An interview with Andreas Klöden, January 31, 2006
30 year-old German cyclist Andreas Klöden was compared favourably to Jan Ullrich when he burst onto the scene in 2000, but an injury-plagued career has seen him never quite reach his full potential. Shane Stokes spoke to him at the T-Mobile team presentation in Mallorca earlier this month to find out how he will do things differently this year.
He may not have won a massive amount of races, but his palmares proves that Andreas Klöden is one of the most talented riders in the peloton. Winner of Paris-Nice and the Vuelta a Pais Vasco in 2000, he took bronze in the Olympic road race that same year and then, four years later, went on to win the German championship and place an excellent second in the Tour de France.
In-between the two bursts of form, Klöden was held back by injury, but when he is in full shape he displays a level of ability which is not far off that of his T-Mobile team-mate - and Teutonic compatriot - Jan Ullrich. Many predicted that his superb ride in the 2004 Tour would lead to a boost in motivation, leading to a similar or even strong challenge in 2005.
However Klöden struggled badly with his form during the build-up to the race, pulling out of several preparatory events and, at one point, even looking doubtful to make the start in Fromentine. A win on the final day of the Bayern Rundfahrt showed that things were improving, though, and while he wasn't at his best in the Tour, he rode well for Ullrich in the mountains and went within a photo-finish of winning stage eight to Gérardmer. One centimetre was the margin between first and second, victory and defeat.
Klöden ultimately pulled out of that Tour, crashing on the 16th stage and withdrawing the following morning with a broken wrist. Fast forward seven months and he's busy putting the final pre-season touches to his training before starting his 2006 program of racing. This time round, he's determined to do things right.
"It was the altitude training in Tenerife earlier in the year [which caused the problem]...that took a lot out of me," he said at the recent T-Mobile launch. "It didn't work out properly. After that, I was chasing my form, training hard to try to get back on track. That is why 2004 was better than last year."
Klöden will modify his training this time round in order to avoid the same problem. However, as he tells Cyclingnews, even if he hits July in top shape he will dedicate himself to Ullrich. "Jan is the undisputed captain of the team, so I want to work for him in the race," he states. Still, he knows that if he plays the deputy role this time round, the 30 year old has time enough to take over the leadership of the T-Mobile team should Jan call it a day at the end of 2006.
Cyclingnews: How is your condition at the moment?
Andreas Klöden: My form is good, my morale is good, I have no injuries. I am ready.
CN: What is the atmosphere like on the team?
AK: The team morale and harmony is good. All the riders are very well integrated and we are training together well. Everything is optimal, I am happy.
CN: What program will you have this year?
AK: Some of the races will be Tirreno-Adriatico, Criterium International, Tour of the Basque Country and then maybe Fleche Wallonne. Then I will take a break to train for the Tour.
CN: You had a very, very good Tour in 2004 but then last year you were chasing your form during the spring. Have you worked out why your form was slow in coming last year?
AK: It was the altitude training in Tenerife earlier in the year...that took a lot out of me. It didn't work out properly. After that, I was chasing my form, training hard to try to get back on track. That is why 2004 was better than last year
CN: So what will you do differently in 2006?
AK: I won't go to Tenerife! I will train on the flat this time.
CN: You were close to winning stage 8 of the Tour but were pipped there [by Rabobank rider Pieter Weening]. That must have been very frustrating, especially after the tough buildup that you had...
AK: Well, it was very important after such a bad spring that I was able to get my form back for the Tour, to prove that I could still do it. It was good to show that, but it was hard to go so close to a stage win.
CN: With Jan on the team, there are clearly two good general classification riders in T-Mobile. If the two of you are on similar form in July, will you both be equal leaders?
AK: My aim is to have the same kind of form as in 2004. But Jan is the undisputed captain of the team, so I want to work for him in the race.
CN: What about after the Tour...any thoughts on what your program might be like?
AK: I don't know. At this moment, I am concentrating on the buildup for July. If I come good for the Tour, we will need to look at the program for the rest of the season.
CN: Armstrong is now gone. How do you think that will change the shape of the race?
AK: I think the Tour is open for everybody. For Jan, for Basso, for Vinokourov. I think that many riders can win the Tour, including those from Discovery Channel too.
CN: You are strong, Jan is strong and Michael Rogers is also a good rider. Because of that, does a more open Tour suit T-Mobile?
AK: Yes, for sure. But we will be dedicated to Jan. We will have one captain, no more than that. It will be the same as Discovery last year, working for Armstrong. And US Postal before that. I think that's the best way to do it; to have just one leader, with everyone else riding for him.
Also see: T-Mobile presentation: T-Mobile 2006 is go