Young guns part three: Gerald Ciolek

He was unable to successfully defend his German national road championship in 2006, but this rider...

He was unable to successfully defend his German national road championship in 2006, but this rider made up for that by winning a stage in the Tour of Germany, placing second in the Henninger Turm race and fifth in the Hamburg Cyclassics - not to forget winning the U23 world road title. Not bad at all for a young man who only turned 20 years-old in September and rode for a Professional Continental Team. What will Gerald Ciolek be capable of doing when he starts in the ProTour in 2007 with T-Mobile Team? Cyclingnews' Susan Westemeyer caught up with the fast-moving youngster as he sprinted through the pre-Christmas rush.

Some young riders might suddenly grow extra-large egos after such a year and go into a new team and season with all sorts of demands and predictions of unlikely achievements. Not this quiet-spoken youngster from Cologne, Germany, who still has his feet on the ground and knows that the coming season may not be a repeat of 2006. "I hope it keeps on that way. Of course I hope for a continuous improvement, but I am well aware that things could go downhill, too."

Nor does Ciolek necessarily expect to be the number one rider on the team next year. "We have a lot of good sprinters and so we'll have a big potential for wins. Since you don't know what the form will be, you can't see who will be number one. Everyone will get his chance, then we'll see."

And he's even respectful of his elders. When asked how it feels to ride against such famous names as Petacchi, Zabel and Boonen, he responded: "I have a great respect for them. As a young rider, you should feel that for the older riders." But there are limits to this young man's modesty. "You can't let that hold you back in sprinting, but you have to hang in there and look for your chance, no matter who you're riding against."

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