By Gregor Brown
German Rolf Aldag, Directeur Sportif for Team Columbia, is satisfied with the "super successful" mix of riders that the USA team took to Tour de France. Over the three-week Grand Tour, the team took five stage wins and held the leader's maillot jaune for four stages.
"I am absolutely satisfied with this Tour," said Aldag to Cyclingnews following the race. "Four wins from [Mark] Cavendish and one from [Marcus] Burghardt – so five wins, a top-ten spot, having the yellow jersey, the green, the white jersey – it was much greater than our expectations."
The team started the 95th Tour de France as one of the newest teams. USA's Bob Stapleton rebuilt most of its infrastructure following the departure of sponsor T-Mobile in 2007 and it was renamed Team High Road. Prior to the Tour, Columbia Sportswear stepped in as title sponsor and immediately, the team repaid its backer with wins.
Kim Kirchen held the maillot vert of the points classification and Thomas Lövkvist the maillot blanc of best young rider. Cavendish then took the first of his four stage wins in stage five to Châteauroux. Kirchen traded tops the next day, moving into the famous yellow of race later after the stage to Super Besse. Though he lost the jersey four days later, he went on to finish eighth overall and the team enjoyed four more stage wins.
"The team is still growing, we had four riders competing for the white jersey, so they are all quite young and we want to build on that. We will take our time and next year we will come back and try to achieve the same success."
Aldag does not want the team to become a train of lead-out men for Cavendish. He prefers to keep a mix of riders that can produce results on varying terrain, while letting Cavendish develop as a sprinter similar to Robbie McEwen.
"We were strong. The selection for the last few spots is always based on daily success leading up to the Tour. I think we will continue with the mix – not focusing only on the sprints and not focusing only on the GC. It is risky to try to keep the peloton together for every flat stage for Cavendish, but we also can't always keep it together in the mountains. However, we have been super successful with this mix."