“I didn’t hesitate for a moment“ - Luis-Joe Lührs on his move from the juniors to the WorldTour and his first season as a neo-pro
From the juniors straight to the WorldTour, from Team Auto Eder to BORA - hansgrohe. Luis-Joe Lührs got this opportunity, took the step and looks back on his first season as a neo-pro. In our interview, the Bavarian rider talks about new experiences, his nervousness at his first race for BORA - hansgrohe, his goals as a professional, and earlier role models who have suddenly become competitors in the peloton.
What was your first year like in the team so far?
It has been a very exciting journey so far. There have been ups and downs, from a broken collarbone in Portugal, and Covid ahead of the Italian spring classics, to very successful races like Sibiu Tour or Rund um Köln. I look forward to every race day and it's always an exciting experience for me to be on the road with my teammates. I have learned and experienced a lot in such a short time.
From junior to pro - what's different? What's new?
First of all, I would like to say that the level of support, material and professionalism at Team Auto Eder was, and of course still is, extremely high for a junior team. But of course the step from an U19 team to a WorldTour team is quite a big one. Here I'm not a leader anymore, I have to learn and benefit from the experience of my teammates. There is also a much clearer strategy for each race than I was familiar with from the juniors.
Did you hesitate when you were given the opportunity to jump straight into the WorldTour?
I didn't hesitate for a moment. For me it was clear: If I get the chance, then I will take it. Who knows if such an opportunity will come ever again. It was extremely motivating for me to be able to wear this jersey and head straight to the WorldTour immediately after my time as a junior.
How did you get into cycling? Were there other sports that you did before?
Coming from a fairly sporty family, I used to play soccer for seven years and finally got into cycling through my older brother. First mountain biking and then road.
Describe your development on a physical and mental level
Since I've been at BORA - hansgrohe, my training has changed a bit. While the efforts have stayed pretty much the same, I'm now doing a fair amount of more hours. More and much longer races require more hours on the bike. I think this is where I’ve made the biggest step in my physical development so far. On a mental level, I'm currently progressing with my tasks in the team and a more complex way of racing. Higher speed, more riders, longer races - keeping the focus here is also a mental challenge.
What are your personal goals this season?
First and foremost, personal development. I want to do my best in every race, do my job for the team and stay crash and injury free for the rest of the season.
Where do you see yourself as a professional in five years?
Basically, I still see myself as a professional rider in five years and hopefully still at BORA - hansgrohe. In terms of racing, I might want to go into a race as a leader and fight for podium places in five years' time.
What type of rider would you describe yourself as?
An allrounder. Flat sprints are just as unsuited to my riding style as difficult mountain stages I'm good at sprinting and, thanks to my relatively low body weight, I can climb moderately difficult ascents. I feel most comfortable on hilly terrain.
Who is your role model or a hero from your youth?
The stars and role models of my youth were riders like Peter Sagan or Marcel Kittel. Today I ride in a peloton with the “big boys” from back then and the heroes from my time as a youth rider. Suddenly role models are also competitors in some way.
What’s your coolest moment in a race so far?
The first days of racing with BORA - hansgrohe in January at Mallorca. I was super nervous but for me it was such mind-blowing experience - I will never forget those days of racing!
Funniest or most embarrassing moment you've experienced in a race?
My very first day of racing with BORA - hansgrohe at the Trofeo Calvin in Mallorca: I was so nervous and was trying to open a gel. I ripped it and it ended up everywhere else but not in my mouth. Everything was so sticky - I really had to laugh at myself at that point.
Cycling in three words:
Passion, pain, ups and downs
Do you have a pre-race ritual?
How do you relax, switch off and clear your mind?
Listening to music works very well for me to switch off. I'm quite open to different genres of music, it depends on my mood a bit.
How has the season been so far?
Overall, I'm very happy with the way my season has gone. After breaking my collarbone and being ill, I found my way back into racing in May, and I was able to learn a lot and support the team.
How was the Tour de l'Avenir from your point of view?
Just before the Tour de l’Avenir together Cian Uijtdebroeks and me were preparing for the race at an altitude camp in Ötztal. Unfortunately, an injury at my upper leg slowed me down there and I wasn't able to do the planned program.In the race I was in a breakaway group on the first stage, we were only caught shortly before the finish line and I was honoured as the most combative rider on the day. On the following stages I spent a lot of time in the wind and worked for our GC riders. A highlight was definitely our win in the team time trial with a really strong team and a very cool squad! Unfortunately I got sick before the mountain stages and had to start the journey home then. It was definitely a disappointment for me, but I'll take away all the positive experiences and strong performances from there.
Was l'Avenir a highlight of your season?
Definitely! Despite my races for the WorldTour team, it's cool to have the opportunity to compete at the under-23 level. The Tour de l'Avenir is impressive, it’s a really difficult and long stage race in the footsteps of the Tour de France.
You won the TTT - a discipline that suits you?
If the course suits my rider type and takes place on hilly terrain, then definitely. In general, I like the spirit of the team time trial. It's about precision, good tactics, trust and full commitment from every rider – a real team sport.
© Sprintcycling / Mario Stiehl / Tour de l'Avenir