By Anthony Tan in Gérardmer
Before the start of the seventh stage of the Tour de France in Pforzheim, Cyclingnews caught up with Gerolsteiner directeur sportif Christian Henn, who was more than happy to talk in his native Germany.
"It's the same every year when the Tour's not in France and comes to Germany or Belgium," said Henn about the massive crowds on the road to Karlsruhe yesterday. "It was really, really full of people yesterday when the Tour came over the border to Germany...it was a great feeling."
Team Gerolsteiner has enjoyed a solid Tour so far, the obvious highlights being Fabian Wegmann's newfound polka-dot jersey he picked up after yesterday's stage, Peter Wrolich's second place on Stage 3 to Tours, and a decent team trial performance the following day, where the team finished seventh-best.
"Yesterday was a really great day for us, for the Gerolsteiner team," Henn added. "With Fabian, we are really happy, but really the whole week - we did a good team time trial; we've had second place, third place and fourth place, so yeah, it's been good."
About today's stage, Henn correctly predicted a breakaway of around eight or ten riders, and said one of their riders would try and be in it, which also turned out to be true, with Ronny Scholz part of the eventual seven-man move. "The first 40 or so kilometres are very hilly, and to control the race will be difficult; it's almost sure [a break] is possible today, also because of the hills in the final.
"Not Levi or Totsch, but we have to look at the breakaway - Fabian Wegmann, Ronny Scholz, Sebastian Lang, Peter Wrolich - we have to look at the breaks for sure, because today, the sprinters' teams don't control the race."
However, Henn didn't think the Cat 2 climb of the Col de la Schlucht would be decisive for riders aiming high on the overall classification, and said the team will wait until the first real mountain stage to Courchevel before deciding on their race strategy for the classement general. Regardless, one rider each from their team had been designated to protect their GC riders Georg Totschnig and Levi Leipheimer until the foot of the final climb today. "The hill is not so hard for the general [classification] riders; probably, you will see about 40 or 50 riders [at the finish], so it's not a problem [for Totschnig and Leipheimer]," he said.
Asked if its an advantage having these two cards to play, and their chances of a high overall finish, Henn said: "Yes, we have these two riders for the general classification, but to win the Tour is not possible. However, the team can play with these two riders: one can go earlier when the hilly stages come, or on the final climbs, Georg or Levi can attack to try and win a stage - so we can play a little bit with these two guys."
Finally, does the 41 year-old former pro miss riding the bike for a living? "No," he said without hesitating, before launching into a barrel of chuckles. "The first two years, yeah - 2000 and 2001 - but now, it's OK. I'm really 100 percent a directeur sportif now; it's gone, behind me."