Germany-based T-Mobile has named its nine men that will start in the Tour de France this July 7 in London. It will send Marcus Burghardt, Mark Cavendish, Bernhard Eisel, Linus Gerdemann, Giuseppe Guerini, Kim Kirchen, Axel Merckx and Patrik Sinkewitz to support Michael Rogers' general classification ambitions.
Directeur Sportifs Valerio Piva and Brian Holm will conduct the squad over the three-week race that concludes in Paris on July 29.
German Bert Grabsch has been named as a reserve and he could be called into action depending upon the performance of Italian Giuseppe Guerini in this Sunday's national championships. The 37 year-old multiple Tour stage winner had to pull out of the recent Tour de Suisse after experiencing stomach pains.
"We believe we are sending a very balanced team. We have guys who are strong in the mountains and overall GC riders circled around Rogers," commented General Manager Bob Stapleton. "We have breakaway specialists and we have sprinters."
"The Tour is the hardest race of all in my books," 27 year-old Rogers, who finished tenth in 2006. "Every stage is raced like a one-day World Cup race. ... I hope it goes well. I have trained hard and prepared the best I can. I hope to finish in the top five."
"We are sending a very capable team with a lot of young guys," continued Stapleton. "The bulk of the team is 26 years or younger, there are a couple of veterans but overall it is quite a young team going to the Tour."
Guerini will join Belgian Axel Merckx, German Patrik Sinkewitz and Luxemburger Kim Kirchen as mountain domestiques for Aussie Rogers. Kirchen was very impressive on his way to second overall at last week's Tour de Suisse. "Kim has been consistently impressive since the start of the season, and he doesn't shy away from taking on responsibility either," said Piva on the rider who has this week signed a two-year extension with the team.
T-Mobile will field three first-timers: Germans Burghardt, Gerdemann and Brit Cavendish. Until a few months ago Mark Cavendish was very much a long-shot for a Tour start, but after an impressive string of race wins he forced himself into the selection.
"The team believes in him, he believes in himself, he's won against other top riders already. The Tour takes all that up another notch though - the speed and the intensity at the finish is going to be something he hasn't experienced yet," noted Stapleton.
"It's like a dream come true for me to ride the Tour so early in my career. I will give it everything to repay the team management for their faith in me," Cavendish responded.
After steady development, Germans Gerdemann and Burghardt are ready to test themselves against the best. "It is my first Tour start and it will be part of the learning process", noted Gerdemann, "but of course I also want to race well." Burghardt will be under the watchful German-media eye as the winner of this year's Gent-Wevelgem.
Eisel has plenty of experience in the Tour's bunch gallops and the team will look towards the Austrian on flat stages. "We signed Bernhard with big races like the Tour in mind, and we never made a secret of that. He has great top-end speed, can win stages and he has shown his willingness to work for the team," said Aldag.
The team overlooked Roger Hammond in its selection process. The Brit expressed his hopes of riding the Tour de France in a recent interview with Cyclingnews.