Marcus Burghardt will help spearhead BMC Racing Team at this year’s cobbled Classics, starting with the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen – Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem double this weekend. Burghardt will start alongside Alessandro Ballan and George Hincapie in a BMC squad, which, on paper at least, is one of the strongest teams for the spring.
Burghardt was a winner of Wevelgem in 2007 and won a stage of the Tour de France in 2008. A frustrating year followed but a move from HTC-Columbia to BMC has reignited his hunger for success before Harelbeke this Saturday.
“This year things will be a lot different, with Harelbeke and Wevelgem on the same weekend,” Burghardt told Cyclingnews from the BMC hotel in Kortrijk, Belgium. “I’ll go full gas at Harelbeke and I won’t think about Wevelgem until the first race is out of the way. After that I’ll hope I’ve got good legs but I think that some riders will do just Wevelgem and could be better for Sunday.
“For me, Harelbeke is a better race, it’s harder and if you’re in good shape there then you’ll be good in Flanders,” said Burghardt, who is clearly in aggressive mood. “I hope that I’m at 100 per cent for Flanders and Roubaix but at the moment I have good condition and hope that I can do well this weekend.”
Despite Burghardt’s bullish mood his real aims for the spring campaign are in April with the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix at the top of his wish list. Despite not cracking the top 50 of Roubaix before, he has finished in the top 10 at Flanders.
“Roubaix it’s one of the biggest races in the world and if you win that then you’re the most complete rider in the world. You must be strong on the cobbles, you need a lot of power and, you need a good understanding for the race and have to have a good sprint.”
However with Ballan, a previous winner of Flanders and top contender for Roubaix, and Hincapie, a veteran with a pedigree in both events, Burghardt may need to rely on a result this weekend in order to push for a leadership role.
“This weekend is the last test on a high level before Flanders and Roubaix,” he said. “It’s the last chance to make any changes before those races where things have to be perfect. If there are any problems with working together or material you want to use now is the time to make those changes.”
“I think we have one of the strongest teams in the World for the Classics,” he said. “But the whole team is important not just the leaders, they all need to know the race and I think Lotto and Quick step have better overall teams, but some of our riders this is the first time they’ve done this races and we showed them the course.”
During his time at Columbia Burghardt spent the majority of his time rooming with Bernhard Eisel, and learnt a lot from the astute Austrian. With BMC’s younger riders, it’s now Burghardt who is there to offer support and advice. It’s a role he feels comfortable with.
“I’m sharing with a guy who has never done these races,” he said. “I’ve told him which climbs are important, where you have to ride and if you can do that in the race you will do well. It used to be Eisel who helped me. We were always together. Often he thought the same as me and he would rider at the front when we need to. We still speak a lot, he’s a great guy."
Although the Worlds are a long way off, Burghardt has already started to think about the chances of riding them. According to the German it would mean riding the Vuelta, and then travelling to Australia well in advance in order to recover from the shift in time zone.
However, despite a course that perhaps doesn’t suit him, he’s only prepared to make the trip if it means he can either race for himself or have the backing of a German team.
“I only want to go there and be a leader there, not work or help,” he said. “I spoke to Cadel Evans and he thinks it’s a Classics course.”