By Susan Westemeyer
Team Gerolsteiner can now claim to be the number one team, not only in Germany, but also in the ProTour. Moving out of the shadow of Team T-Mobile and currently surpassing them in terms of both ranking and results, the boys in blue showed their consistency on Wednesday with two second places and two third place finishes.
Said an overjoyed David Kopp, who finished second and outsprinted Alessandro Petacchi: "I really had great legs. The second place in this Classic makes up for my bad luck Sunday on Koppenberg. But it gave me a lot of self-confidence that the team set up the sprint for me."
Added team-mate Rene Haselbacher on www.haselbacher.com: "In the finale I worked for David Kopp, and brought him into position in the last few kilometres. It worked out, he finished second. The whole team worked very well. I was happy, to be near the front in a Belgian classic again. It was really fun."
Paco Wrolich wasn't able to help with the sprint, however, as he was hanging out further back with another super-sprinter. "After we rode the Kemmelberg for the second time, I found myself in the second group with Tom Boonen. We just barely missed making it up to the first group," he said on www.eterwrolich.at.
Yesterday, Davide Rebellin provided the team with another second place finish in the third stage of the Vuelta a Pais Vasco and is now third overall, just two seconds behind leader Samuel Sanchez.
Like Kopp, Rebellin also benefited from the help of his teammates. "The race developed the way we hoped it would," said Christian Wegmann. "The decision fell on the last climb and the guys did super work to bring Davide there, but Davide did the rest himself. Only Sanchez was a little stronger."
Wegmann was optimistic about Rebellin's chances: "Davide can look forward, not just here in the Basque country. He's on his way to being in top form for the Ardennes Classics next week."
Across to France at the Circuit de la Sarthe, Robert Förster was able to defend his leader's jersey Wednesday morning, but relinquished the lead after the afternoon time trial, with the stage won by an ever-improving Ivan Basso (Team CSC), who shares joint leadership with his team-mate Brian Vandborg.
However, Gerolsteiner still came away with two podium finishes - in a sprint finish, Förster took third in the first half stage, while Stefen Schumacher also placed third in the time trial. "Robert did everything he could again, and it was very close," said a satisfied team manger Hans-Michael Holczer. "And you have to respect Stefan. How he rode today was very impressive, in light of his crash on Tuesday."