Q&A Sebastian Schönberger

- Back to overview

My path to becoming a professional cyclist...

in this interview, we want to introduce you one of our cyclists from the B&B Hotel KTM team. Chances are high that he will be participating in this years Tour de France for the very first time: Sebastian Schönberger. The twenty-eight-year-old fellow from Schalchen, Upper Austria, brings us a little closer to professional cycling in the following interview.

If you type "path to becoming a professional cyclist" into Google, you get a lot of reports that it's a tough job to be at the top. How do you feel about that?

Yes, I often think to myself that I could have chosen something easier (*laughs*). But it's my dream job and I'm incredibly happy that I'm allowed and able to do it, that my body plays along and that I can perform as well as I can. And it was also a rocky road for me until I became a professional cyclist. I didn't choose the easiest path. First, I did an apprenticeship and became a plumber, or more precisely, a building and installation technician. It was a great passion for me, and I also enjoyed it. I did my apprenticeship at home with my father and worked at least 40-50 hours a week until I was 21. Nevertheless, I was able to combine that well with cycling. Now, in retrospect, I feel that I couldn't have taken a better path. I see it from a different perspective. I know how hard it is to earn money. And then it was super cool for me when I could suddenly focus only on cycling. I then got into army sports and focused 100% on cycling. When I then only focused on training, the button also popped open for me, so I made the jump to the pros.

When did you get your first, specially chosen bike? Do you still have it? What memories do you have of it?

I got my first racing bike when I was 14 and when I sat on the saddle for the first time and clipped my shoes into the pedals, I knew, "I want to become a pro". I almost got the bike as a gift, but quickly realised that I needed something better to train properly. After half a year, I tried to build up relationships with a bike shop. Through the bike shop and an acquaintance who worked at KTM, I came to the brand and met Stefan Limbrunner, the Managing Director of KTM Bike Industries. I have been associated with KTM since I was 15 years old.

How did it come that professional cycling became your dream job? That's a rather unusual dream job at 14 - others want to be astronauts, firemen or rock stars.

My first bike race was the Mondsee bike marathon, and I was 13 years old at the time. I've always had the urge to move around a lot. I started with skiing and football, like probably every Austrian. However, I was looking for extreme sports and only found them in endurance sports. Another decisive factor was that I had a few injuries while playing football, and that's when I realised that cycling "is the real thing". That's where I found my passion and when I was 13, I knew I wanted to achieve something and get to the top.

How did you pursue your goal of becoming a professional cyclist? Who supported you along the way?

I got my first support as a full-fledged member of the Altheim cycling club, shortly afterwards I switched to the Ried cycling club, where I was able to successfully spend my junior years. This was the time when my dream became more and more realistic, and I could live out my talent.

What was the next step on the long road to becoming a professional cyclist?

My further path led me to the Army Sports Centre, which was a great support. The Tirol Cycling Team also helped me.

When and in which team did you get your first, real professional contract?

In 2018, the hard work was rewarded. I signed my first professional contract for an Italian team.

What happened next?

In 2020, I was given the opportunity to cycle for a French team. This team not only taught me the French language (which is honestly much more complex than Italian), it taught me many principles, life lessons and to trust myself. Now, with more than ten years in racing, more than half of which I have spent on an Austrian bike, namely a KTM, I am looking to the future with success. KTM has always been my companion when it comes to bikes. That's why I also wanted to say thank you here. Thank you for everything and thank you for your unconditional support.

What is your biggest dream?

To keep doing this sport as long as possible and to keep the passion alive. You're always on a tight rope, and you have to see it as a privilege to be able to do it. The race goals are something else. This year it's quite clear: The Tour De France. It's the biggest goal and of course you have goals in other races too, but first comes the Tour de France. What comes after that is the World Championships this year. Also a big goal in terms of results.

What do you like about your dream job?

I love suffering. You have to like that when you are a professional cyclist. There's nothing better in racing than feeling the adrenaline. And when you can ride at the front, when you're in really good shape and know that it's possible to get the best out of it. That does so many things in the body, it's something very special and hard to describe.

Asked the other way round: What do you like less about your dream job?

Wow, when it's really cold outside, raining and you have to train for a really long time. It's not fun, but it's part of it. What I also don't like is sitting around at the airport and the long waiting time while travelling around - which might sound strange - but I won't miss that either.

How do you prepare (mentally) for a race? Do you have any kind of routine?

Every driver has his own routines. For me, it's the music. That's where I come down, where I can motivate myself, relax and regenerate. That is extremely important for me. Before the race I have my routines like what I eat for breakfast and what I do before the race. I warm up my body just before the race, come down, read the road book and then you also have the tactics meeting. After that, you go into yourself again, each individually as you need it. Either the music is on in the bus or you have the headphones in. That way you make sure you focus on the race. Depending on the tactics, you also prepare differently for the race.

What should you look out for when you set yourself the goal of becoming a professional athlete?

Always pursue the goal and never give up, don't let other people talk you into something and only listen to the people you trust 100%.

What would you like to pass on to readers who may now also have become interested in professional sport?

If you just work hard enough for it, you can achieve anything. If you look at a cycling race, it's not just The Tour de France, but also the classic races like Paris-Nice, Dauphiné, World Championship, and so on. Actually, every single race has its own appeal. It's a team sport, and watching it is not so much about the sport either. Of course, results are important, but also where do you want to go on holiday. That's what you see in cycling races like this.

Thank you very much for the interview, Sebastian! 

Author: Cornelia Urkauf