Cape Town - Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka has announced that Bernhard Eisel has agreed a contract extension to continue his successful relationship with the team.
The 37-year-old will build on the senior leadership role he has and will be a key factor in integrating both the current squad and the host of new riders joining in 2019.
“I am extremely happy that I can do another year with Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka; and while I always perhaps dreamed of retiring with an American team and spending my final days in Malibu, now I’ll probably retire in Camps Bay after 2019,” joked Eisel.
2018 was a very tough year for the Austrian as he suffered a major head injury in a crash during Tirreno-Adriatico which eventually saw him undergo brain surgery for a subdural haematoma ruling him out for a significant part of the season.
After making a slow recovery he returned to racing in August and concluded his season at the recently completed Gree-Tour of Guangxi.
“I’m looking forward to the new season. This year obviously wasn’t perfect and I had my ups and a lot of downs with injury but I’m super-happy that I’m back. That’s also a key reason in why I’ve decided to stay on; I had so much freedom from the team who supported me with everything that I needed with my injury. They gave me all the time that I required to come back, there was never a push from them. I basically didn’t race for five months this year and the team never complained about that.”
For team principal Douglas Ryder being able to retain Eisel is a crucial move. One of the most widely respected members of the peloton and also a road representative on the UCI’s Athletes’ Commission, his presence and leadership is invaluable both internally and externally.
“Bernie has one of those voices that let’s everyone know that he’s around. He’s one of the great characters of the sport and has an unmistakable aura about him but, most importantly, he simply is an outstanding rider who leads by example in every way.
“As our road captain he’s become a major figure in our organisation in every sense making his presence felt with staff and riders, being exceptional in interacting with all of our valued partners as well as the media and is a firm fan favourite too.
“Not only that, but his commitment to the Qhubeka charity ever since joining us in 2016 has been exemplary and he’s among the first to get involved whenever new campaigns are launched or bikes are being distributed.
“We are thrilled that his future lies is with us to continue and build on our wonderful partnership.”
While for Eisel the decision to stay on was a simple one.
“When I spoke to Doug about renewing my contract for one more year it was an easy discussion. I’m really, really thankful that even after being a pro for 18 years it was definitely one of my easiest talks with a team owner about a new contract, so that also shows the character of Douglas.”
“I wasn’t done with cycling after the crash this year so I want to have one really good season before I think about retirement for good, although I think in my head I’d already retired three times this year!
“The injury was heavy but I made a full recovery so I want to complete one more year of racing from January until October and let’s hope that we win a lot of bike races in 2019.”
Head of Performance Rolf Aldag hailed the impact that Eisel has on the team.
“Bernie is more than just a rider on this team. His tactical skills in the races give our sport directors an extra pair of eyes and ears in the peloton and lead us to make better decisions. He is a mentor for our young riders, sharing all his experience and due to the respect he earned over the last 18 years in the peloton, he can move in the bunch more freely to place our riders into the perfect positions in critical moments.”
The Qhubeka charity has become a cornerstone of Eisel’s relationship with the team and as someone who spends large portions of his time with his family in South Africa he’s set lofty goals for 2019.
“We’ve achieved our goal of 5 000 bikes this year already, which was a big one, and with even greater success in 2019 who knows, perhaps we can push that towards the 10 000 bike mark.
“That would probably be my achievement of the year, a defining moment, if we could manage to get Qhubeka above 10 000 bikes a year.”