Team harmony strong despite changes at Columbia-HTC

This season has been one of Bernhard Eisel's best, the Austrian rider cementing his role as a key domestique for Columbia-HTC and playing an important role in the team's Tour de France success. Despite pressures arising from the current transfer environment, he believes that changes within the squad won't hinder it accumulating another stellar palmares in 2010.

Edvald Boasson Hagen has declared he's leaving the team, while it's likely that another big name, Thomas Lövkvist, will also be departing in addition to American veteran George Hincapie. Eisel's own contract runs until the end of next season and he says the recent upheavals surrounding rider transfers hasn't changed the harmony of the American outfit.

"Bob [Stapleton] and Rolf [Aldag] obviously want to hold on to as many riders as possible, but there is also a large financial aspect to this. Neither the riders nor the team leaders are angry because someone leaves," Eisel told

He attributes this to the cohesion within the team, something that has been spoken of on many occasions as the key to success within Bob Stapleton's squad. "Of course we aren't a family, because the family is at home and this here is our job. It's been a lot of hard work, and we do recover at home.

"But we consider ourselves really strong and there are friendships among each other. And when you're with some of the riders and have less contact with the others, it's a pleasure to see those other guys at the races again."

Another aspect of this stability is the fact that in a slightly questionable financial environment, the team's sponsorship is safe for the next two seasons. "The team has sponsorship contracts until the end of 2011 and it also looks as if it will run longer," said Eisel.

"It's not easy to leave this team. Not just because we are so dominant, but also because our team offers so much. We lack nothing and it's just fun; whether it's the riders, soigneurs, mechanics or the management. It is really a good atmosphere in the team."

As for competition for places within the Tour de France squad, for example, Eisel explained that it's friendly, but fierce. Much is expected and plenty is delivered. "The stress was great for me, especially up to the Tour de Suisse, because until then none of us knew whether he was in [the Tour team]," he said.

"After the stage win [at the Tour de Suisse], it was obviously easier for me. I said to myself: OK, now they have to take me - and if not, then I will at least have a good race, then you can go home and ride the Tour of Austria and then the Sachsen-Tour." Eisel did go to the Tour and enjoyed one of the most complete performances of his career in a major race.

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