By Susan Westemeyer
Andreas Klöden came to Tirreno-Adriatico just "to see where I stand," and after coming in second in the time trial over the weekend, he modestly noted, "I can say that it is going very well for me here." It is in fact going well enough that he was able to take over the leader's jersey on Monday and is now on the brink of winning the race.
He took the lead away from Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher on Monday's queen stage, sending the young German down to fourth place. Klöden finished ninth on the day, 1'43" behind winner Matteo Bono. Schumacher was 19th, finishing 2'08" behind Bono.
The Astana rider attacked Schumacher on the last climb, and was able to build up enough time over Schumacher to take over the lead. "That was a hard piece of work. But at the end Andreas was able to take advantage of the fight for every second," Director Sport Mario Kummer told the press agency sid. "We were lucky enough to make a two-pronged attack against Schumacher with Vinokourov and Klöden."
"Of course I want to keep my lead," Klöden told the Belgian newspaper Sportwereld. "If I should lose, that would be too bad, but the Tirreno is actually not a big goal. This race only lies on my path to July. The Tour is the big goal of my campaign."
The German rider, who lives in Switzerland, paid tribute to a third country, one which has become very important to him this season. "I don't ride for Germany, I ride for Astana, and for Kazakhstan," he told Sportwereld. "We not only have the sponsors behind us but a whole country." He also explained why he was riding so well right now. "I have a winter without problems behind me. That is the reason for my success."
Klöden also thanked his team, "The whole team is responsible for the fact that I am now wearing the leader's jersey." He almost lost one of his helpers Monday, though. Austrian Rene Haselbacher was chasing an escape group just 20 kilometres after the start when he crashed in a left-hand curve. "Nothing particularly happened but about 20 kilometres later I suddenly had double vision," he wrote on his website, haselbacher.com. "I was really worried!" He quickly dropped back to the tour doctor, and "Fortunately the situation changed within a few minutes. Maybe it was caused by a light concussion." He was able to finish the race without further problems.