By Sarah Staber
The 2006 edition of Paris-Roubaix had many memorable moments: George Hincapie's epic crash, that infamous train crossing incident, and not least the ride of Fabian Cancellara. Not far behind the chaos, however, was Bernhard Eisel, whose fifth place finish earned him immediate attention from T-Mobile, with a contract following soon afterwards. And despite a less than ideal first season, the Austrian is already making plans for 2008.
The decision to switch from Française des Jeux, a team he'd ridden for since 2003, to one of cycling's powerhouse teams was an easy one. Long before the September announcement, Eisel had signed on the dotted line with T-Mobile - an agreement that was still honoured after the internal housekeeping and management shakeup from the Jan Ullrich saga took place.
Eisel's 2007 season started well enough, taking T-Mobile's first season victory on stage two of the Tour of Algarve. However, the planned splash at the Spring Classic never materialised, and despite back-to-back victories at the Commerce Bank Triple Crown series over in Philadelphia, 2007 was not a happy time for Eisel or his magenta squad. Doping revelations followed by accusations and more revelations came like an earthquake with many aftershocks, ending in the abrupt reality of title sponsor Deutsche Telekom finally losing patience this week and ending its 16-year relationship with professional cycling.
Over a morning coffee in Klagenfurt, Austria, where Eisel makes his home with long-term girlfriend Birgit, the 26 year-old reflected on his past year with Die Mannschaft [the team] and talked positively about the upcoming season. "The move to T-Mobile was absolutely the best thing I could have done," began Eisel. "There aren't a lot of teams that are this professional. I was with Mapei Quick.Step in 2001 - 2002 and we had no budget. There it was like, 'this is the money we have at the moment, if you need more we will try to get more.'
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