T-Mobile's Linus Gerdemann on the final attack weaves his way through the tifosi
on his way to a solo victory on the Colombière. Photo © Fotoreporter Sirotti
In a stunning solo mountain performance T-Mobile's Linus Gerdemann won the first Alpine stage of the Tour, riding into yellow in the process. The Tour rookie decisively attacked a 15-man breakaway on the day's final climb, cresting the summit solo and then descending like a speed demon to exteded his lead on the fast run-in to the finish in Le Grand-Bornand.
The 24-year-old Gerdemann also leads the way in the the best young rider category. "It's just incredible. I have to thank all those who believed in me and supported me, especially the team," said Gerdemann. "It was hardly anything automatic they'd support a young cyclist like me."
Spanish climbing specialists Inigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi/+0:40 Min) and David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval/+1:39) came second and third.
In the GC, Gerdemann is followed by Landaluze (+1:24) and de la Fuente (+2:45). T-Mobile captain Michael Rogers successfully defended his position in the Top 20 safely finishing in the favourite's group with Kim Kirchen.
Gerdemann is only the 12th German cyclist to have claimed the "Maillot Jaune" in the Tour's 104-year history. "I want to thank my team and the sporting management for giving me so much freedom in the Tour preparation and believing in me. From tomorrow we will be all riding for Michael Rogers - he's the man!" said a delighted Gerdemann afterwards.
Before the race it was unclear who would lead the T-Mobile attack. Gerdemann told journalists that he had been lucky to be in the right breakaway group. "I've never been so close to my limit in my career", said the 24-year-old, describing his all-out dash to the finish. He also paid tribute to the support he received from his team-mates and captain Michael Rogers. Gerdemann said he wanted his victory to usher in a new era in cycling.
"We knew it was going to be very hard today. We were all working for the captain (Michael Rogers). When I realised I was stronger, I tried to attack. It was so hard 300 metres from the finish. My legs were so heavy that I could hardly peddle anymore."
With temperatures reaching nearly 30 C the 181 cyclists took an easy spin for an hour through the Rhone Valley. Then the serious business started. An attack containing 15 escapees included T-Mobile's Linus Gerdemann. The leaders stayed away for most of the day and were only bridged by German Champion Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) on the last climb.
The 15-man group quickly built up a commanding lead of eight minutes. Gerdemann picked up six bonus seconds after winning the second intermediate sprint in Angelfort. Then the Tour favourites increased the pace with the help of Belgian team Predictor-Lotto as well as the French teams FDJeux und Bouygues Telecom.
Gerdemann made his decisive move at the start of Tour's first major ascent, the category one Col de la Colombière. With 11 kilometres left in the 16 kilometre climb Gerdemann and Dmitry Fofonov (Credit Agricole) left the lead group. Gerdemann then went off on his own five kilometres later and never looked back, powering to the summit as Spanish climber Inigo Landaluze gave chase. As Gerdemann approached the summit, his cause not helped by a TV motorbike that stopped in his path, it was clear that he was tiring and the Spaniard was gaining time.
However, on the descent to Le Grand Bornand, Gerdemann went flat to increasing the gap to Landaluze, but giving his supporters some hairy moments as he shaved a number of hairpin corners at high speed. The effort was visible on the salt-smattered lips of the young German but the victory will taste sweet!
Linus in the spotlight
With a mentor like Jens Voigt, Linus Gerdemann found himself in good hands. Tour rookie Gerdemann could be described as a "a late starter" in cycling. The 24-year-old only switched to road racing following a mountainbike accident when he was 19. After riding on amateur teams, Team Winfix and Team AKUD Arnolds Sicherheit in 2005 he became a professional rider for the Danish Team CSC on the recommendation of Voigt, signing for a 2-year contract. In his first year as a pro, he won the 7th stage of the Tour de Suisse and held the Leader's Jersey in "4 Jours de Dunkerque." In late 2005 he agreed to a contract with T-Mobile, starting from 2007. Gerdemann appeared\ confident on the eve of this year´s Tour. "My form is good. I´m just one or two notches off my peak. I´ve still a little time," he commented after the Tour de Suisse. He has already displayed that he has the all round qualities needed of a Tour rider with a seventh GC finish in the Tour de Suisse 2006 and a sixth place finish in the Tour of Catalonia.
Even under this increasing pressure, the young star remains firm on one point: doping. At one with his long term mentor Voigt, his will be an example for many young riders to follow. Its a mentality that fits perfectly with the new look T-Mobile.