Peter Sagan might be top dog at Bora-Hansgrohe, but Emanuel Buchmann wants to have a squad built in his image when he returns to the Tour de France next year after a breakthrough fourth place this time around.
Sagan has been the talisman of the German team since joining in 2017 and the Tour squad has tended to be centred on him.This year, however, in what has been a disappointing season for Sagan, the Bora-Hansgrohe team was more versatile, with Buchmann and Patrick Konrad going for GC, Gregor Muhlberger to help in the mountains, and Max Schachmann to target the hilly stages.
In a measure of Buchmann's ambition, the 26-year-old would like to see the balance shift further still.
"The goal is to attack the podium next year and change the team a bit, with one or two more riders for the mountains. To be up at the front of the race, you need a super strong team.
"In the end, I only had Gregor with me," he added, referring to the crash that held Konrad back. "The other guys had a few more teammates, and so more tactical options."
There was, however, no sense of regret or disappointment from Buchmann in terms of this year's race. The German was right up there with the top riders throughout the three weeks, and barely put a foot wrong as he rode to fourth overall.
He was fourth on the Col du Tourmalet on the first big day in the high mountains, and rode away from everyone apart from Thibaut Pinot and eventual winner Egan Bernal at Prat d'Albis the following day. He was 15th in the Pau time trial, and finished in the main GC group in the Alpine stages at the end of the race.
Having set himself the aim of a top 10 overall finish, he was understandably delighted.
"It's so cool, a great feeling. I need a while for it to sink in how well I did," Buchmann said.
"Fourth place is great – it's a dream. It was the most exciting three weeks of my career and the best result."
Next step: the podium
Cracking the podium, he argued, was always going to be a tough ask, given the competition. Julian Alaphilippe fell away on the final stage to Val Thorens but Geraint Thomas and Steven Kruijswijk took the final to spots on the podium. In any case, Buchmann was starting to suffer on the final climb of the Tour and there was no hope of usurping them.
"I'm not a bit disappointed. Kruijswijk and Thomas were just too strong to overtake. You have to acknowledge that," he said. "The mountain was not perfect for me either. He was unbelievably long. We drove at full speed, so you have to stay on top of it all the time."
Nevertheless, the 2019 Tour de France marks Buchmann's breakthrough as a Grand Tour rider. He turned pro in 2015 and finished third on a stage of his Tour debut, and 2017 was the year he really started to showcase his talent, with the white jersey at the Criterium du Dauphine and 15th at the Tour.
Last year the top 10's in WorldTour stage races came with more regularity, although he was disappointed not to make the top 10 at the Vuelta a Espana.
This year, he flew under the radar at the Tour but his run of results since January meant he should have come as no surprise – victory at Trofeo Andratx, fourth at UAE Tour, third at Basque Country, seventh at Romandie, and third at the Dauphine. Add to that fourth at the Tour de France, and you have a upward profile to the Tour de France podium.
"I've always improved, and that's what I'm trying to do. I am not finished yet," Buchmann said.
"If I continue to get stronger, then a lot is possible."
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