Bernhard Eisel (Team Sky) has been a regular at the Tour Down Under over the years. His appearance in 2013 is significant with the race experiencing another evolution, while the 31-year-old Austrian begins the next chapter of his career.
"The time for Andre Greipel to win this race is over," Eisel told Cyclingnews, referring to the hillier race route. The German sprinter took his second Tour Down Under title in 2010. The first major shift in the race occurred the year after- the last time Eisel raced in Adelaide - alongside Mark Cavendish with HTC-Highroad, meaning it was no longer an event tailor made for sprinters. Cavendish's debut at the Tour Down Under wasn't a happy one following a heavy crash on the opening stage but the experience didn't dampen Eisel's love for the race.
"For me it's still one of the best races in the calendar. It deserves to be WorldTour," he said, full of praise. "In a half an hour, you can reach everything. The hills, the beach, the vineyards - it is definitely nice here. I would move here."
The new challenging parcours of the 15th edition of the Tour Down Under also marks the start of Eisel's new career, where he no longer has to work for Cavendish. The Manxman left for Omega Pharma – Quick Step and is currently racing at the Tour de San Luis. The decision not to move to the Belgian team with Cavendish and instead stay with Team Sky was a difficult one, Eisel explained.
"It wasn't easy. It definitely wasn't easy. It will still take us some time. I think the first real test will be in Qatar when we race each other. That's going to be strange. He's going to be in my way. I'm going to be in his way. He's still one of my best friends."
Moving with Cavendish was something Eisel considered but following the experience of winning the Tour de France with Bradley Wiggins, the Austrian was keen to stay with the British team. He admits that it was a decision possibly made easier again the year before when it looked like Highroad might continue. Eisel was going to stay, rather than go with Team Sky.
"At the beginning he was like my little brother," Eisel told Cyclingnews. "I could teach him things and he taught me a lot too but over the last two years I realised I couldn't teach him anything anymore. He's ready. But I still miss him. I miss his reactions. It's like being with family; you know how he's going to react."
Refinding the killer instinct
Now, Eisel's focus is on getting Team Sky's season off to the perfect start. With Mathew Hayman fit and firing, CJ Sutton keen to have an impact in the few remaining sprint stages and Edvald Boasson Hagen and Geraint Thomas both likely chances for the general classification, the British team is expected to be in the thick of the action. Eisel's near local knowledge will be a crucial factor.
Team Sky's three-and-a-half-week odyssey then continues in Qatar - the one race Eisel believes he could win should the opportunity arise. Whether winning is a direction Eisel wants to return to, is another thing however.
"I've realised over the years that it's not like a switch you turn on and say 'okay I'm going to win races again'. Because over the years you lose the spirit," he admitted. "I have good results but the killer instinct that some riders have, you lose that completely when you take care of other riders."
Eisel denies that the hunger has gone completely but if there's a race out there that he wants, it will require work.
"I will get my chances for sure in the Classics and some other races but at the same time I know it's an English team," he said pragmatically.
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As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.
Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.
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