Germany's Gerald Ciolek (Team Milram), hailed as the country's most promising sprinting talent, achieved a solid second placing at the Tour de France’s fifth stage finish in Montargis. Having only recently returned from an injury suffered at the Tour of Qatar at the beginning of the season, Ciolek's form is on the rise and he hopes for more difficult stages finishing in a bunch sprint in the second week of the race.
"I am disappointed, because getting second also means that you had the chance to win," Ciolek said. "The team brought me through that last curve wonderfully but then I wasn't able to pull my sprint off in the diagonal as I would have wanted to."
Team directeur sportif Christian Henn explained to Cyclingnews at the start of stage five in Epernay the characteristics that suite Ciolek. "Gerald is not a typical mass finish sprinter. He is more suited to smaller group sprints or harder stages that involve two or three climbs before the run to the line. Uphill sprints are also more his cup of tea."
Ciolek proved that in an impressive way at the end of stage five, as the run-in towards the line was slightly uphill. It is Ciolek's best result at the Tour de France so far, and one he intends to build on.
Still only 23 years old, Ciolek has been a professional cyclist for five years, and many often forget his young age. He was U23 World Champion in 2006 and spectacularly won a stage in the 2008 Deutschland Tour, which finished on a Cat. 3 climb in Winterberg. One year later, he took stage nine of the Vuelta a Espana, but has failed to win since.
A big objective at this Tour was the second stage of the race from Brussels to Spa, as it was held on a hilly Classics parcours that could ultimately show Ciolek which specialty he should focus on in his career. But the mass crash on the descent of the Stockeu climb marred his chances as the fast run into Spa was not to be.
"I feel OK in the sprints," Ciolek said. "The one to Reims yesterday was very fast, so it wasn't to my advantage. I am not one of these pure sprinters for the really fast finishing straights - there are others that can do this. I have more chances in the sprint if the stage is a bit more difficult. But overall, I feel well."
His Milram team this year is also more orientated to support Ciolek in the sprints, with Luke Roberts and Roger Kluge especially selected to help him. "We are still working on putting up a better train for him to support him in the finals," said Henn.
That train did not work out perfectly in the first stage to Brussels, where Ciolek fell in the last of the three crashes in the race finale, but seemed to function well today.
In order to achieve a much-wanted victory, another option could see the power sprinter jump in a breakaway. "Certainly, I could try to make it into an escape in the second or third week, but right now I want to concentrate on the bunch sprints," he added.
The next stage which offers the profile that could suit the 23-year-old is stage 13 at the end of the second week, a transitional stage leading from Rodez to Revel, if he doesn't surprise the older sprinters again in today’s race to Gueugnon.