Max Kanter is one of the most talented riders on the U23 racing scene and, at just 19 years of age, is a real gem on the Sunweb Development Team. Max is currently the U23 German Road Race Champion and, in between taking 7th in the U23 RR Worlds (where teammate and Sunweb elite rider Lennard Kamna was 2nd) and racing at Piccolo Lombardia this weekend, Max took some time out of his schedule to answer some questions over the phone exclusively with U23 Cycling Zone.
“Overall, I have to say I’m happy with my season,” Max tells U23 Cycling Zone editor Joseph Doherty via the phone on Wednesday evening. “At the start of the year, I knew I had to take a step up as the level of races I was going to be doing was a little higher. I think I took this step up gradually over the year and was really pleased to become national road race champion.”
While the race was still fresh in his mind, we pressed Max to try and recall to the best of his ability the events of last Friday’s U23 Road Race World Championships, where France (and AG2R stagiaire) Benoit Cosnefroy beat Max’s compatriot Lennard Kamna in a two-up sprint. Max finished a brilliant 7th, coming in 5th in the sprint for third in a group of 37 riders. Max was also the highest finishing teenager in the race.
“Our goal as a team was to be on the podium. Lennard attacked on the last lap, which was our plan, I was the joker in our team for a sprint. Lennard made his move and then it was my job to just come to the front of the chase group and take it easy in an attempt to slow the group down, while Lennard made the podium up front.”
Max had the honour of being the German road race champion at Under 23 level earlier in the summer, winning a sprint from a group of eight riders, thus earning the chance to wear his national jersey in prestigious U23 races like Paris-Roubaix Espoirs.
“Of course, winning the Nationals was a special feeling. I was really proud to take the jersey. It was special also because it was not just me winning, but the team also, which is important as we are a German Development team and a German professional team. This win showed we have the strongest German guys just now.”
Sunweb clearly rate Max highly and have recognised his talent, as 2017 saw him once more promoted to the elite team as a stagiaire from August 1. His first stint last year came despite Max being just 18 at the time. He raced five pro race days last year and has done double that in 2017.
“I have learned a lot from my time on the pro team. The WorldTour riders have a lot of experience and they have all been really friendly. They were more than willing to give me great answers whenever I asked them any questions. I also think my time racing in the pros will help me as those races are again a level higher than the U23 races and these pro races can again help me make improvements to take the next step.”
Max is quite a versatile rider. He can sprint well but showed his climbing legs, often staying with the front group when other sprinters get dropped. He also can excel in the Classics, beating Fabio Jakobsen, a great sprinter and future QuickStep rider, in the bunch sprint in Paris-Roubaix Espoirs, while teammate Nils Eekhoff took the victory in the fabled Roubaix Velodrome.
“For sure you can say I am a sprinter but I can also climb well, as long as the climbs are not too long. I think I have achieved a good mix between the two. In tougher races, provided I can follow on the climbs, I can be the fastest in the group sprinting for the line. I think my skills are a really strong combination for races like the Classics and the Worlds.”
Turning away from the present, we delved a little into Max’s past and then the future. First up, just how did the man from Cottbus get into cycling?
“I liked to develop myself and I wanted to see what I could do. In cycling, you can train hard and see improvements, something which is not always possible in technical sports like football. Furthermore, in cycling, to succeed you can’t just be physically good, you must also have a strong head and mentality in order to succeed.”
And turning to the future, Max says there is one pro race he has watched on TV and dreams of winning one day. However, he does point out he actually won’t get to even ride it for a little while as he isn’t gong pro so soon, having already committed to the Sunweb Development Team for another season in 2018.
“My biggest goal, my dream, is to win Milan-San Remo. I will work really hard to achieve this goal, even if for now it is a long way off as I need to complete this first step and go professional before I can do the race. Furthermore, once I go pro, I must do a lot of races and see what suits my qualities. However, from what I have seen on TV, with the Poggio and then the fact the race ends in a sprint, it seems like San Remo can really suit me and this is why the race is my dream and biggest goal.”
There you have it. Max Kanter is aiming to be another German winner of San Remo, following in the footsteps of riders like Rudi Altig, Erik Zabel, Gerald Ciolek and, most revently in 2015, John Degenkolb. However, he does have more immediate goals to achieve while part of Sunweb’s Development Team, and he has all of the class and qualities to be a real serial winner next season. Kanter is a real talent. Watch out for his name in the future.
Both U23 Cycling Zone and Joseph would like to thank Max for taking the time to answer our questions, and thanks to the Sunweb team for setting it all up.