Ludwig: "Aggressive strategy finally paid off"
By Hedwig Kröner in Ans
After Alexandre Vinokourov scored the first, much awaited victory for the German T-Mobile team this season by winning the prestigious "Doyenne" Liège-Bastogne-Liège today, the team management of course couldn't be happier. Talking to T-Mobile's manager and former pro cyclist Olaf Ludwig at the finish, he conveyed to Cyclingnews: "Of course it's a great relief after such a long time with no wins." We asked him to outline why the race unfolded like it did, allowing an 'outsider' breakaway to take the victory in such an important race.
"With 70 km to go, nobody thought these two would make it to the finish," explained Ludwig. "We said before the start that, because of the amended race course, one shouldn't be afraid to attack with 50/60 km to go. It was definitely a big risk to take, but once these two get a minute and keep going, it's very hard to catch them."
Further explaining the course of events, he said, "The group behind them was big, and the favourites thought the pair wouldn't be able to keep their pace. And three or four guys really did chase: at the Redoute, things got really tight for the leaders [especially Rabobank's Erik Dekker and Santiago Botero from Phonak worked a lot and decreased the gap to 20 seconds on the Côte de la Redoute - ed.]. But it got to the point where the favourites couldn't agree on the chase, so that was it. Sometimes a break succeeds, even if a lot of the time, it doesn't."
T-Mobile chose the right strategy before the race, and was rewarded. Said Ludwig: "Kessler and Vinokourov were planned to ride the finale. And our aggressive strategy had worked out very well at that moment: Wesemann had been in the early break, and he would have been a player in that group of 30 riders afterwards, too [the one that caught the leaders at the foot of the Côte du Rosier with 65 km to go - ed.]. That's were Vino and Kessler took over, and we were always in a situation where we weren't the ones who had to control."
Engaging further in the conversation, Ludwig put things into perspective, saying that the team as such hadn't made a poor performance this early season at all. "If Vino hadn't won today, the issue of us not getting any results would have been further discussed in the media. And it's not like the team has been riding badly or anything in the past! The top rider's performances were always nearly on the same level. Di Luca won Amstel in a very convincing fashion, Boonen and Petacchi also were in complete control. So I think this was also a very convincing performance of Vinokourov."
Finally, Cyclingnews asked Ludwig about Andreas Klöden, who was scheduled to race at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but was replaced due to a lack of form. "Andreas just wasn't in the shape to be a helping part of the team here, so we sent him home to train," he said. "He will take some time off races to find his true level of fitness again. There's still plenty of time before the Tour de France for him to do that, so I'm not worried."