T-Mobile assumed that its captain this year at the Tour de France would be, of course, Jan Ullrich. His last-minute suspension changed all of that, forcing the captaincy on Andreas Klöden, who has now worked himself up to third place in the overall classification. But the "team leader" has turned out to be another - Matthias Kessler.
"I wasn't forced into this leadership position," he told www.fr-aktuell.de. "It was a long process, that I wanted. That it has become obvious to everyone during the Tour is only because Jan Ullrich is no longer here as the classic captain." It's not unusual for the team that the captain is not the team leader," he says. "Formerly, Christian Henn had this leader's position in the team. Now I'm the rider who may not win the big race, but instead stands back and controls things and tries to steer the team."
The position is not new to him, said Kessler, and he even told Jan Ullrich what to do in the past. "Of course I have talked with Jan about possible tactics and shared the racing control with him. It's just that nobody noticed it, because the focus concentrated totally on Ulle, and I didn't stand up and say that I told Jan what he should do...We discussed a lot, not just tactics but also over the preparations. It started in winter, as to where we should train. For example, I strongly pushed for training in South Africa."
But he has now transferred his loyalty to Klöden, his traditional roommate on the road. "I am a very close friend of Andreas'. Klödi has an enormous potential, in my opinion he is the greatest rider in German cycling behind Ullrich, when it comes to Grand Tours. His problem is that he gets too upset by other things, which isn't good for him."
Kessler tries to take care of those things for him, so that Klöden can concentrate on his riding. "It's things like discussions with the other riders or the directeurs sportif. Klödi tells me what he thinks, we discuss it, and then I give his opinion further. He doesn't have to do it, I take care of it for him."