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Tour de France: T-Mobile Pre Tour Press Conference
By Nick Bull
Date: 7/6/2007
Tour de France: T-Mobile Pre Tour Press Conference

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. Nick Bull

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 favourite.

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

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