Martin Reimer will replace the injured Heinrich Haussler in the Cervélo TestTeam line-up at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday. The German rider has recovered from a crash at last week's Gent-Wevelgem and has been drafted in to support the team's now sole captain, Thor Hushovd.
Reimer, 22, was told he would race as part of Cervélo's Flanders team on Tuesday, after the withdrawal of both Heinrich Haussler and Andreas Klier from the remainder of the Classics season. He said he hopes he can play an active role come Sunday, but in what will be his first appearance at the Belgian race, expectations have not been set unreasonably high.
"I was first reserve [for Flanders]," Reimer told Cyclingnews. "We were a little bit unlucky with Heinrich and Andreas, and so I've been called in. I don't think I have pressure on me – I'm the youngest in this selection for Flanders and the sports directors have said, 'do your best and do your best for Thor'."
Although he says he will now enter Flanders with "good legs", doubt had been cast over Reimer's continued presence at the Classics following a crash at Gent-Wevelgem last weekend. Tests early this week on the parcours for Flanders gave the green-light for him to take his place on the start line in Bruges.
"I crashed after 27 kilometres [at Gent-Wevelgem] and I'm not sure exactly how it happened. I think another rider must have hit my front wheel and I crashed into a traffic sign. My shoulder hurt badly and the race doctor said, 'it's broken for sure', but, fortunately, it turned out not to be the case.
"On Monday I went out to see whether it would be possible to ride with my shoulder the way it was, but from day-to-day it got better and better. I couldn't sleep the first two nights after the crash because of the pain, but my legs are feeling good now. I had the same feeling at Gent-Wevelgem."
Reimer admitted that his first taste of the Flanders route this week had been an eye-opening experience. "I saw the course yesterday and I thought 'Far out, it's harder every race here [in Belgium]'," he said.
"Last year, I rode Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne and some semi-Classics. They're nice races, but you have a long time to recover from climb to climb. Here, you have 35 kilometres with eight hills. If you forget to ride on the front on the first climb, you're screwed for the next seven – everybody's riding full gas."
Despite some reservation about Sunday's race, Reimer has been able to rely on the advice of his more experienced teammates, who have been quick to allay his concerns.
"I'm already nervous, really nervous. I don't think I've been nervous like this before - a couple of days before the race," he said. "But I've had plenty of support from Roger Hammond, he's given my plenty of tips and reminded me to, 'take it easy, it's only a race'. Every rider in the team this year rode last year's edition, which helps too.
"I'll go out, have fun and give my best. I hope I can support Thor to win the race."
A future on the cobbles
In 2009, Reimer claimed his first elite German national road championship, just a fortnight after his 22nd birthday. As one of a fresh breed of German riders who have entered the professional peloton in the past few seasons he hopes he can forge his own reputation at the 'Queen of the Classics'.
"Paris-Roubaix is my dream and my career goal. For me, Flanders is a nice race, but I think the course for Roubaix suits me better, I'm more a rider for that race," he said. "It's been my dream since I started riding at 12-years-old and I'd been watching it on TV for a few years before that."
Reimer will make his debut at Paris-Roubaix next weekend, where he'll again support Thor Hushovd in his quest to claim the cobble trophy. While Reimer, too, has his heart set on the same accolade, he said it will be several seasons before he can mount his own challenge.
"Three to five years more. You need experience, I've learnt a lot about this from Andreas Klier and Roger Hammond. You need to know what position you need to be in on each cobbled section; it's a very complex system," he said. "It's not just about your body and having the best legs. Some riders have a really big engine, but no experience and that's perhaps the reason why they can't win one of the big Classics now."