By Bjorn Haake in Frankfurt a.M.
Marcus Burghardt of High Road had a very tough year so far. The 24 year-old was eager to defend his title at Gent-Wevelgem, which he won thanks to great team tactics (racing for High Road's predecessor, T-Mobile back then) and a gutsy last couple of kilometres, where he ended up beating Oscar Freire, among others. But a recurring knee injury has taken him out of the entire classics season.
Now, he is back and eager to race at the Henninger Turm event in Frankfurt. He really wanted it, too. "If I would have had to watch the race at home on my sofa, it would have been really tough. To watch it on TV would have been hard. I think I would have had to tie myself down!" At the sign-in he confirmed that "There is nothing better than having the comeback in Germany and especially here in Frankfurt." He echoed the sentiments of some of the other German riders when he said that "Frankfurt is one of my favourite races in Germany."
Burghardt had a knee surgery two and a half weeks ago. It is somewhat amazing that he is already back in the saddle. "I have been training for a week now," he revealed his quick recovery period.
And while he "really wants to win this race," he was realistic enough to say that "I won't be able to go for a win. My form is just not good enough." So he will try to help the team as much as he can. "We will try to control the field, and be represented in the breakaways. Then, if a bigger group goes with Gerald [Ciolek] in it, where he is the strongest sprinter, we should have a good chance."
Ciolek himself had the same sentiments. "Yes, if there is a bigger group getting to the finish, I would like to improve on my second place from 2006."
If Ciolek fails to deliver, High Road's hopes may shift to the other sprinter, André Greipel. But he, too, had some health problems recently and will have to see how well he is going. At any rate, High Road knew that Gerolsteiner and Milram will try to prevent a sprint at all costs and will try to use the hilly Taunus area to send riders in breakaways. Gerolsteiner has only Peter Wrolich for a potential sprint and Milram has to make do without Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel, who are out with pneumonia and crash injuries, respectively.
It is unlikely that someone from Team High Road can slip out of the bunch unrecognised, but Burghardt certainly noticed a change in the public, riding for a different team this year. While the infrastructure evolved from T-Mobile, the jersey and the name are different and the team is now registered in the United States. "Yes, I think there is a difference. I think the team is not as recognised. Maybe part of the reason is ... that people don't really know what High Road is. But when there will be sponsor on the jersey soon, it may change," Burghardt noted a difference from the days when the fans in Germany would mob the "magenta troupe."
A win in Germany would certainly help recognition along with the locals. Watch out for full results, report and pictures later on Cyclingnews.
More pictures of the pre-Henninger Turm press conference can be found here.