After seven years with the BMC Racing team, it seemed like Marcus Burghardt had found a happy home – one that he might just stay with until he retired. However, a phone call from a friend made him think about starting afresh.
With nothing holding him back, Burghardt didn't have to think twice about taking up the opportunity to join Bora-Hansgrohe in their first season at the WorldTour, and working for a friend adds an extra dimension to this new adventure.
"Ralph Denk is my neighbour, and we are also friends. I was out of contract with BMC, so he got in touch and we spoke about whether I might think about joining Bora-Hansgrohe," Burghardt explained to Cyclingnews after taking part in a motorsport event organised by the team's car supplier Auto Eder. "I said yes. If it's coming to the WorldTour with a lot of young talent, then it might be nice to join the team and help the team develop quicker.
"Now, one of my friends is my boss, and I'm working in his company. It's more pressure on me because you want to do extra good."
If that wasn't enough pressure for Burghardt, he would also be slotting into the Classics set-up behind world champion Peter Sagan, having plied his trade for Greg Van Avermaet for the best part of a decade. The spring campaign was of mixed success, with victory at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and second place at Milan-San Remo early on followed by a couple of mechanical problems and a crash that kept him out of contention in the latter part of the spring.
At times, the team was criticised for not being strong enough to support Sagan. However, Burghardt says that the team worked well together and that it was just bad luck that prevented them from having a much stronger Classics campaign. "I think the Classics we did quite well. We did a good job in Flanders, and we were in the game in Gent-Wevelgem," he said.
"In Flanders, it was just bad luck and then Roubaix was even worse with the bad luck, but we were there and in the game. If you don't have the luck then what are you going to do? If you puncture, you puncture.
"We checked the tyre, and we checked the material, and in the races before, it was ok. The race was so fast and you hit the cobbles faster so the chance to puncture is even higher. It's just that the guys that had [the punctures], had them at the wrong moment. I've done Roubaix and punctured seven times in one race, and I've done it two times in a row and I didn't puncture, and this luck we need if you want to win the race."
Amidst all the chaos surrounding Sagan and his mechanical problem, Burghardt pulled out a solid ride at Paris-Roubaix. He came home in 16th in the group 12 seconds behind the leaders, his best finish yet. It was Burghardt's former leader at BMC Van Avermaet that enjoyed all the plaudits, winning all but two of the cobbled Classics he entered.
Burghardt was once a Classics contender in his own right when he first began his career. In 2007 he enjoyed a strong year with a victory at Gent-Wevelgem and third place at E3 Harelbeke, and in 2009 he notched up a series of top 10 finishes throughout the spring. However, it was then that he realised it was as good as it was going to get and that his talents were best used to help somebody else.
"It's important that you win the races and at one point I saw that I couldn't win the races, because I was missing this little bit to be able to win these races. But I can make the race for the leader a little bit easier so that he can maybe come into the finish a bit fresher," Burghardt explained.
"If you're always thinking a bit that maybe I can win then you always save a little bit. If you save then your leader has to give more and then he maybe doesn't have enough energy to win, but if you understand then that I'm there to help my leader 100 per cent then he has a bigger chance to win the race."
"I went through everything with German cycling"
Following a short break, Burghardt is back to racing at the Tour de Romandie as he prepares for the next big goal of the season. The Tour de France is always a major target for any rider in any season, but this year holds even more importance for riders such as Burghardt. After years of a media blackout for the Tour de France in Germany, following the scandal surrounding Burghardt's former T-Mobile team, the race is once again gaining traction in the country.
This year's race offers Burghardt the rare opportunity to start the Tour de France in his home country, as part of a German team, and with the potential for success too.
"I went through everything with German cycling. I was there when there was a big hype and then when it went really quiet in Germany, and now it's growing again," Burghardt told Cyclingnews. "To see this it is really nice and also for the young riders to have this back again.
"Now I'm looking forward to the Tour because this will be the last time for me to start, as a German rider, the Tour de France in Germany. This is super special and then with Peter we have a chance to win some stages and the green jersey, and with Rafal maybe we can maybe go for the top 5. That would be a really good result if we could finish top 5 in the Tour."