The T-Mobile organization announced the rosters for both the men and women's Ronde van Vlaanderen this week. Kim Kirchen and Marcus Burghardt will spearhead an experienced T-Mobile men's roster at Sunday's Tour of Flanders. The two riders have been at the top of their game in recent weeks and say they are well prepared for everything the 259-km cobbled classic can throw at them. Burghardt gave another glimpse of his emerging classics threat at last weekends E3-Prijs in Harelbeke - placing third behind reigning Tour of Flanders champion Tom Boonen and reigning Paris-Roubaix champion Fabian Cancellara.
Meanwhile, an in-form Kirchen has featured regularly on race podiums in recent weeks; Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan San-Remo and last weekends Brabantse Pijl. The team says Kirchen has made Flanders one of his top spring objectives. "I have enjoyed a great start to the season. My result in Brabant proved to me that I am in the right form to have a shot at this classic, even if Flanders is a completely different kind of a race," said Kirchen, who thrives on short, sharp, punchy climbs. "My hard preparations were worth it - I'm in top shape for the Tour of Flanders," said the 28-year-old Luxembourger, who has spent the past week in light training.
Klier is something of a dark horse for Sunday. The 2005 runner-up has recovered enough from the fractured cheekbone and concussion suffered in a recent training crash and is currently adding race miles at the Driedaagse de Panne race. But it remains to be seen whether the 31-year-old can win his race against time to be fully competitive on Sunday.
The T-Mobile women's team is as confident as their male colleagues of presenting a strong challenge at the women's Tour of Flanders on Sunday. The fourth women's edition of the Ronde marks the beginning of the racing season in Europe for the magenta team and forms the second leg of the women's world cup series. Starting in Oudenaarde and finishing in Meerbeke, the 120km Ronde van Vlaanderen is a tough and nervous race that shares many of the climbs and cobbled sections with the men's edition - including the infamous Muur des Geraardsburgen. But team director Anna Wilson believes T-Mobile is equipped to cope with the race characteristics. "There is no question that the race will be tough but we are going there to try and win."
The six-athlete roster arrived in Europe fresh off a successful block of racing in Australia, New Zealand and the US, where Judith Arndt, Ina Teutenberg, Suzanne de Goede, and Oenone Wood all notched up confidence-boosting race wins on the back of strong overall team performances. "The team has bonded exceptionally well and already demonstrated excellent teamwork and good instincts for each other during races," Wilson said. "Our race wins so far have all been the product of teamwork and every member of the team has contributed at every race."
As for strategy, Wilson feels that T-Mobile is ready to handle a variety of situations. "If it is an aggressive race, any one of our roster is capable of winning the race from a breakaway. If there is a bunch finish, we also have several very strong sprinters".
The T-Mobile men's roster for Ronde van Vlaanderen is Lorenzo Bernucci (Italy), Marcus Burghardt (Germany), Bernhard Eisel (Austria), Bert Grabsch (Germany), Roger Hammond (Great Britain), Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg), Andreas Klier (Germany), Servais Knaven (Netherlands).
The T-Mobile women's roster is Judith Arndt (Germany), Chantal Beltman (Netherlands), Suzanne de Goede (Netherlands), Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Germany), Linda Villumsen (Denmark) and Oenone Wood (Australia).