By Susan Westemeyer
Andreas Klöden and Olaf Ludwig are both leaving the T-Mobile Team, but not before they first both have their say, in what seems to be turning into a public mud-slinging match.
"I would have won the Tour if (Ludwig and Mario Kummer) hadn't been so incapable," Klöden said recently. Ludwig's response was now published on sport1.de: "That's right: Klöden could have won the Tour, if he himself and Matthias Kessler hadn't tried to follow their own interests. The action in the Pyrenees wasn't planned with the sporting directors. The riders did that themselves."
The action in question was the second Pyrenees stage, when Klöden and Kessler used team colleagues Michael Rogers, Eddy Mazzoleni and Patrik Sinkewitz to force the tempo on the next-to-last mountain. It was no use, though, as Klöden himself lost power on the last climb, conceding 1.31 minutes on the leaders, and the others lost their good placings, too.
But the lack of communication between Klöden and Ludwig doesn't seem to be anything new. The last time the team manager spoke with Klöden "about the Tour de France and the situation afterwards, was in May," Ludwig said.
Klöden denied that he was leaving T-Mobile because he didn't want to accept the responsibility of leadership. "I want to go to the Tour de France with a strong team and I will have that at Astana," he told Radsport-news.com at the Tour of Britain. "I know what kind of a team I will have there. That wasn't the case at T-Mobile.
"I had requested that the Tour de France team 2006 stay together again next year. That was a super team and they couldn't give it to me again, so I had to make the cut and change."
Doesn't it bother him to have changed to a team where there is very little chance that he will be the captain for the Tour? Apparently not. "I think that two strong riders are good for a team. There are many, many more races in the year than just the Tour."
Klöden may have already ridden his last race for T-Mobile. He started the first stage of the Tour of Britain on Tuesday, but dropped out at its first feed zone at km 93, claiming a cold and bronchial infection. It can't be too bad, though, as he plans to be back training "in one or two days".
Kessler repays friendship with team change
Klöden's teammate, Matthias Kessler, is also looking forward to working with an old friend in coming years. "Alexander Vinokourov is my friend," he commented his team change to Astana. "He took a lot of trouble with me, he recruited me, and asked if I would like to come with him. It was simply the right step, after having ridden with him for six years with Telekom." He noted that after his Tour de France stage win, he had "several offers, including one from Discovery."
The next few years of his career are important, the 27 year-old Kessler said. "The next four years are decisive for me personally. Between the ages of 27 and 31 you have the best chances in cycling."