By Bjorn Haake in Teningen, Germany
Just like last year the team presentation of the Regio Tour was marred by rain. But also like 2007, the rain clouds moved away by the end of the event. If 2007 serves as template, the five-day race will have five sunny days ahead of it.
Eighteen teams were introduced to the crowd of several hundred people who came out despite the weather. The three ProTour teams, Rabobank, Milram and Gerolsteiner, received the biggest cheers of the audience.
Rabobank starts the race with two Germans. One of them is Paul Martens, who lives in Masstricht. The other is Grischa Niermann, overall winner in 1999. He knows that repeating a victory would be tough. "I am 32 and in the best cycling race age. I will give it my best. But the parcours is very tough and it won't be easy. We will see after stage one who can lead the team."
Niermann talked cautiously about the difficulty of the 1,100-metre high Blauen on stage one. Should he be unable to stay with the front, Rabobank can also look to Martens or 2005 Tour de France stage winner Pieter Weening.
Milram arrived with its Tour de France participant Björn Schröder. The youngster came very close to take the polka dot jersey on stage one of the Tour de France this year. But the team will have three stagiaires (Arne Hassink, Mitja Schulter and Simon Geschke). That will leave Milram with less options for the overall victory, as the trio is expected to be on the learning curve.
Another notable name on the start line in Schliengen is that of Thurau. Björn Thurau, riding for the Elk Haus-Simplon team, is the son of Didi Thurau, who wore the yellow jersey in the 1977 Tour de France for 15 days. Having a famous last name doesn't always make things easier. "Yes, sometimes it is a burden. My father is very well known for his successes and people expect the same from me. But I am Björn Thurau and I need to go my own way."
He is doing well using his own advise, turning pro in 2007 at the tender age of 18. Thurau just celebrated his 20th birthday last month. His first year with the big guns was marked by only one desire. "I want to learn as much as I can."
The Norwegian Team Joker was introduced by one of its own riders, Frederik Willmann. Willmann is the only rider on the team who speaks German. "I lived in Frankfurt for 10 years. My family is still there. Our goal here is to win a stage. A top 10 would be an added bonus."
The German U23 was received with a big applause. It always has potential pros in it. Last year, a rider named Dominik Roels was riding for them. This year, Roels received a contract by Milram. Getting a high overall finish for any of the U23 racers would be a big surprise, though. For some, it was even a surprise to be at the start. "Until Sunday I had no clue I was going to be riding here," said Phillip Ries.
He was looking forward to the race and expected the tactics a bit more predetermined than in the amateur races he is used top race. But he wasn't able to make a prediction for himself. "I can't estimate myself amongst the pros here."
Each rider was given a present by one of the sponsors. Invariably, it looked those who were given the wine looked the happiest. But Kuota Senges received the most practical gift of the day. Umbrellas were definitely in high demand that evening.