– Words & Pics by Tom Staniford -
Whew, found it…now where are the riders?
The assembled journalists outside wandered nonchalantly waiting for the riders to leave the bus, and I joined them- feeling the first mounting feelings of nervousness. After an agonising wait (where the only drama was a delivery lorry almost knocking down 3-time World TT Champion Michael Rogers’ bike! And what a bike it was! Finely sculpted integrated seatpost,…. black and white decals, beautiful PRO aerobars. I have to admit I momentarily forgot I was meant to be working and just drooled idly for a while), the riders were at last ushered into the restaurant.
At last they trundled out of the bus.
The presentation began with a question and answer session. As he was quizzed by the media, Team Manager Bob Stapleton highlighted the Team’s impressive early season palmares. He explained he believed this year’s T-Mobile team was stronger than ever due to all the riders “believing in themselves, believing in the team, and believing in Die Mannschaft.” Stapleton elaborated on the Team’s professionalism, detailing the new technologies and materials integrated into everything from the Team’s wheels (8 different types for different conditions!) to their skinsuits.
Stapleton and Aldag provide the main administrative leadership for the young squad.
Sporting Director Aldag reiterated much of Stapleton’s comments, adding that he felt this year’s team was “balanced and capable in all situations.” Throughout this media interrogation, tension had been rising in the packed confines of ‘Fifteen’, as we all waited to hear what the management thought of their chosen riders. At long last, the team was unveiled as:
The T-Mobile team car complete with non Dura-Ace wheels. Interesting.
Marcus Burghart is one of 3 tour debutantes this year. His teamwork in Gent –Wevelgem, where he took first place, with Roger Hammond (who eventually took second place) was particularly impressive, proving he may make a formidable tour-debut as a domestique.
Oh, there’s the Dura-Ace wheel. As a matter of fact: 1 lightly used Shimano Dura-Ace wheel yours for only…
Another Tour virgin, Linus Gerdemann has had a promising season, making it into the top 10 overall of the Ruta Del Sol. He has ridden strongly in this and last year’s Tour De Suisse, and has openly stated he will put everything on the line to help the team and “stay by Michael Roger’s side”. As a personal goal, Gerdemann has said he would like to challenge for the white jersey- the prize given to highest-placed GC rider under the age of 25.
The young Cavendish is a popular commodity at the moment.
The 3rd Tour debutante, Mark ‘Cannonball’ (nickname given him by Stapleton, not me!) Cavendish, has made a serious impact on the European cycling scene. Stage 3 and 6 wins at the 4 Days of Dunkirk were followed barely a week later by winning stages 2 and 6 of the Tour of Catalonia. He then won Ster Elektrotoer and it all started back in April when he beat McEwen and Zabel in a sprint for the Scheldeprijs Vlandeeren. Young, enthusiastic and outspoken against doping; (he was the first rider to sign the UCI’s ‘100% Anti-Doping’ Declaration) he is, in many ways, exactly what T-Mobile are after.
Yep, he really is from the UK.
Working with Cavendish, Austrian sprinter Bernard Eisel has shown his determination and tactical nous this year by winning the overall of the Triple Crown Series. Cavendish says he has “great chemistry with Bernard on the bike” and the two could well challenge for sprinter’s stages.
Here it is again…T-Mobile bike with non-decal Zipps. Interesting.
Former Luxembourg champion Kim Kirchen has shown terrific consistency this season; as runner-up behind Karpets in the GC of the Tour De Suisse, and also with his clutch of placings in other races- 3rd place Brabantse Pijl; 2nd overall and stage 3rd place Tirenno-Adriatico; and 3rd place Milano-Torino. He is a strong rider that other teams will be watching out for.
The team wouldn’t have the poor journalists starve would they?
Uber-Domestique Axel Merckx makes a welcome addition to the team. His strengths as an all-rounder and domestique dedicated to, (in his own words on the team website) “contribute to the team cause” make him a useful team member with loads of experience.
The T-Mobile team for Le Tour.
Multiple former German Champion Patrik Sinkewitz has won at Henninger Turm – Frankfurt GP this year, and will be adding his climbing and stage race experience to the team. When quizzed as to his personal goal for the Tour, Sinkewitz revealed he wanted to “win a stage”, adding laconically, “… that should be enough!”
This one is not Rogers’ bike, but still, a sweet rig nonetheless.
Fresh from dominating the German TT Championship, Bert Grabsch will add more experience to the team and a particular edge in the TTs.
At last year’s Tour, newly designated Team Leader Michael Rogers managed a formidable 10th overall, even though he was a domestique under Andreas Kloden.. With 3 World TT Championships to his name, Rogers always shines in the ‘contre le montre’ stages, and we can expect great things from him this year. Asked about his chances of yellow glory, Rogers explained he is hopeful as he has “a fantastic team of enthusiastic young guys” and “good teamwork all round”. On a personal note, I caught this really genuine guy unawares during a lull between interviews and had a quick chat with him; nabbing his autograph in the process.
Michael Rogers is the unquestioned leader of the squad.
With the Team presentation over, it struck me that T-Mobile were fielding mainly very young riders. Manager Bob Stapleton revealed this was his plan all along; to have “a fresh, young and hopeful team that will reflect the original ideals of the race”. Pondering on this little nugget of cyclo-philosophy, I realised that T-Mobile’s choice of venue- the enthusiastic, pure and wholesome ‘Fifteen’ Restaurant- cleverly embodied Stapleton’s dream of a clean, fair and hard-working Tour De France this year, in a sport that has recently been plagued by unsavoury doping scandals.
I feel this year will see fresher, stronger, and more daring T-Mobile involvement in the Tour; an ethos nicely summarised by GC Hopeful Michael Rogers, whose dream is “Of course, to win it.”