Matt Brammeier started his HTC-Highroad career on the right footing with a 10th place finish in the prologue of the Tour of Qatar. The Irish champion was one of the day's early starters and he successfully negotiated the technical cobbled course to finish just nine seconds behind the winner, Lars Boom (Rabobank).
"At first I thought it was a bit crazy, but it was better than riding down the main road," Brammeier told Cyclingnews shortly after finishing. "It was really good actually. Judging the corners right makes it that bit more exciting."
Brammeier arrives at HTC-Highroad after two solid seasons with the An Post-Sean Kelly team and he has been impressed by his ProTeam experience to date.
"It's one of the biggest teams in the world," he said. "Everything you do is done right and done perfectly. It's awesome, hopefully it'll help me move on another step this year."
A versatile rider with a wealth of experience on the road and the track, the 25-year-old Brammeier is under no illusions about his role in the squad and is relishing the prospect of continuing to progress in his new surroundings.
"I'm going to do what I'm told everyday on the bike," he explained. "These guys know what they're doing and I'll listen to them. I think I can make a step up and when my chance comes, I'll take it. Of course, I'd like to win a race this year, but then everybody does.
"I just want to do my job for the team really. If I can finish the season and the directors and riders are happy with what I've done, then that will be a successful season for me."
After the Tour of Qatar, Brammeier's next action will come at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne before he faces into a hectic period of racing in March and April, culminating with the Ardennes classics. A Grand Tour is currently not on the agenda for 2011, although Brammeier said that he would not turn down the opportunity if it arises.
"I'm not doing the Giro so far, I think I'm reserve," he said. "I don't think I'll be doing the Tour. It would be pretty special to get there in my first year at this level with this team, but everybody wants to do the Tour. I'd love to ride the Vuelta, but we'll have to see how it goes."
While Brammeier makes his HTC-Highroad debut in Qatar, his former team An Post-Sean Kelly received recognition for its effort by earning an invitation to the ASO event. Brammeier was fulsome in his praise for the Irish squad, which played a pivotal role in his development.
"It's awesome [that An Post-Sean Kelly have been invited]," he said. "For the past few seasons Niko [Eeckhout] has won a few races, I won the national championships last year and obviously there's Sean's [Kelly] presence as well, and this is great for the team.
"I'm pretty sure that bar some of the American teams, An Post is the best Continental team in the world. One day you can be riding the Tour of Qatar with the world's best riders and then you can be in Belgium riding Kuurne. You can do everything, so for young riders it's great for their development and a great stepping stone."
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.