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Luxembourg's time trial champion Kim Kirchen (Team Columbia-HTC).
Kirchen and Rogers to aim for stage wins
Team Columbia-HTC probably had the most difficult task in chosing its Tour de France line-up, and put together a very strong team primarily focused on stage victories. But with Kim Kirchen and Michael Rogers also included in the squad, Columbia-HTC nevertheless brings its own stage race contenders to the Tour, even if the team management's expectations for the two remain "realistic".
Speaking with Cyclingnews during the race's first time trial in Monaco, sports director Rolf Aldag outlined that the team did not have any particular plans for Rogers with regards to general classification, and preferred him to go for stage wins instead.
"Rogers doesn't focus on the general classification," Aldag said. "After going full gas at the Giro for three weeks, it would be mentally as well as physically hard to race another three weeks flat out. Also, for him, it wouldn't really make a difference if he would achieve another 9th or 11th placing in the Tour - that can't be his goal. Instead, he picked some stages because he'd really like to add a Tour stage to his palmarès."
Moreover, the Australian will act as a support rider for Luxembourger Kirchen, whose ambition it is to replicate his previous achievements at the Tour. "With Kim Kirchen, we have somebody that has earned our support as he got seventh last year and eighth in the year before," he continued. "So when we need Rogers, he'll be there for Kirchen, and apart from that, he'll get his chances for a stage win."
Aldag explained further that because Rogers would hopefully be seen up the road on certain stages, he was also asked to retain his strengths on other days. "There will be days for Rogers where he will consciously preserve himself. If we had both of them going full gas at this race, then in the end, they probably wouldn't be able to help each other any more once the race gets to the Alps. So it makes more sense to have one of them hold his horses every now and again, to be there for the team captain on the days where it's necessary."
The team's overall contender, Kirchen, will nevertheless also be trying for stage victories - and this was no contradiction according to Aldag. "Kirchen has realistic chances of making it into the top 10 again. Then again, if you have the opportunity to become ninth in the Tour or win two stages, then you'd rather win the stages, no? The real fun is winning. So that's also his goal.
"At the same time, it's clear that if he contends for stage wins, then he's also not losing any time on the general classification. So, in that sense, the classification is a result of day-to-day ambitions. If he takes his chances on the stages, then he is automatically high up on GC, and then we'll see for how long he will hold that position."
Finally, Aldag explained, it all boiled down to assessing the team's true possibilities at this race.
"It's just a matter of choosing your goals realistically. Does Kirchen really stand a chance of winning the Tour? Firstly, we may not have the team to take a Tour winner to Paris, and secondly, other teams are just so heavily aimed at the Tour win, like Astana, that you just know it would be very, very difficult against these teams."