Team Profile, January 24, 2005
When the biggest German mobile telephony company invites the press to a marketing event, one can be sure what to expect: A headquarters reception inside a huge exhibition hall, where a specially designed grandstand provides enough seats for the assembled media to get a good view of what is about to be spotlighted. This is what happened in Bonn at the presentation of the 2005 T-Mobile cycling team today, and the show was well staged, as always.
Managers Walter Godefroot and Olaf Ludwig introduced a team with many qualities, but the top priority for this year's season is once again the overall victory of the Tour de France. "Bigger, better and faster" is the motto for starting the ProTour, which requires even more means than were deployed already - so T-Mobile chose to withdraw sponsorship for its mountain bike team at the end of 2004, sign more riders for its road team, take on additional employees and decided to have up younger talents program. "With 27 riders, we have enough to schedule three racing programmes for this season," explained Ludwig, who will take full responsibilities for the team management in 2006, when Godefroot retires.
With 27 riders of such class, T-Mobile's numerous directeurs sportifs Mario Kummer, Frans Van Looy, Valerio Piva, Brian Holm and Giovanni Fidanza will have a versatile squad at their disposal to play a major role in all kinds of races on the upcoming calendar. To begin with, the spring classics, where Steffen Wesemann will try to defend his Tour of Flanders victory of last year, and maybe make his dream of Paris-Roubaix come true.
In the Ruta del Sol, Vuelta a Andalucia, Vuelta a Valencia and Paris-Nice, Oscar Sevilla will test his strengths for the Tour and aim to help Alexandre Vinokourov, who will make his season's debut in Valencia to prepare for "his" race, Paris-Nice, where he wants to give a 100 percent. But the Kazakh also has another race on his mind that he missed last year due to a crash: the Tour de France. "It's all for the Tour, all for the Tour," he said, conscious of the fact that the general attention for this stage race lay on Andreas Klöden and (who else) Jan Ullrich, but he wasn't unhappy about it when Cyclingnews asked him. "For me it's better: less pressure," he nodded. "It'll be easier like that, I might be able to surprise some." Vinokourov also believes that Armstrong will be participating in July.
Andreas Klöden, who topped even Jan Ullrich to come second at the Tour 2004, has gained a tremendous amount of self-confidence from this success. Ever since he showed his worth in the year 2000 when he came third at the Olympic Games road race in Sydney, the German champ had been unlucky with illnesses and injuries, but has now proven to his team management that they were right to be patient. "Now, I know what my body is capable of," he said, clearly ready for more.
Together with his long-time friend, Jan Ullrich, he will share the load of expectations for the reiterated T-Mobile team goal, the top step of the Champs-Elysées podium. Both riders consent to their willingness to work for the strongest rider in the team at that point, so time will tell who it will be, and questioning their mutual loyalty as some media representatives attempted to do, just didn't seem to be fair at present.
Ullrich, in any case, is highly motivated - for the Tour de France, and for not letting any unexpected illnesses spoil his preparations this year. "My pre-season training has been going well," he said. "I'm not forcing myself to do too much because I know I'm prone to colds which could only set me back. But my motor is starting to fire, and I'm very motivated." The Tour winner of 1997 will travel to Tuscany, Italy for another 3-4 weeks of training, before starting his racing plan at the Vuelta a Murcia from March 2-6.
Last but not least, "Mr. Consistency" Erik Zabel talked to Cyclingnews about Milano-San Remo, his possible goals for one-day races and the Tour de France, the ProTour and his motivation to beat Alessandro Petacchi. Watch out for the full interview in the coming days on Cyclingnews.