By Coastfreak, translated by Tick.
Team Gerolsteiner drew a lot of media attention this spring - unfortunately
not just for its sporting achievements but also because Danilo Hondo tested
positive at the Murcia Tour. He was subsequently fired from the team. His good
results this season, such as his 2nd in Milan-San Remo and 4th in
Tirreno-Adriatico, have now been put to question.
That leaves the team in a tight spot at the Giro d'Italia. The American Levi
Leipheimer was signed at the beginning of the season to join Georg Totschnig in
looking for good placements at the Tour de France. Both finished in the top ten
last year. But since they are both concentrating on the Tour, they won't be
riding the Giro.
The man for the GC seems to be Sven Montgomery, whom, however, can't look back
at good past results in the Grand Tours, due to injuries. He crashed during the
time trial in last year's Giro and broke his shoulder blade. He was in 12th
place overall at the time. The 2004 Tour didn't go any better for him. His bad
luck with crashes continued, and he had to drop out of the 7th stage with a
broken collarbone. With four Tour starts, he has yet to make it to Paris. His
talent as a stage racer and mountain specialist has been proven at smaller
races. He has finished in the top eight of the Tour de Suisse three times. In addition he won the mountain rankings at the Dauphine Libere in 2001 and the Tour
de Romandie in 2004. If Montgomery is able to avoid crashing, he ought to be
able to finish in the top 20.
Robert Förster will be the team's man for sprint finishes. He has ridden
since 2003 for the Eifel-based sparkling water team, which lost its top sprinter
when Hondo was fired. "Frösi", who used to pull sprints for Hondo, now will be
trying to win them himself. He is returning to the role he filled in his pro
debut with Team Nürnberger Versicherungen. In that year, 2001, the sprinter
from Leipzig had six victories - a total he hasn't been able to repeat. This
season he hasn't had any victories yet, but he can show good placements at the
Algarve Tour and a 3rd in the Criterium International. The sprinter field is a
very strong one this year, with Petacchi, Zabel, O'Grady and McEwen. Förster
can expect to finish in the top ten in sprint stages.
Frank Hoj of Denmark can point to good results in hard one-day races,
including two top ten finishes in the Olympic Games. However, he will be
filling a helper's role in the Giro. Förster will be counting on Hoj's ability
to pull sprints for him.
Because of his aggressive riding style, Thomas Ziegler can be expected to
appear in various breakaway groups. In his first year with Gerolsteiner in
2004, he drew attention to himself with two second place stage finishes, one
each at Paris-Nice and the Giro. The other breakaway rider in the team is Sven Krauß, from Herrenberg. He has brought in good results on the track as well as
on the road. His favorite weather is rain - that might just be what gives him
an advantage over some of his rivals.
The team will be looking to Markus Fothen in the time trials. Before signing
with Gerolsteiner in 2004, he became noted for his many titles: national
mountain champion, national under-23 time trial champion, world u-23 time trial
champion, european u-23 time trial champion. In addition to the 1.1 km
prologue, the Giro features two time trial, both on hilly courses. Fothen
proved that he has no problem with such courses with his first professional
victory in the GP Schwarzwald in 2004. He showed his abilities in a prologue
with his 11th place in the Tour de Romandie. Other results this season are
equally good: for example, in the Sarthe Tour he was 3d in the time trial and
2d in the final stage, leading to a second place in the final GC. These results
lead the team to hope for good results from him in all three duels against the
clock at the Giro.
Andrea Moletta and Volker Ordowski will be mainly working as helpers. Both
are highly thought of by the team, as riders who are able to ignore thier own
interests and work for the good of the captain. Moletta was hired at the wish
of Davide Rebellin and is his training partner. As a fan of all things Italian,
it must be a special joy for Marcel Strauss to participate in the Giro.
However, his dream of a win in Italy will likely not happen in this race. He is
another who will place himself in the service of the team.
With Montgomery and Förster, Gerolsteiner has two riders who can look for top
10 finishes in the GC and in sprint finishes. In addition, the team has several
riders who are expected to represent it in breakaway groups and could fight
there for stage wins. The team has in Fothen a rider who will give his best in
the duels against the clock.
Overall, Gerolsteiner is bringing to the start a well-rounded team, which
could bring in good results in almost every stage. Even without big names, it
would be a mistake to under-estimate this team. Finally, it is devoutly to be
hoped that Montgomery will be able to finish a Grand Tour without a crash and
Gerolsteiner for the Giro