For one rider at this year's Tour de France the race is becoming a little predictable. Day in, day out Bernhard Eisel’s radio crackles into action, orders from the team car come through and shortly afterwards his distinctive figure can be seen at the front of the bunch, punching out a fast tempo in his green shades and Columbia-HTC kit. Occasionally he’ll glance down to calculate the time and distance between the peloton and the break before re-adjusting his gaze and going back to work.
"I signed my special contract to be at the Tour and was told straight away that I was going to France to work for the team. It’s the same for Bert Grabsch too. I wasn’t going to turn that down, I love the Tour de France and it’s brilliant to work together with the team we have and today we did it perfectly," Eisel said at the finish.
A sprinter in his own right, Eisel has been a fundamental component in his team's delivery of Mark Cavendish to the line, so far resulting in four stage wins at this year’s Tour, including today’s stage from Vatan to Saint-Fargeau.
"It was easy to control today with just two guys up there and even the other sprinters teams helped us a little bit today. I was surprised that they came up to help actually."
During the first week of the Tour Columbia-HTC were forced to control the chase for breakaways, with no help coming from other teams who according to Eisel, had little ambition for the final sprints.
"They left us alone in the first week and the beginning of this week too. They were saying: ‘Why should we help when Cavendish is going to win easily?’ I could understand that to some degree but if you give up trying and sprinting then you’ve already lost. But yesterday and today nearly every team came to the front to help us." The sight of Eisel imploring and encouraging other teams to help each time he swung off would have certainly helped.
As for the battle for the green jersey Eisel feels that the tables may have now turned after Cavendish landed a sucker blow to his main rival, Thor Hushovd, winning his fourth stage on terrain many thought best suited the Norwegian.
"We’ll see. The first big goal for Mark is getting to Paris. Four stages is obviously great and now Cervélo have to chase us instead of us chasing them. It’s advantage Columbia in that respect. It’s a different race for us now."