Sprinter Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) was cracking jokes and smiling before the stage – which features five categorised climbs
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German riders enjoying highly successful Tour de France
With five stage wins in this year's Tour de France German cycling is on a roll with Andre Greipel, Marcel Kittel and Tony Martin leading the line. Just one more win for the Germans and they will have broken a record dating all the way back to the 1970s, but despite the results Hans-Michael Holczer cannot see a German WorldTour team forming in the near future.
"It's an unbelievable Tour and to be honest, yesterday when I was with our sprinter Kristoff, I was still very satisfied and smiling for Marcel Kittel. That's now three in a row and we've never had this," Holczer told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 12.
"It's just amazing that this is all taking place against a backdrop in Germany where not everyone understands what this success means. The only live television of the Tour in Germany is through Eurosport and in my eyes that's amazing because in Germany a lot of fans aren't satisfied with the level of coverage they have."
Cycling in Germany has taken a battering in the last decade. After the euphoria of Jan Ullrich's win in 1997 the nation had to watch as doping case after doping case exposed the myth of clean cycling. Even when Milram and Holczer's own Gerolsteiner teams were competing on the biggest stage doping related cases dominated the headlines. Both teams departed with Holczer moving to Katusha.
"The German written press are pretty distant from cycling at the moment," Holczer said when asked how Kittel and company were being received back home.
"They are really appreciative of how someone like Marcel Kittel handles himself with the media, with his level of transparency, but in the end they're still not 100 percent convinced about cycling. What you can read in the press is a little bit negative and not really as enthusiastic as they should be with the results the country has had.
"Journalists are still frustrated from the Ullrich era," Holczer said before adding food for thought for a number of other nations.
"They thought we were a nation without problems and without any doping and in the end it was a little different."
No German WorldTour Team for the future
Holczer's Gerolsteiner team crumbed at the end of the 2008 season. Struggling to find a sponsor the team was hit by a number of high-profile doping cases including that of Stefan Schumacher who won two individual time trials in the Tour that year.
Within the current WorldTour scene Germany ranks highly in terms of expertise and talent. Holczer is the only German to ever hold a WorldTour licence but standing by him at the Katusha bus is director Torsten Schmidt. Erik Zabel is also involved in the project, while one bus along Rolf Aldag is in discussion with Tony Martin.
Despite the depth in talent Holczer can't see past the issue of doping how much it has dent a blow to a German sponsor entering the sport.
"I'm very, very skeptical because in the boardrooms of the big German companies, the ones that could afford the sort of budget I had at Gerolsteiner, there are people who are distant from the sport because of the experiences and what they've read in the media about the sport. I don't want to say I'm convinced but I can't see a German WorldTour team happening in the next four or five years," he told Cyclingnews.
"I hope I'm wrong but at the moment I don't see any potential company that could really do that. They would need to invest at least eight to ten million Euro and that's just difficult to invest into one single project."
"After Gerolsteiner, I gave up all ambitions of a German team. We sold everything and you can see the light blue colours on the edge of the Katusha bus. That's my old bus. There's been no approach from a German company since 2008 and I've not been looking for it either."
The scars of the past are still visible and even now Ullrich makes headlines due his confessions of doping under the tutelage of Fuentes.
"In Germany, like no other country, cycling is linked to doping and you can't talk to anyone in the country about cycling without mentioning doping. There's no doubt, though, of the marketing value, there's no doubt about the revenues and return on investment in cycling. It's the best sport ever. I'm still convinced of that but the deciding people in German companies don't want to have another Telekom."
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