By Shane Stokes
Austrian road race champion Bernard Kohl is planning to build on his strong 2006 season and will make his Tour de France debut this summer. Now with Gerolsteiner, the 25 year-old climber surprised even himself when he finished third overall in the Dauphiné Libéré last season, ending the race 2'51 behind Levi Leipheimer and 1'03 off the second place of Christophe Moreau. He also rode well in the Tour of California and the Tour of the Basque Country, finishing 12th in both.
Kohl got acquainted with his new teammates at German team's recent training camp in Mallorca and there he outlined his expected race programme to Cyclingnews. "I start at the Tour of California. That is my first race. Then Paris-Nice. After that, Basque Country, Romandie, and then if all is going to plan, the Dauphiné and the Tour de France."
Because of the challenge of riding the Grand Tour, he is planning on a quieter spring. "Last year it was important to show well in California but this year I will start a little bit easier. The season is long and with the Tour de France... that is an important race for me. Hopefully I will be in good shape in the Tour of Romandie. They will be the first big mountain stages that I do. I will keep building from there and hopefully go to the Tour de France.
"It is my first Tour so it will not be easy. I think the white jersey is possible to target, if everything is good. I will be up against [Linus] Gerdemann, [Janez] Brajkovic, [Thomas] Dekker... I think it will be a good fight for the white jersey. For this team that classification is also important; Markus [Fothen] led it last year."
Kohl said he was settling in well so far. "The team is different to T-Mobile last year but it is very friendly, everybody is very nice and in a big team, that is important. It is also much younger than T-Mobile was; in Gerolsteiner, most people are 18 to 24 or 25. I think that makes for a better feeling."
A full feature on Bernhard Kohl will appear soon on Cyclingnews.