Farewell to Grischa Niermann

Recent retiree Grischa Niermann (image courtesy of Rabobank)

German Grischa Niermann, long-time member of the team formerly known as Rabobank, has also hung up his helmet. His last professional ride was the Vuelta and having finished his 18th Grand Tour he’s another who’s climbed off his bike and into the team car, as a coach for the development squad.

Born in Hannover, where he continues to live with his wife and two young sons, he started his career in 1997 with the Die Continentale team and enjoyed wins in the Hessen-Rundfahrt in 1998 and the Regio Tour in 1999. Those successes brought him a contract with Rabobank where he rode, largely in service of the team’s leaders, tirelessly for the past 14 seasons. Indeed, his only victories for the team were the 2001 Niedersachsen-Rundfahrt and a stage in 2008 at the Regio Tour. However it’s a role he’s enjoyed and where he’s flourished, taking riders of the calibre of Robert Gesink under his wing.

Grischa took part in his favourite Grand Tour – the Tour de France – a total of nine times and obviously had a soft spot for his now defunct home Tour of Germany. But neither was his favourite race, as he explained:

My favorite race is the Tour of the Basque Country. It is one of the most difficult tours of the year, the weather is always humbling and the riding incredibly hard. But the Basques are the best fans in the world, they know every rider by name, and make even the worst rainy day seem like a holiday. I have taken part in this race 14 times in succession and have finished each one which makes it a bit special. I would have liked to have won there even more than a mountain stage in the Tour de France.

Grischa at the start of his cycling career (image courtesy of Cycling Archives)

Grischa only started cycling because he was overweight as a child. After losing 15kg on a diet, he wanted to take part in an endurance sport to keep the weight off. He started cycling, loved it and the rest, as they say, is history. He has, however, maintained his interest in diet and fitness throughout his career and claims he would have become a nutritionist if he hadn’t been a cyclist. He said he’d have designed an energy bar which didn’t taste claggy. We can only hope that he finds enough time in his new role to develop that bar. Meanwhile, here he is demonstrating a few exercises for cyclists in his local gym.

I’m going to leave the last word(s) to Grischa’s compatriot, Jens Voigt:

I’d like to take a moment to pay tribute to a rider who finished his career this season. I’m talking about Grischa Niermann, from Rabobank, who rode his last pro race at the Vuelta. This is one hard-working and loyal rider!

Grischa and I have been in this business for many years, and I’ve watched him become an increasingly important player in his team. He never cared if it was raining or boiling hot. He didn’t care if it was a long race or short. When the time came, he’d be the first to go to the front and start chasing or riding tempo for his squad. He has had some nice wins, too. I remember one in particular, the Regio Tour of Germany. Grischa has played a role in many successes for Rabobank, and I’m happy that he’s going to stay in cycling and keep working with the big Dutch outfit.

I’ll miss his dry humor. It’s sometimes almost British it’s so dry! I’ll never forget one Tour of California. We were riding in the pack with like 40km to go in the stage with a strong headwind. Grischa is on my left and Robert Forster is on my right, and some young kid attacks all alone, straight into the headwind. And of course he doesn’t get far and comes back real fast, more or less immediately. Now, for obvious reasons, we call this a boomerang attack. As we watched this kid attacking, for a whole 20 seconds, Grischa says, totally pretending I’m not there, “Look at that! That was a Jens Voigt TV attack!” Forster almost fell off the bike he was laughing so hard. And hey, I had to laugh as well!

Grischa, in my books you are a legend. Congrats on your long and solid career. It was always great seeing you and racing with you. I wish you all the best.