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Markus Eichler's Giro diary

Markus Eichler rides the Giro for Milram
Photo ©: AFP
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Markus Eichler of Team Milram is actually a Classics specialist, who is riding his first Grand Tour. The 26 year-old turned pro in 2004 with the Continental Team ComNet-Senges. In 2006 he signed with Unibet.com – which means he didn't have many opportunities to show what he could do, although he did win the Ronde van Drenthe. This season he signed with the German ProTour Team Milram.

His Grand Tour started out with a 13-hour journey from his home in Mönchengladbach, Germany, to Palermo, and thanks to the long transfers, he is still trying to catch up on his rest. Going into the eighth stage, he was 175th overall, over an hour and 12 mintues down. But Milram is a sprinter's team, and this is not really a sprinter's Giro. Eichler is enjoying the experience, anyway .... at least so far.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Stage 12 - Hangin' in there

Hello everyone,

I am still alive, at least just barely!

A lot has happened in the last few days and I must admit, the last two stages were unbelievable. But the day before there was a flat stage that I want to tell you about.

After my coffee in the Tour Village I went over to the start and was very surprised by the beginning of the stage. The tempo was very high right off the bat. High Road, Liquigas and ourselves from Team Milram - the teams who were most hoping for a mass sprint - did not at all want a big group to get away. It was our task to be in a group, if one got away, and otherwise to make sure that everybody stayed together.

Two riders did get away but that was ok and we let them go. The chase worked out better than the previous day. A total of five riders, including Matej Jurco, set the tempo for the field until it was clear that we would catch the two. On the final round it was my job to take the sprint train out of the wind. That worked out well. The whole team worked well. It's just too bad that we didn't the stage win we'd hope for.

On Saturday night after the first big mountain stage I felt worse than I do today. The whole day involved a lot of head work. Very hard, both physically and mentally. Over and over I had to fight with myself, but I made it.

Today (Sunday) I had, like yesterday, the obligatory coffee in the Tour Village. I noted that our group has gotten smaller. Oh well, Gerolsteiner for example only has three riders at the start. After the coffee, the fun was over. Things started happening straight after the start.

We faced five climbs over 2,000 meters. I have learned that I have to ride my own tempo, and don't even twitch any more when someone takes off. Fortunately I found my own good rhythm to come over the mountains. You always have to risk a little on the descents to make up some time in order to make the time limit. After the San Pelegrino pass we picked up a little and were able to catch the gruppetto.

Last night I was having doubts about this whole thing. But there is a good feeling of cooperation among us riders in the last part of the field. Sven Krauss of Team Gerolsteiner is, for example, a lot like me. We always meet in the morning for coffee and try to motivate each other. After all, we always end up in the same group. The team autos all work together, too. In the descent of San Pellegrino, our people gave caps to our freezing rivals. Like I said, in the front they are all fighting against each other and trying to drop one another, but in the back, we are all riding together and helping each other.

Tomorrow comes the incredible mountain time trial stage, with a gradient up to 24 percent. Unbelievable. I will really have to do my best to get up it, and go to my limit. But I must not overdo it. I think I will ride like the first time trial and hope that will be enough. We have mounted compact cranks for the day...

I have the last place in the overall ranking and so I wear the black number. My 'rival' got dropped on the first climb and could never get back. Unfortunately that means I start as first tomorrow, at 10 a.m. I had so hoped that I could sleep in, but now I have to leave at 7:00 instead of 7:05!

But seriously, I am very happy that I am even still here. And I will continue to fight, even if it just to be there at the right moment to fetch water bottles or take Erik out of the wind in a flat stage. Then it will have been worth it to stay here!