Paris-Nice: a test for T-Mobile's new recruits

Although the ProTour status of the ASO-organised Paris-Nice is a little ambiguous, the race will kick off this Sunday and see all ProTeams participating, as well as French Continental Pro squad Agritubel. German T-Mobile is using the "race to the sun" to send its new recruits into the field, as six out of the eight announced riders will be in their first season in magenta.

"We are looking forward to this first big race of the season," said T-Mobile sports and technical director Mario Kummer. "For us the race is an indicator of where we stand." Kummer believes that in Patrik Sinkewitz, Kim Kirchen and Linus Gerdemann, his team has three riders "capable of aiming for the GC".

In the past years, T-Mobile riders have been able to achieve the overall victory several times: Alexander Vinokourov won twice in 2002 and 2003, while Andreas Klöden was overall winner in 2000, his break-out year. But sports director Frans van Looy is not reading too much into past exploits: "We have set ourselves high targets, but to be right up there in a race like Paris-Nice, everything has to run smoothly."

Italian all-rounder Eddy Mazzoleni will make his magenta debut in Paris. The 32 year-old was planned to ride the GP di Lugano/GP Chiasso double last weekend, but had to withdraw in the very last minute because of knee problems. Jörg Ludewig is another T-Mobile newcomer anticipating what he describes as his "first big season highlight". The German rider reckons he has an old score to settle at Paris-Nice, as Dutchman Joost Posthuma "last year snatched victory in stage six from under my nose".

Also lining up will be Kim Kirchen, who travels to France fresh off a second place at Sunday’s GP di Chiasso. The tricky terrain in the South of France is likely to suit the Luxembourg rider. Second-year pros Marcus Burghardt and Bas Giling and sprinter Thomas Ziegler round out the T-Mobile roster.

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