By Bjorn Haake
Buckets of water came down for the first part of the team presentation for the 2007 Rothaus Regio Tour, but as the favourite teams were announced the rain ceased and the hope is it will stay that way for the rest of the week. Herbert Watterott, who has commentated the Tour de France 41 times for German public TV channel ARD, led through the program at the presentation.
The 16 squads came onto the podium individually, with each rider receiving a rose and a kiss from the podium girls before they had even won a stage.
Dirk Müller from Team Sparkasse, the 2006 German champion, revealed that his girlfriend liked the fact that he didn't wear the champion's jersey anymore. "The white was harder to wash," is how Müller put the fact that having to go back to the red jersey of his team wasn't entirely bad. His directeur sportif, Erik Weispfennig, declared the teams intension for this week's race was to take an upset victory. "We want to see if we can upset the big teams a bit," he said. "We'll look for stage wins, but also try for the overall."
Alexander Gut (Atlas Romer's Hausbäckerei) virtually lives on the infamous 'Texas Pass' that the peloton will endure a whopping six times during the event's final stage. Gut doesn't believe his local knowledge will provide him with any advantage on the 169.1 kilometre stage, as he's not known as a climber. "I like riding it in training, I wouldn't even mind racing it, if the others would go a little bit slower," he laughed.
Atlas Romer's Hausbäckerei team-mate, Björn Thurau, is frequently asked about his father, Didi, who spent 15 days in yellow at the 1977 Tour de France. But any pressure that at some point he has to perform like his dad did, he rejected. "I am Björn Thurau," was his simple recipe on how he keeps down to earth.
Having already won the event in 2005, Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner's Nico Sijmens has the chance to join Laurent Brochard, who took victory in 1994 and 2002, as a dual champion. "I have prepared well and the legs are good," said the Belgian, showing that he considers the feat a possibility.
Torsten Schmidt, who has completed Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in one season, said that nothing compares to the Tour and the feeling of riding up the Champs-Elysées is "indescribable". His Wiesenhof-Felt team-mate Jörg Ludewig, who also has done some Grand Tours, feels he still has a few more years left in the sport. "Another two or three years," he said. "The sport has had a rough time and I would like to fight for it."
Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo has put its hopes for the five stage race on Gabriele Balducci, who has a high end-speed. In Laurent Didier it also has a famous son, that of Luxemburger Lucien Didier, in its ranks.
Germany's Under 23 team arrived at the event straight off the back of a high altitude camp in Livigno. Despite their young age the squad has already some combined successes - most importantly Dominik Roels, who not only has already won the German Under 23 championships, but also came in fourth at his country's title games in his first year with the professionals.
Tinkoff came fresh from a successful Vuelta a Burgos, with stage wins for both, Vasil Kiryenka and Mikhail Ignatiev. Ignatiev told Cyclingnews that he will see how the first stage goes before making a decision of how the rest of the course will be laid out for him. "The time trial course may be a little bit too long and too hilly for me," said Ignatiev. "I did get second at the time trial in the Vuelta a Burgos, but it was straight and flat."
Gerolsteiner was present with Swiss champion Beat Zberg and Torsten Hiekmann, who won the final stage last year. Matthias Russ will be very motivated as he lives in the area. "I think stage two maybe something for me," said Russ. "It's an area that has some rollers. Maybe I don't have the kick after a tough [Deutschland] tour: we will see."
As Russ spoke he saw Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) walk by and, realising that the Australian was in the race, added: "Oh, he will be the favourite, of course."
Rogers, who had arrived just the day before from China and acknowledged that "Oh yeah, I am still jet-lagged," also thought that the course should suit him. "I think it's fairly similar to last year. About the Beijing time trial course the Australian time trial specialist was saying "it's very hard. 10 kilometres straight up."
Roger's team-mate Marcus Burghardt revealed that "I was virtually on the plane to Ireland [to contend the Tour of Ireland -ed.], but after talking to the management we changed the plan." Under the cheers of the spectators the young German, who just completed his first Tour de France and couldn't even be stopped by a dog that brought him down, he declared that "For a German to race in Germany that is just the greatest."
T-Mobile is the only team that will start the race with six instead of eight riders. The German squad has been stretched thin by signing up for the Eneco Tour and Tour of Ireland and desperately wanting to compete in the Regio Tour, since it's on home soil. They would have had enough riders, but after Canadian Michael Barry came down sick and Eric Baumann broke his shoulder blade there were no substitutes left to fill the team.