Sky rider confident of making it into next year's team
Bernard Eisel says that missing out on this year's 100th Tour de France was the biggest disappointment of his career.
With Sky looking to take their second consecutive Tour de France, with Chris Froome, on a particularly mountainous course, the British team decided to leave Eisel at home in favour of a team of climbers. "When I first heard that I wasn't going to the Tour, I told myself that I wasn't going to race the Tour again, certainly not in this team," the Austrian spoke to Cyclingnews before taking the start on stage 3 of the Tour of Beijing.
Rumours have been floating around that next year's Tour de France will include cobbled sections and Eisel hopes that his experience in the spring Classics will help him return to the team for 2014. "I still see a big chance at going to the Tour and I'm not going to give that up."
The Austrian moved to Sky along with Mark Cavendish for the 2012 season from HTC, where he had been working as a domestique for the sprinter. When Cavendish left the squad last season, Eisel chose to stay put and focus on some more of his own goals. "People probably say that it was a wrong decision, but I still think it was a good decision for me.
"Me and Cavendish are still good friends. From the friends side of things I should have stayed with him but, at the same time, I had to look at where I wanted to go. It's not like I wanted a new role, but it felt better to stay here. I wanted to stay at team Sky. It's a good environment for me."
Despite his disappointment with the Tour de France, Eisel managed a top 10 at Milan-Sanremo, 7th at Gent-Wevelgem and Milan-Sanremo. He will end his season at the Japan Cup next Sunday, pleased with the bulk of it. "They [Sky] had different ideas with me," said Eisel. "They decided to bring me to the Tour of Britain for Bradley [Wiggins], so I wasn't doing the Vuelta and people were saying that I had a s**t season.
"If a rider does three Grand Tours, then he's a hero. If a rider doesn't do any, because he's 32 then he's a s**t rider. The Classics campaign was pretty good for myself," said Eisel. "I am happy with my results and that I could do my job. At the end, you can always complain about it and say that you could have done better. I am pretty happy but I will also be happy when this season is over."
Sky and the Classics
For everything they've won Sky are yet to nail a victory at one of the spring Classics. They came close to a podium at Paris-Roubaix with Juan Antonio Flecha in 2012, but he lost out in the three-man sprint that followed Tom Boonen across the line. Their lack of result is often put down to the difficulty in controlling races such as Milan-Sanremo, Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix, something Sky are renowned for doing in the longer stage races.
Eisel believes that Sky is headed in the right direction in the Classics and that it's all down to perspective. "There is a bit of luck," he explains. "G [Geraint Thomas] had a few crashes, but at the same time we were up there. People always say that if you win one of the big Classics once a year that it is a really big result, because they aren't that many Classics. There are only two Classics left and Fabian won both of them, so every team sucked."
A long with Thomas, Ian Stannard has shown some huge promise in the Classics. Known as one of the tougher riders in the peloton and someone that thrives in adverse weather, the Essex rider finished on the podium at the 2010 Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne where only 26 riders finished. He also managed an impressive sixth at this year's snow affected Milan-Sanremo.
Eisel also has prior in the Classics with a victory at the semi-classic Gent-Wevelgem and is hoping to use his experience to guide Sky to their first major Classics result. "If G improves again he could have a go at Flanders," said Eisel. "At the moment is looks like we will also go to Paris-Roubaix, but we will focus on all of them. It starts with Milan-Sanremo and with Paris-Roubaix and it doesn't matter which one it is, as long as we win one of them we'll be happy."
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