There are three parts to Team Volksbank four youngsters, seven "over-30s", and five in the middle, who have paid their dues as newcomers and are now ready to prove their worth. Ten of the riders are new to the team this year, and they are all ready to take on the challenge of "baiting the big guys," as Team Manager Thomas Kofler put it. Cyclingnews' Susan Westemeyer was in Bregenz, Austria, wherethe Austrian Professional Continental team presented its 2008 squad on Wednesday, against the beautiful background of the Bodensee (Lake Constance).
Three of the newcomers bring ProTour experience to the team. Daniel Musiol rode for Team Milram for one year, but André Korff and Olaf Pollack can look back on many years of experience. Pollack and Gerrit Glomser, who has been with Volksbank since 2006, will be the team's captains. Glomser, 32, has already gotten the season off to a good start, winning the climber's jersey in the Giro di Grossetto earlier in the month.
Sprinter Pollack, 34, who has worn the leader's "maglia rose" in the Giro d'Italia and brought in many wins for his former teams Wiesenhof, T-Mobile and Gerolsteiner, will be looking more to the track this season. While the Olympic games are a definite goal, "Beijing is not until August. The first goal is the track World Championships in March." Korff, also 34, has been a pro since 1998. The sprinter said, "I don't believe that I am one of the world's best, but I know how it goes. I can help Olaf and some of the younger riders. I am now one of the older ones and I will try to share my experience."
While Pollack will be looking to the track, another newcomer is looking more to cyclo-cross racing, and with good reason. Peter Presslauer has won the Austrian national 'cross title eight times, including this year (with Glomser finishing third). The 30 year-old will concentrate on helping the team in the spring and early summer, before he turns to training again for the upcoming fall and winter 'cross season. But in the meantime he is looking forward to the Spring Classics, the Dreidaagse van De Panne and Omloop Het Volk.
One of the team's youngsters is actually a veteran, 21 year-old Philipp Ludescher, who signed with the team two years ago. The other three, also only 21 years old, are Alexander Egger, Elias Schmäh and Christoph Sokoll. All three said their goal this year is to help the team as much as possible and develop themselves further. Schmäh, only 164 cm tall, is a talented climber, who is also U23 Swiss road champion.
Then there are those "in-between" riders the mid-twenties riders who have put in their time as neo-pros and now are ready to stake their place in the peloton. Three of the five are new to the team Andreas Dietziker, Alexander Gufler, and Daniel Musiol joining Josef Benetseder and Florian Stalder. Stalder probably spoke for all of them when he said, "Last year I was very close to my first pro win several times. This year I absolutely want to get it!"
The team opened the presentation with a minute of silence for Andreas Matzbacher, to whom it is dedicating the season. The 25 year-old died in an auto accident on Christmas Eve.
The team management is looking forward to the new season, for which the UCI has given it wild card status. "The team has a broader base, we have strengthened the team," said Patrick Vetsch, one of three directeurs sportifs. "I am not worried about the new season. The guys are very motivated, maybe even too motivated. Sometimes we have to stop them!"
Read about the rest of the team presentation.