Team Milram' Christian Knees has achieved his first pro victory at Rund um Köln in Germany on Sunday, April 16, where only 25 of the 174 starters finished. The 25 year-old broke away in a four-men group with nine kilometres to go and rode the finale in front, finished four seconds off second-placed David Kopp (Gerolsteiner).
"I'm of course very happy about this victory, because it's my first as a pro," Knees said after the race. "I've worked towards this for a long time. It's especially great because I'm on home turf - I live only 30 kilometres from here. The podium ceremony was wonderful, but the most beautiful moment was when I passed that finish line. A dream came true for me today."
It was a surprise win for Knees, who didn't expect to succeed at all. "I wasn't sure to be able to win at any instant in the race," the German continued. "Anyone in our break of four could have made it first to the finish. And it looked like the peloton would be able to catch us, too. I realised that I could win only 500 metres before the line." Along with Knees and Kopp, two Rabobank Continental riders - Kai Reus and Robert Gesink - raced in front in the finale of the 203 km-long event.
"My advantage was that the two Dutchmen focused on David Kopp [2005 winner and second-placed in this year's Gent-Wevelgem - ed.]," Knees continued. "It also helped that Erik Zabel and Alessandro Petacchi were the centre of attention in the beginning: as my team was trying to lead the peloton, I didn't have to do the full work in front. It was being done in the main bunch so I could concentrate entirely on my own race. In the end, I was lucky to have the most power left between us four."
Team manager Gianluigi Stanga knows that Knees has a lot of potential and will send the young German to his first Giro d'Italia this year. "Knees is a very honest young man and has a powerful motor," said Stanga. "He always worked hard for the team in the start of the season: first in Tirreno and then in Sanremo, where he showed what he's made of. He has a great basic strength and is a good finisher. He will definitely be one of the eight riders that will support Petacchi in the Giro d'Italia."