After a season plagued by injuries, illnesses and the doping suspension of Alessandro Petacchi, the year hit a low point for Team Milram when it had to sack Igor Astarloa for irregular blood values. But the team rebounded to its second success of the season when Christian Knees nabbed the overall lead of the Bayern Rundfahrt following the stage four time trial.
The Milram team hadn't had a victory since Erik Zabel took a stage of the Vuelta a la Communidad Valenciana in February, and with a sponsor search in full swing, the yellow jersey of Knees, who took fourth in the time trial, coupled with the best young rider jersey of Niki Terpstra, who placed sixth has given the squad new life.
"I am incredibly happy and I think that our whole team has earned the yellow jersey with its performance," said Knees. "We are all pulling together and work very well together. Tomorrow we will do all we can to defend both jerseys. That surely won't be easy but if we continue to perform as we have so far in the Bayern Rundfahrt, then we will make it."
Knees leads the race by just three seconds over Volksbank's Andreas Dietziker, with Terpstra in third at six seconds.
"When you lead the overall and young rider rankings, then you can't help but be satisfied," said directeur sportif Jochen Hahn. "Tomorrow it obviously won't be easy to defend both jerseys. We must be especially alert at the intermediate sprints, since each has up to three seconds' time bonus. But I feel confident that we will accomplish it."
The Bayern Rundfahrt ends Sunday with the fifth and last stage from Bad Neustadt an der Saale to Erlangen . The 161 kilometers run over a lightly rolling terrain, and a bunch sprint finish is expected.