By Bjorn Haake in Frankfurt a.M.
Milram cannot rely on its super sprinters Erik Zabel and Alessandro Petacchi at Rund um den Henninger Turm, so the milk team had to change its game plan. They will now try to get into breakaways and hope to evade the bunch sprint, where High Road would be the big favourite. The team can look to experience in the form of Christian Knees or to the youth, with Dominik Roels.
Two years ago, Roels was celebrating his 19th birthday while training on Mallorca, with no other than Jan Ullrich. Lots has happened since. Ullrich announced his retirement, still facing some questions about doping from the Swiss federation. And Roels, who was still doing a lot of U23 races last year, caught the eye of Milram, who secured the young German for its line-up. Roels has shaken of the bad news in cycling. "If I would see the future of cycling negatively ... I don't think I would have the motivation to concentrate my life on cycling."
At only 21 years of age, he emphasised that "I hope I can still be a professional for a long time, so I hope that the situation will be getting better again in cycling. I hope the emotions can be again like in the years, when Jan Ullrich caused the cycling boom [in Germany]."
The youngster is aware that "I still could do two years of U23 races. I started riding for a ProTour team at a very young age and I think I still need a little time to reach the same level with the pros as I had it in the U23 category." But he emphasised he is also happy with his performances so far.
While he cautioned that "I would say having left a good impression at País Vasco is relative, seeing that a rider like Alberto Contador is a few kilometres per hour faster than I," he was happy to have completed some "tough races." Asked about the differences between the U23 races and the ProTour races, he said that "the distances, except for races like Liège-Bastogne-Liège, are the same as last year. I did a few races that came close to 200 kilometres." But the difference is in speed, especially at the end of the races, "where the pros really put down the hammer."
Hailing from the Cologne area, he often trains with others from the dome city on the Rhine river, like Gerald Ciolek. "When we do longer sessions, we go out into the Eifel. There are some good climbs."
Roels used the climbing in the Basque Country and the training loops in the Eifel to bring himself into a good position. He is no stranger to the race – as many of the German professionals have done this race in the amateur or youth categories. Roels finished third as a junior, so he knows how to do well in Frankfurt. He acknowledged that "I am fully motivated and I am always good for a surprise," indicating that he will not just ride in a support role.
The more experienced Christian Knees said that he wouldn't have a problem to support Roels, if the situation would allow it. The main thing is a win for the team, which would be especially nice in light of the fact that cannot participate. Knees also confirmed that Roels is still very young and will need some time. For his own ambitions, he indicated that "so far I have been able to go up all the climbs in the Taunus area. And towards Frankfurt it's all downhill!" the 1.94-metre giant laughed.
Knees confirmed that "the tactics will be different this time. We hope to be in all the breakaways and of course especially in the final selection." It should be an interesting Labour day for the 'new' Milram team in Germany.