By Susan Westemeyer
Despite everything, Team Gerolsteiner was satisfied with its performance in the Tour of California. Of its eight starters, only two made it to the finish in Pasadena on Sunday. Five of the team succumbed to the stomach virus that hit the peloton, and a sixth, Paco Wrolich, crashed out. "Too bad that some of the guys couldn't show what they could do," said Directeur Sportif Michael Rich. "But we rode well and, considering the circumstances, presented ourselves well."
"After all, we had two podium placings," he noted. Heinrich Haussler finished second in the second stage and third in the first stage. Haussler, who is celebrating his 25th birthday today, was wearing the points leaders' jersey when he was struck down by the intestinal infection.
Markus Zberg finally gave in to the illness on Sunday, so that only climbers Oliver Zaugg and Bernhard Kohl represented the team in the final stage. Zaugg was part of the nine-man escape group, which formed about 30 kilometres after the start. He was only absorbed back into the peloton shortly before the finish. "But it was a good performance from Oliver," Rich said. Kohl finished the race as 13th overall, and Zaugg was 22nd.
Wrolich crashed on Thursday, and required six stitches in his face. He has already returned to his home in Austria. "I will now try to recover at home as quickly as possible," he said on his website, peterwrolich.at" The biggest problem is not the facial wound, but my ribs, which are apparently heavily bruised. " He hoped to start training again on Sunday. "I hope that I will be back to normal by the middle of the week."