The “Austrian locomotive” will continue his journey with ISN for two more seasons.
“When I get this kind of trust and support from the team – I can give so much more.”
The Austrian endured disheartening moments when his father was critically injured.
“I am so relieved that he is out of danger – we had a few tough days”.
Matthias Brändle is not an emotional man, but the past few weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster for the “Austrian Locomotive” – the Israel Start-Up Nation time trial-expert.
The “high” was the team’s pro-management decision to sign him for a two-year extension. “I couldn’t have been happier,” he recalled. “To be trusted like that by your team, I could not ask for more. For me, it was such a great moment. When the team puts so much trust in you, you give back so much more. It has been like that since I joined the team and I am thrilled that the journey continues.”
But a few days later, the mood turned gloomy. His father, Arnold, was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle and was left comatose in intensive care. The ‘Brändles’ had to endure a few days of uncertainty and fear. “Life is so fragile,” he repeatedly thought while attending to his father in the hospital, waiting nervously for the news. “Of course, I am used to those dramatic shifts as an athlete. You can be at your best and then suddenly crash, and it is all gone. But this was my father. It was even tougher.”
Thankfully, his father’s condition improved, and although he still faces months of rehabilitation for a broken femur, he is now conscious. “It was such a great moment being able to speak with him again,” says Matthias, who is optimistic that his father will be able to recover fully. “He is an avid cyclist and a fighter, just like me,” he smiled, obviously very relieved. “I told him, look at where you were just a week ago and how much better you are now.”
For Matthias, facing upturns and downturns in rapid sequences is not entirely new. That’s how the season unfolded for him. He started very strongly, fighting for a win in a breakaway during stage 4 of the Tour de la Provence and finishing second – before the whole season derailed in front of his very eyes.
He was at the team hotel in Abu Dhabi when the news came late at night that the race was stopped due to the coronavirus. Then came the months of uncertainty. However, he was able to find the positives: “Frankly, I was able to enjoy the fact that I can be home and away from racing for the first time in many years. A lot of people were obviously stressed by this crisis, but I felt that I needed to make the most of it and relax. Actually, I think it helped me as I regained my internal hunger and passion for racing. I can’t wait until the season restarts and I can put my great shape into play.”
He was ecstatic to discover that his team did not need further proof and offered him a two-year extension. According to ISN’s pro-manager Kjell Carlstrom, it went beyond his proven ability as the team’s TT performer. “Matthias always has a great attitude – both on and off the bike. His cheering and positivity ensure we collectively perform well as a team.”
Matthias vowed to continue and said, “I thrive in a team that doesn’t only care about bottom-line results or judges you with the ‘what have you done for us lately’ question. With ISN we feel we are a family and that’s why I can give much more – my motivation hits the roof.”
He is confident that the team will perform beyond expectations as a first season WorldTour squad with the season restarting soon. “We can compete with the best, even if we don’t have the star riders that other teams have.”
For him, the first test awaits in the Sibiu Cycling Tour in Romania, where the team will kick off the season. The first stage will be a prologue. “I hope I can bring the win,” he says. But the biggest challenge ahead for the six-time Austrian TT champion will be the Giro d’Italia. “There are three TT stages,” he is pleased to notice, “that’s perfect for me.”