By Jean-François Quénet in Lagos and Susan Westemeyer
Bernhard Eisel finished second in the Volta ao Algarve's third stage Friday, but was not unhappy about it, as he was able to exchange his magenta T-Mobile jersey for the race leader's yellow jersey. He was awarded six seconds bonus time for placing second and thus took over the lead in the race, three seconds ahead of the day's winner, Alessandro Petacchi, and Gerd Steegmans, who is in third place.
It's nothing new in cycling to see Bernhard Eisel shining in Portuguese races but his move from Française des Jeux to T-Mobile seems to have boosted his performances. "I had a good time at FDJ, he said on the start line of stage 3 in the Tour of Algarve. They brought me up as I had no team after Mapei. I never had a problem with them. Of course I wasn't happy every day but I had the opportunity to ride all the big classics in my first year already up to a fifth place in Paris-Roubaix last year. I could have stayed with Marc Madiot but changing now is ideal for me."
"My team worked really well today," Eisel told sportpress.at. "But I failed in the sprint. I was on the rear wheel of Marco Velo, and Petacchi was on mine. 200 meters before the finish he pulled out and went right by me. I just completely missed the sprint. I actually wanted to make the
first move. I don't know whether I would have beaten Petacchi, but it would surely have been close."
Eisel intends to leave the sprinting to teammates André Greipel and Gerald Ciolek. "They are faster than me on flat finishes, he said. But I have the experience of finishing one Giro and two Tour de Frances. I believe I can make another big step forward. It was great to finish fifth in Paris-Roubaix but I'm only 26 - I actually celebrated my birthday last Saturday at my friends' hotel Villa Joya here in the Algarve. It means I have another 10 years ahead of me to improve my ranking in my favorite classic. Honestly I don't think I'll still be a cyclist in 10 years time from now but I definitely don't want to stop where I am now."
The Austrian is very satisfied with the work done under the advice of T-Mobile trainer Sebastian Weber who makes him work on his sprinting abilities. "I like the set up of the new T-Mobile team, Eisel continued. It's a good mix of young and experienced riders. There's no prima donna, there isn't a really big rider, because of that we said: ok, let's make it together. It might take more than one season, but the management of T-Mobile wants to be back as the number one team in the world."
He hoped to defend his leader's jersey during Saturday's mountain stage. "We are separated only by seconds, and Petacchi and Steegmans are really strong in the mountains," Eisel noted. "But I will try everything and my T-Mobile Team will optimally support me again."
To view complete coverage of Friday's stage three, click here.