By Susan Westemeyer
Team Gerolsteiner has a special relationship to the Rheinland-Pfalz Rundfahrt, which starts today, and not just because it is held in the homeland of the team's sponsor. Last year the team finished first and second, and the team can count many stage wins and podium finishes, by current riders, former riders and even directeurs sportifs - for example, in 1988, DS Christian Henn won the race, while DS Udo Bölts came in third.
But Gerolsteiner is not looking strictly to the past. Bölts, now in the team car instead of on the bike, says, "I expect the guys to give their maximum. And when their performance is good enough, then the results will be good, too." The team has not nominated a captain for the Tour. "We don't need to concentrate on just one rider, that lets us manoeuvre better," says Bölts. "Such races are often decided by a large group, that arrives at the finish with a large time advantage. So we have to stay at the head of the peloton and be in the escape groups, with several riders. That means we have to pay attention, then anything is possible."
Bölts and Henn were of course not riding for Gerolsteiner when they won, but for Team Telekom, now Team T-Mobile. Unlike its national counterpart, T-Mobile has a captain for the race, Andreas Klier, who will be supported by a team made up of veterans (including Daniele Nardello, who won the race in 2003) and youngsters. Two of the latter, Andre Greipel and Bas Giling, are particularly expected "to show what they have," says DS Frans van Looy.
The Gerolsteiner connection continues with Professional Team Wiesenhof-Akud, with Captain Torsten Schmidt, who until this year rode for the bubbly water team. "With Torsten Schmidt we have a rider in our ranks who has already won three stages in this tour, and I believe that all the others can win a stage, too," says DS Markus Schleicher. "The guys are well off, no question. Because there is no time trial this year, it is very important for us to ride an offensive race. When no team with a time trial specialist controls the race, then escape groups can get away and decide the race."
Even little Continental Team Lamonta can offer a big former Gerolsteiner name: Danilo Hondo. But is also has another distinction: it offers the only native Rheinland-Pfalzer to be riding the race, Björn Glasner, who took the overall win in 2004. Although the route is more for climbers than sprinters, Glasner sees chances for his team's new sprinter. "We can attack, but don't have to, because with Danilo we have a trump card."
Gerolsteiner: Markus Fothen, Thomas Fothen, Rene Haselbacher, Heinrich Haussler, Frank Høj, Sven Kraus, Volker Ordowski, and Marcel Strauss.
T-Mobile: Bas Giling, Andre Greipel, Andreas Klier, Daniele Nardello, Olaf Pollack, Frantisek Rabon, Bram Schmitz and Thomas Ziegler.
Wiesenhof-Akud: Artur Gajek, Tim Klinger, Christian Leben, Torsten Schmidt, Corey Sweet, Lubor Tesar, Gerhard Trampusch, and Lars Wackernagel.
Lamonta: Matthias Friedemann, Björn Glasner, Uwe Hardter, Stefan Heiny, Erik Hoffman, Danilo Hondo, Christoph van Kleinsorgen, and Sören Petersen.