Artistic cycling: Viva España for German-born Daniel Andrés Hecktor

He is about to make only his second appearance at the UCI Indoor Cycling World Championships, but 27-year-old Daniel Andrés Hecktor of Spain is already classed as one of artistic cycling’s ‘old hands’. At an age when many riders have already called time on their careers in this demanding discipline, the German-born-and-bred athlete’s international career is just taking off – even though he has been competing in the sport for around 20 years.

Daniel’s mother Karin, a former artistic cyclist for RC Germania Tempo in Höchst, always took him to his big brother Sebastián’s training sessions.

For a long time, Andrés did not believe he would ever make it to the World Championships, as the competition in Germany, which included many of the world’s leading riders, was simply too strong. “We always joked that I would ride for Spain one day,” he said. His father is Spanish and moved to Germany with his parents as a child.

Despite the jokes, Daniel never acted on the idea of applying to represent Spain until he visited Madrid for a language course two years ago. “I just dropped in to the national cycling association, the Real Federación Española Ciclismo (RFEC), and used my fairly shaky Spanish to ask if I could compete for Spain.”  The matter soon became more challenging “because I was sent back and forth until I was finally able to change association. After that, everything went smoothly,” he explained.

Although the association provides him with jerseys and tracksuits, Daniel – like nearly every other artistic cyclist – covers all other costs himself. He also receives PR and digital media support from the RFEC’s marketing department.

Andrés made his UCI World Championships debut in Dornbirn, Austria, in 2017. “Before that I’d only competed at regional championships and tournaments, so riding in the spotlight of a darkened hall in front of several hundred spectators was such a great experience,” he said.

Having finished tenth in the UCI Artistic Cycling World Cup, Daniel is striving for a personal best in Liège despite not being fully fit heading into the competition. “I sustained concussion in three different accidents over the summer: first in training, then in a bus accident on holiday and finally after falling off my bike.” This run of terrible luck side-lined the computer science doctoral student for several weeks. “It’s frightening how quickly you lose your conditioning when you’re not allowed to do anything,” he said. Despite these setbacks, the 27-year-old has his sights set on another 90-point score after reaching the same mark at the recent UCI Artistic Cycling World Cup finals in Erlenbach, Germany.

Andrés also has an experienced mentor in his corner in former top Spanish rider José Arellano. The two-time World Championships silver medallist (in 1999 and 2001) is also a German-born ‘Spanish exile’.

The USA’s Michelle Bestler has a similar story to Daniel Andrés. However, the 24-year-old German-born daughter of a former US soldier gave up artistic cycling as a teenager after several injuries and has since become a youth coach.

A few months ago, Michelle found out that it might be possible to participate in the World Championships under her other nationality, as an American. So after a couple of years rest, she got back on her bike, started training again and will be representing the USA at this year’s competition.

The pair will be in good company in Liège, with six other German-born riders with foreign roots set to take part in the event. The most famous of them is Austria’s 2006 UCI World Champion Denise Boller. Currently seventh in the world rankings, Boller – like Bestler and Andrés – lives in Frankfurt. She last competed at the UCI World Championships in 2013 and is again among the medal favourites.

The other riders who grew up in Germany before choosing to represent their parents’ homeland are Laura Rissé (Luxembourg), sisters Isabella and Giuliana Zübner (Italy) and siblings Tamaris and Dominic Franke Fontinha (Portugal).