result of he was handled like a legal. They left him utterly bare, and even took his glasses, “My rings, ear-rings and glasses the place eliminated. They left me stark bare. They caught fingers up my ass. They took blood, urine and hair roots to checks and they’re my DNA, they usually interrogated me. Ultimately they advised me, ‘both you say that you’ve got taken medicine or you don’t depart right here’ I couldn’t see another method out aside from to admit. What they’ve achieved to me I can not imagine.”

Tour’95 stage 9 – La Plagne

Alex Zülle was a rider who, regardless of being chased by dangerous luck throughout his life as a bike owner, has confirmed himself to be probably the greatest and most revered cyclists of the 90s. Though his doping takes the shine off his palmarès. On the time of Zülle’s ‘success’ the usage of EPO was rife, based on many ‘a necessity’ to race ‘on a stage enjoying area’. That’s no excuse, however must be considered.

Again with a Spanish crew after Festina

Zülle retired from skilled biking in 2004, his final two seasons have been with the Phonak crew, his final win was the Tour de Suisse in 2002, whereas driving for Staff Coast. Zülle organised a celebration for his followers to have a good time his 14 12 months profession of 66 skilled victories, 40 of them in time trials, plus back-to-back victories within the Vuelta a España in 1996 and 1997 and second within the Tour de France in 1995 and 1999. Since his retirement, not a lot has been heard of the brief sighted rider. I’ve requested round and nobody is aware of a lot about Zülle’s life after the bike. He’s nonetheless driving, and took half within the Marcha Cicloturista Arranca En Llanta in Valencia in September 2018.

He was a personality, that’s for certain.

Final days with Phonak

# Because of Jon Piorno for the reminder and the Dario Vasco and the Irish Instances for the Zülle quotes. #

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