Northern Classics continue with Nokere-Koerse

T-Mobile sends youthful roster to Belgium

After Het Volk and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, today's 60th edition of the Nokere-Koerse is Belgium's third semi-classic for the year, which gives riders targeting the bigger events in April an opportunity to fine-tune their form before such races as the Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. 25 teams will take to the start for this UCI-classified 1.1 race based around the cobbled Nokereberg in East Flanders, including ProTour teams Rabobank, Cofidis, Bouygues Telecom, Française Des Jeux and local favourites Davitamon-Lotto and Quick.Step.

The 193 kilometre race parcours consists of a 45.7km loop, including cobbled sections at Mater/Kerkgate, followed by 10 laps of a 14.8 km circuit around Nokere, with the riders tackling the aforementioned Nokereberg climb on each lap. Thousands of spectators usually line the 400m Nokereberg (6% average gradient) to watch the race, which has added importance for the local favourites, in that the highest-placed native East Flandrian rider is awarded the championship of the province.

The T-Mobile Team is sending a youthful roster to tackle today's event, with three new-pros making their northern European debut. For Bas Giling, Marcus Burghardt and Bernhard Kohl, Nokere-Koerse will be their first taste of pro racing in northern Europe. The trio have already cut their teeth in early season pro races on the roads of Spain, Portugal and Qatar, but today, they will become acquainted with the hard slog of northern European pro racing.

Although 22 year-old Giling is no stranger to the parcours or the area: the Dutchman trains in Belgium and scouted the short, sharp cobbled Nokereberg climb last week. According to team press officer Luuc Eisenga, Giling is in good shape and is keen 'to show himself' in the race.

Joining the neo-pros on T-Mobile are sprinters Eric Baumann and André Korff, as well as Jan Ullrich's best friend and training partner Tobias Steinhauser, who will make his season debut in Belgium. Fully recovered from a recent flu, the veteran has spent the past two weeks training intensively with Jan Ullrich in Tuscany. Sporting manager Frans van Looy will accompany the team in his native Belgium.

T-Mobile roster for Nokere-Koerse: Eric Baumann (24), Marcus Burghardt (21), Bas Giling (22/Niederlande), Bernhard Kohl (23/Österreich), André Korff (31), Tobias Steinhauser (33).

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