Germany seems to have an endless school of talent when it comes to sprinting: After André Greipel, Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb, Gerald Ciolek of Omega Pharma-Quick Step has now shown that he is in the mix again after winning a stage at the Tour of Algarve in Portugal on Saturday. The 25-year-old returned to his winning ways after almost two years of drought as his last victory was a stage at the 2010 Tour of Bavaria.
"This victory feels really good. It's an incredible feeling as I hadn't won for so long," Ciolek told Velochrono. Indeed, the German went through a frustrating phase of his career after having been one of Germany's greatest talents from 2006-2009 when he first became U23 World champion and then won a fair amount of races in his time with T-Mobile and Team Highroad. In 2009 he joined Team Milram, and even though he took a stage at the Vuelta a Espana that season, a performance decline was already on the way.
Looking back, Ciolek explained that he was happier now at Patrick Lefevere's squad, which he signed for in 2011, than he ever was at the German team. "I feel really good in this team. I really like the international atmosphere that reigns there, contrary to Team Milram which was too German. An atmosphere in which you feel good is very important, as you feel that the team does everything to make the essential changes which really make the difference. The team gives me opportunities and it's up to me to make the most of them. The staff counts on me and that gives me an enormous amount of confidence."
Last year Ciolek gradually improved his performances after he joined Quick Step. "Once I had adapted to my new team, my legs started to feel good but I had some difficulties and in the first few months, I couldn't fulfil the expectations. Step by step, and with the team's confidence, I came back to a normal level in the sprints," he explained.
At the end of last season, Ciolek's confidence received a boost when he was able to finish ninth at the GP du Québec, 30 seconds behind the unbeatable Philippe Gilbert on a challenging course. "That was certainly the one race that I want to remember from the 2011 season. I was in very good form. It was a difficult race, but I became aware again of my capacities. I know that I'm not a sprinter like Cavendish or Greipel, but when you've had difficulties in the past, this sort of result is really good for your morale."
Now Ciolek looks forward to a season that he started in the best possible way. "I look forward to the Spring races. As of Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, all the events I will take part in are potential objectives. Then, I really want to do something in Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo. I really like these races."