Gerald Ciolek says that he's not worried about a lack of opportunities in the new-look MTN-Qhubeka team. Ciolek has been the team's main sprinter since joining them in 2013 but will have to share responsibilities with the other fast-men that have joined this winter. The German believes that he will have ample chances to ride for himself in 2015.
"I think that we will have a different programme and there should be a lot of opportunities for everybody," he told Cyclingnews. "I think you need to prove your position in the team, it doesn't matter who else is in the team. It's a new situation but I'm not worried about it."
MTN-Qhubeka went on a signing spree this winter bringing on no less than five sprinters, including Ciolek's former teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen. He got the chance to get to know his other new teammates a bit better this week at the team's South African training camp and he is confident that they can work together to achieve their ambitious targets for 2015.
"I knew quite a few of them before and they are all really good guys. I didn't have any concerns about them and this week has shown that we will fit pretty well together," said Ciolek. "I rode with Edvald in T-Mobile and Colombia the year after. There weren't any problems and we worked super well together.
"We need to have a good start and get some early good results then everything will work out well."
German rider targets Milan-San Remo and a return to the Tour de France
After the highs of 2013 where Ciolek claimed the biggest win of his career at Milan-San Remo, just months after signing for the team, this year has been a bump down to earth. It was a season that yielded just one victory for the German at the Ruta del Sol in February. He managed a top 10 in another particularly tough edition of Milan-San Remo but results after that became few and far between. Ciolek made the squad for the team's inaugural Grand Tour at the Vuelta a España but 11th on stage 2 was the best that he could manage.
"There is definitely space for improvement. I just hope to do it better next year," he said to Cyclingnews. "I want to be 100 per cent at all of the races. It worked really well in 2013. It worked out for the first part of 2014. I was in top shape at San Remo, I was really good in the spring and I had some really good results like Ruta del Sol. Then, later in the year, I lost it somehow. It must have been some mistakes that I did but we will figure it out and do it better next year."
First up in Ciolek's list of major targets is another tilt at the Milan-San Remo title. The decision by the organisers to leave the route unchanged from the previous years, and not feature the Pompeiana, will ensure that he goes into the race as one of the favourites again. However, Ciolek is reluctant to set a specific target for the race.
"I will just think about a good result, that was my goal in 2013 when I started the race and it was my objective last year. I think that both years I was at 100 per cent in terms of shape and if I can manage to get there in the same shape as the last two years then I have a good chance for a good result."
A return to the Tour de France is also on the agenda for the German. Ciolek's last appearance at the Tour came in 2011 in his first season with QuickStep. "I would love to do it again. It is one of the biggest races in the world and it would be great to be part of the story of the first African teams to make it to the Tour de France," said Ciolek. "It is still a dream for me to get a stage victory at the Tour de France."
Ciolek's year will begin in Majorca in early February, after the team's next training camp at the end of January. He will follow a similar programme to previous seasons with the Ruta del Sol and the Spring Classics featuring once again. Depending on wild cards, he will either head to Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico.
Next year will be the final one on Ciolek's current contract with MTN-Qhubeka. He initially signed a two-year deal with the team but extended a further year after his early successes. Despite going through a tough year, the 28-year-old is still enjoying his time at the team.
"I am really happy to be here," said Ciolek. "In terms of professionalism, I think that we are definitely on the same level as some of the WorldTour teams. What makes us different is the story behind our team. We are not only racing to represent our sponsor we are racing to represent our team and its mission."