Ullrich: "A team to my taste"
T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich couldn't be happier with the 2006 squad. "The team is absolutely classy. After many years is it a team to my taste. We harmonize well together and we're already further than we were last May." It also helps that Rudy Pevenage has returned to the team as directeur sportif, he says. "I've worked for years to get Rudy back. He is very important to me. (...) Rudy is the best directeur sportif for me."
Ullrich's goal, of course, is to win the Tour de France for the second time, and he thinks it will be more difficult to do in the first post-Armstrong year. "There is no team to control the field like Armstrong's team did the last few years. The field will be much more hectic." As his biggest rivals, he sees "...Basso, Vinokourov and the Spanish riders. And surely there will be one or more surprises."
Ullrich plans to start his season in March. "There is no exact appointment. I will only start to race when I am ready." He also refused to commit himself to riding the Giro, saying, "The Giro is an option. But if I start in Italy, it would only be as preparation. I would not ride the Giro to win it."
Stapleton happy with "co-ed" T-Mobile
The new combined men's and women's T-Mobile Teams are a good idea all around, says Bob Stapleton, team manager of the women's team. "From a marketing standpoint - they will bring more spectators to races, since women make up another group of athletes that people can identify with. It is very economical for T-Mobile and the additional costs are relatively low." And in addition, "it will help to improve the general acceptance of cycling, not just with a view to female cyclists, but also as successful athletes who happen to be women. It's good for everyone involved."
It is a big plus for women's cycling in general, Stapleton added. "It'll make this sport more visible...The athletes are highly qualified and very dedicated. Not just to cycling but also to women's sports in general."
Stapleton also outlined the sporting goals for the women this season."We will be concentrating on one-day classics and international stage races in 2006, including the Women's World Cup." He noted, "There are races in the Czech Republic and in the Netherlands, major races in Germany and a few in the US: Of course we want to win as many as we can. We have a very good team and we are keen to show that."
Kohl riding for a new contract
Bernhard Kohl is going into his second pro year motivated to do well. "I have enough confidence in myself. I know what I can do," he said in an interview with the Austrian TV website, ORF.at. He is looking to do well enough to get an extension on his contract with Team T-Mobile. His first race will be the Tour of California in February, and his season highlight is to be the Austrian Tour in July. "After that it would really be nice to have a new contract in my hands." He came in for praise from team manager Olaf Ludwig, who said, "He did surprisingly well, did his job well and because of that has good chances for a new contract."
Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer