Christian Knees: Cycling and an adherence to excellence

Christian Knees: Cycling and an adherence to excellence

Focus and a willingness to succeed

Christian Knees isn’t just a familiar face on the world cycling scene; he’s a well-respected former rider and sports director amongst colleagues, with an adherence to excellence that is part of his character. It’s this willingness to go that extra distance - both as a racer and as a person - looking at how things can be improved upon, that made him such a superb team rider, and which these days helps to guide him in his role directing a new breed of riders in one of the world’s top cycling teams, INEOS Grenadiers.

However, cycling wasn’t a natural right-of-passage for this quietly spoken German athlete. His father only started cycling himself later in life, after a football injury forced him to look elsewhere in sport; and the young Christian was 9 or 10 when he began riding a bike. Talking with Christian, he recalls his first memories of cycling, “Watching the Giro and then the Tour de France coming through our hometown in Germany. Later, the president of the local cycling club asked my father if I wanted to join the club, and of course, as they gave me a nice bike to ride for free, it was definitely a yes!”

Winning his first race aged 13 years, he immediately noticed that he was quite good on a bike, and when he was 16, Christian was successful in qualifying for the German national team. In those exciting early days for the young Christian, his dream was to be first German winner of the Tour de France – but Jan Ulrich took this away from him!

Life in the pro peloton

Turning pro in 2004, Christian joined the German Pro Continental team, Team Wiesenhof, before his career eventually led him to Team Sky in 2011. He’s seen some significant changes in cycling over the years – and not simply in relation to the bikes and equipment used. These days, he says that “The riding season can be hectic, and the early season cobbled classics are made for drama, with riders frequently crashing out.”

AS cycling fans and leisure riders, we’ve benefitted from the developments of bikes, with the technology trickling down from pro teams to cycle shops and being available for the average rider. However, in the hands of a young professional cyclist - aged only 18 these days - and with towns and city centres developed not necessarily for transport, and the risk taking within the peloton being higher; then, as Christian says, “there are more and more crashes, as these 2 issues – faster bikes and a different infrastructure to towns and cities, - things are not always compatible.”

From his own perspective, Christian has always tried to guide others and to try to pass on his experience: “I always shared knowledge with younger guys. I earned my place in team. That was always important for me – to be my best. It was motivating for me to be better than young riders, and it kept me focused.”

Celebrating the special moments on 2-wheels

For a cyclist that has ridden in so many great races for the top teams - the Classics and the Grand Tours - there are so many memories. One that stands out for Christian though is when he won the German National Championship in 2010. Talking with him, his voice changes and the pace increases just a fraction, but enough to indicate that it still feels good: “It was definitely a special feeling, to be our national champion and to represent my country with that special jersey - riding the Tour de France in the national jersey was just a great feeling. When I won the championship, the win for me was like textbook and I knew I had that win in me – I knew that this was my day and knew what I wanted to do!” His passion for racing is still evident. 

That passion to be the best version of himself, has helped him to become one of the most respected riders of his day and a respected sporting director at the highest level. Riding the Tour de France, and indeed, all of the Grand Tours

is all about passion and excitement – and Christian has ridden them all, competing: 6 x Giro D'Italia; 5 x Vuelta a España; and an incredible 8 x Tour France races. Asking him how it must feel riding into Paris, he tells me:

“So, you are 16 years old, and you come to Paris and go into a cafe, and the man asks if you’re a Tour rider! Then you do your first Tour de France, and it’s amazing how motivated all riders are. To come to Paris, to finish a grand tour is a really special feeling. Then, you turn up in a coffee shop again... this time, you are that rider and it’s magical!”

A passion for being the best

His passion for riding and for life is evident when you talk with Christian, and he has such a wealth of knowledge and memories, that it would be easy to listen to him all day. He loves cycling and he’s driven still, to be the very best that he can be, guiding teams to victory. As pro cycling has developed, with the advent of the marginal gain's philosophy, his passion, his analytical mind and his character has suited this dynamic and game-changing period perfectly. Yes, Christian sees the sense in looking at every aspect of the cyclist's life and making those small but significant changes that can give a rider the edge on race day.

Cycling still is a very traditional sport, but also in terms of developing, you always search for that little extra – winning and losing is such a small margin. How from the floppy jersey to aero jersey, for some a big loss – you search for the best material. It’s the same here at Lake, designing our shoes, and the work that goes into creating that design – the research and the tests with riders. AS Christian highlights, it’s now like the F1 world, searching for that little bit in everything. His analytical mind is invaluable as a DS working with a young team, having to take quick decisions and having to think outside the box. These are traits that we value here at Lake Cycling Shoes, and it was this that drew Christian to our cycling shoes.

Lake Cycling Shoes: Leading from the front

Being a former pro rider and having ridden at the highest level in the world, Christian is now happy to ride for leisure. Yes, he still has that competitive side within him, but these days he enjoys riding because it’s fun and he simply loves it. He also likes being comfortable and getting the maximum performance out of his cycling, which is why he still wear Lake cycling shoes. Outside of his role with INEOS, he has his own coaching company too, passing on his knowledge and expertise to ordinary cyclists, and he knows from personal experience that we all have unique feet. It’s critical that he can help riders to maximise comfort and the transmission of power from their legs into the forward motion of the bike. Lake, he says, have always been good at this.

His own shoe size is a 48 and a wide fitting. Whilst talking, he recalls that when racing, he used to get pain on the right and left outside of his feet. This caused him significant issues with other cycle shoe brands, and he had to try to adapt them, but they simply never fitted him well. He used the well-known high-performance ‘Speedplay’ pedals back in the day and his Lake cycling shoes always fitted these best. The structure and design of the sole gave him a better position on bike – lower and more aerodynamic, with the stiff soles of Lake providing the ability for better power transmission. For this reason, once he’d discovered the Lake cycling shoe difference, he rode them to the end of his career, and still wraps his feet in Lake shoes today, recommending them to his coaching customers too.

An adherence to excellence

Christian’s current road cycling shoe is the CX332, and he’s waiting with anticipation for the arrival of the latest CX333, with the increased toe box width, the Carbitex stability and the lighter sole. He’s also a fan of the super-cool looking Lake CX1 with laces, which he also occasionally uses when on a relaxing rode; and our unique Lake Cycling Shoes custom she designs service has proved popular with him over the years, with special shoe designs created for him and those extra special rides and events. With only a short time frame added to the custom fitting process, it’s a service that we offer to all riders, and you too can have shoes to match your bike, your kit or anything else you desire!

Back to my chat with this amazing German cyclist, and his thoughts about the Lake brand. Comfort, fit and power transfer are important aspects for Christian, and in his eyes, nobody does these things as well as Lake. For us and our team here, that’s high praise indeed and something that we’re proud of here at Lake – especially coming from a rider who focuses his attention to detail in everything he does, and who has achieved so much on a bike.

Whilst we can’t promise you a cycling journey as varied and amazing as the life on 2-wheels that Christian has lived and is still experiencing; we can promise you the same level of service, the same high-quality products and the most comfortable, high-performance cycling shoes in the world. The rides, the cafes and the dreams and desire to succeed are all down to you. What we at Lake add to the journey is an adherence to excellence which is unmatched across the cycling industry, and which is respected by the world’s best riders – cyclists like Christian Knees.


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