Team Columbia-HTC will be younger and perhaps larger in 2010, according to sport director Rolf Aldag. It will continue to look to Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel to lead the team with victories, but it wouldn't hurt to also have someone for the overall rankings in stage races, too, he admitted.
Interviewed on Radsport-News.com, Aldag said that, without naming names, many young riders would joint the team for the coming season, and that “because of that we might have to make the team a bit bigger than this year. With our 25 riders, we are just about at our limits for a ProTour team.”
In the past, he noted, the team has shown “that we can work well with young riders and bring them to the top,” citing, for example, Tony Martin, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Cavendish. In fact, he noted, “We are in a very luxurious situation, because a lot of young riders want to come to us.”
Aldag pointed out how the team has helped Martin to slowly develop. “His first year was his introduction, 2009 he was very strong, and we hope that in 2010 he will be more settled.” The next logical step for the 23-year-old in Grand Tours “is that he eliminates the two bad days that he had and ride consistently over the three weeks. Then it is realistic that he can finish eighth to twelfth. After that, we will see how it goes.”
Looking back at the 2009 season so far, he said that the pre-season goal “was to raise the quality of our wins. We wanted to concentrate on the most important events. That has worked out very well so far with Milano-Sanremo, the Giro and the Tour.”
The highlight win of the season, Aldag noted, was Cavendish's win in Milano-Sanremo, followed by the high number of wins in both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France. The most surprising rider was Frantisek Rabon, who finished second in the Criterium International. “He has improved himself from a helper to a winning leader.”
The last remaining 2009 highlight for the team is the upcoming Vuelta a Espana, where the team will look to sprinter Greipel. After a series of wins, he lost four sprints in a row in the Tour of Poland before winning the final stage, and then didn't do well in the Vattenfall Cyclassics. “It is important for him to have his continuity until the end of the year.”
There are, of course, races after the Vuelta, but the team's attention by then will have turned to the next year. “It is perhaps better to look for the proper sprint train for 2010 in Paris-Tours than to win the race. We always want to be a step ahead.”
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