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Eisel as E3 Prijs comeback kid

Bernhard Eisel (High Road) rolls up

Bernhard Eisel (High Road) rolls up (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)

By Brecht Decaluwé

The comeback kid from the peloton that started in the 51st E3 Prijs Harelbeke was definitely Bernhard Eisel. "How many times did I come back?" was the question he asked Cyclingnews after crossing the finish line in sixth position.

Before the start Brecht Decaluwé caught up with the Austrian and chatted about his persistent performance in Paris-Roubaix 2006. It was a race in which Eisel was dropped behind on the cobbles several times, but managed to come back between the cars in between the pave sectors. "I thought about it when I got dropped, I never gave up."

During a morning conversation, the 27 year-old Eisel said he had never done well in the E3 Prijs Harelbeke. "If I would do well today, that would really boost my confidence, because I can do much better in the upcoming races," Eisel said before the start of the race. After the finish, it was clear that Eisel will be the man to watch during the upcoming races. "Actually I never felt good," Eisel smiled, "but it does gives me great sensations to ride such a race."

Much earlier Eisel seemed to be the strongest man in the breakaway group as he rode away from Gert Steegmans and the others on the cobbles of the Stationsberg. "I just rode a tempo that felt comfortable for me," Eisel said. "I did feel that I could win the race at that time, but when the attacks got going it was over for me. I was dead," Eisel summarized his status when the six leaders hit the final kilometres towards Harelbeke.

Races like Saturday's teach a rider a lot about himself, and Eisel picked up a few things as well. "I need to be more selfish because I want to win races. On the other hand I don't mind supporting my team-mates because I want a good contract as well," Eisel kept an economical view on affairs. "With a strong team it is always easier to ride. Last year we had Burghardt going so well and in Dwars door Vlaanderen we had Andreas [Klier] in the breakaway, so the others had a comfortable day, and for the Tour of Flanders George [Hincapie] is joining the squad," Eisel said.

Rolf Aldag, sportif manager at Team High Road, was happy with Eisel's performance. "I think he is still in the process of turning from a sprinter into a classics specialist," the tall German said. "Even today he was struggling with his name as sprinter because nobody wanted to ride with him to the finish line," Aldag claimed. The German manager said that Eisel should have a great future ahead of him. "We will see Bernhard in Paris-Roubaix, because that suits him perfectly. But during the next years, I think he has his chance in [the Tour of ] Flanders as well, if he can stay on the wheels," Aldag said. Eisel may never be the puncher who rides away from everybody on the Taaienberg, like Boonen and Cancellara did Saturday.

After the race a happy Eisel wrote on his website, eisel.com, "I just didn't have anything left for the sprint. But I am very satisfied with my performance. I'm not far off from perfect form for Roubaix."

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