Time flies when you're winning

May 13, 2007

It's the same every year: First everybody says: 'Oh well, it's still so early in the season, so many races are still to come!' And then, all of a sudden, we're half way through already and the opening race of the season feels like it was 100 years ago. Time is just a weird and stubborn thing!

Our T-Mobile Team started the racing season in the reliably warm and sunny regions of the world: Australia, New Zealand and California. After a few weeks over there we were not only nicely tanned, but we also had 12 victories on our account already. With a big portion of motivation we headed back to Europe to finally hit the real world of cycling, the Dutch and Belgian Classics.

My favourite race is the Fleche Wallonne. Not that I have a particular affection with very steep climbs, but the final kilometre of the Fleche, also called the Muur de Huy, is that awful that you just have to like it if you take bike racing seriously! However, I managed to finish at least on the podium, only beaten by the wonder kids Vos and Cooke.

Our latest race was the Gracia Tour in the Czech Republic. I like racing in Czech, because I think people there are not as superficial. They are really interested in the sport and don't need a big show around. They don't only come to drink beer and eat chips, they come to watch the riders fighting for the win, that's all. And they stand in the rain for ages, only to watch the victory ceremony afterwards. I like that attitude a lot.

The tour went over four days with five stages including a time trial over 18km, where we all could try out our new time trial bikes for the first time. I have to say, that mine was in pretty good shape and drove me into the yellow jersey. Really, I sat down on it and it just felt great! What a relief, since I am a bit difficult with new things (new bikes in particular...).

At the end of the tour we had won the overall, the points competition and the team competition. I always have a problem to say that I have won something. Simply, because it's not true. You are nothing, without a team in cycling. Especially not in stage races.

A lot of people don't understand, that cycling is team sport, they think that you only want to be modest when you call a win a team victory. I think it's just hard to explain to people exactly what teamwork in cycling looks like. It's not only about getting bottles or protecting each other from the wind or policing breakaways. It's also about learning to trust each other, to motivate or to calm down each other and just to be there for each other.

When you get close to your limits or you get weak you sometimes lose your confidence. Then you need people who tell you that you are the strongest, and give you the feeling that whatever happens they will be there for you, and all will be safe. That's also team work.

Our next races will be the Berne World Cup, Tour de l'Aude and then one of my favourite races: Montreal. It will be a tough month, but I am looking forward to racing for sure, since I've trained so well this year so far.

I just counted my kilometres from January until today, but that number is nothing for a public diary!



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