Tour de France: T-Mobile Pre Tour Press Conference
Team manager Bob Stapleton presents the magenta squad in central London.
The magenta tour squad takes to the stage at their press conference.
Photo c. Nick Bull
I believe. Honestly. For all of the doom and gloom of the doping scandals,
the T-Mobile stance on illegal products really brings a fresh breath of air to
the sport. Launching their 2007 Tour de France campaign in the heart of London
at Chef Jamie Oliver’s ‘Fifteen’ restaurant, the freshness of this recently
re-established team was there for all to see.
Team manager Bob Stapleton opened the press conference. Photo c.
Team manager Bob Stapleton began proceedings, with the drug issue probed
first. ‘The challenge of doping is a constant challenge’ he stated, before
admitting that he was ‘proud of the progress that the team, as well as the sport
in general, had made’. Paying tribute to his squad, he delightfully boasted that
the fifteen wins clocked up so far this year were achieved in a ‘clean and fair
way’ – owing to the fresh and dynamism of the T-Mobile riders.
The controversial UCI Declaration was raised; young sprinter Mark Cavendish
was one of the first two riders to sign it. ‘We need to ask more from everything
to achieve a clean a fair sport’. Probed if those teams that have not signed it
yet would do or not, Stapleton emphatically answered ‘yes’, citing the lucrative
nature of the World’s biggest sporting event as his justification.
Brian Holm and Rolf Aldag (l-r) Photo c. Nick Bull
When questioned on the nine man team that had been picked to ride the race,
the American expressed his belief in ‘de mannschaft’; understandable really
given the balanced nature of the roster. Rolf Aldag and Brian Holm were bought
onto the stage at this point, and the former was asked about the lack of space
for Britain’s Roger Hammond. Four riders from the provisional list of 13 could
not be included in the race, and Hammond was last to be told, simply because it
was the ‘hardest news to break’. The other riding starting on home turf,
Cavendish, was described as being really enthusiastic, so much so that the teams
management may have to slow him down – after all, Aldag remarked, the Tour is
merely a learning curve in his career.
At this point, the riders were introduced.
Michael Rogers – described by Stapleton as ‘a leader’. The Australian wants
to improve on last year’s tenth spot, though his dream, of course, would be to
win overall. The opening prologue in London may be a bit too short for him, but
the un-technical nature of it, along with his preparation (Rogers is riding the
prototype 2008 Giant Time Trial bike) could help him claim the Maillot Jaune on
Saturday. For the overall, he reckons that Kloden, Vinokourov, Menchov and
Moreau are the favourites for the top few places.
Roger's new gun for the time trial. Photo c. Nick Bull
Kim Kirchen could well be T-Mobile’s surprise rider. He looked lean and
fresh, also remarking that he felt he was in good condition. The Tour would be
one of surprises; he hoped that he could have a role in this.
The nervous Marcus Burghardt didn’t say much, though his nervous, sweaty
palms were mentioned. Linus Gerdemann stated his desire to help Rogers and
Kirchen as much as possible, and also felt that Levi Leipheimer is a definite
Axel Merckx was in a joking mood as always, declaring that he would not be
competing for the white jersey. Again he said that his aim was to help the team,
particularly ensuring they stay out of trouble in week one. Bert Grabsch, in the
team because of Guiseppe Guerini’s stomach bug, said little, owing to his poor
English. Patrick Sinkewitz was introduced by Stapleton as being T-Mobile’s most
consistent rider of 2006, his aim for this Tour was simple – to win a stage.
Team Bus outside Fifteen. Photo c. Nick Bull
The team’s two sprinters were introduced last of all. The Austrian Bernhard
Eisel said the co-allegiance with Cavendish wouldn’t be a problem, as they often
discuss who will be the lead rider for each individual stage based on their
condition and the course. Asked about his chances for Sunday’s stage to
Canterbury, he emphatically joked that ‘it’s for Mark’. He also told the press
that the lack of Pettachi wouldn’t be missed, as their lead-outs can blow the
rest of the field out of their wheels.
Cavendish was bought onto the stage to the sound of applause and cheers.
Looking relaxed, ‘Cannonball Cavendish’ was delighted to be in London for the
start of the race, adding it had ‘an extra special feel to it’. For a man
seemingly with so much pressure on his shoulders, he said he thrived on such
expectation. He closed the press conference by voicing his hopes that the
British crowds would come out and see the beauty of the sport.
As the photographers snapped away at the squad, the rest of the crowd
savoured the sights and tastes of Oliver’s restaurant. It’s not everyday you
wake up to breakfast in such an exclusive bistro knowing the World’s greatest
sporting event is on your doorstep.
The press assemble outside Chef Jamie Oliver’s ‘Fifteen’ restaurant
Photo c. Nick Bull