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An interview with Linus Gerdemann, June 12, 2006
The next German wunderkind?
At the 2005 Tour de Suisse, a young CSC rider had his first big moment. Linus Gerdemann, then 22 years-old, won the seventh stage by attacking out of a highly-experienced, six-man breakaway group. Bjarne Riis' model student gave a flash of his talent for the first time in his career as a pro. Björn Scheele believes there's plenty more to come.
Everyone was thrilled, most of all his team manager. For Riis, Gerdemann is the greatest talent since Jan Ullrich. So far so good. But Linus Gerdemann showed that not only his legs can create surprises. His sudden change to T-Mobile this season was totally unexpected to most.
After a mediocre spring, Gerdemann is now getting back into gear and showed great tenacity at the Volta a Catalunya, still relishing his sixth place overall. "In the first quarter of the season, my results didn't really reflect my form," he says. "After Rund um Köln I got very ill. The Volta a Catalunya was pretty important to me because it made me realize that I can actually keep up with the Tour favourites in the mountains."
Reflecting back on his breakthrough win last year in Suisse, Gerdemann keeps saying it is his favourite race and wants to do as well, if not better, this time around. But he does not feel under pressure, because he knows his strength and knows he can impress. Along with Jan Ullrich, Gerdemann is going to tackle the Swiss Alps - some say because he wants to warm up for the Tour de France just like his captain.
"To me, the Tour de Suisse is one of the most beautiful races in the world. Our team will be strong. My form keeps getting better and I will try to shine at the next races," he says.
But he does not want to reveal all, Tour de France or no Tour de France. That is the question: "After the German [road] championship, I don't know what's coming," he says with a secretive smile, maybe with his thoughts travelling to the ascents of the Alps or the Pyrenees at the Grande Boucle...
But to turn back to the past again for a moment: Linus Gerdemann and Bjarne Riis seemed meant for each other. The CSC manager was raving about the new German and saw a new Ullrich in him. Yet Gerdemann decided to leave.
"Yes," he admits, "my change over to T-mobile was pretty short notice, but I had been in touch with Mario Kummer for a long time before. Hypothetically, we had been talking about a contract for 2007 and 2008. But I always let Bjarne Riis know that I was having these talks."
Most importantly, Gerdemann says, he feels very happy in his new team and has not regrets so far. "The cooperation with the sport directors is perfect, as you can see in my good results. Last year I wasn't this strong."
However, there are wild speculations as to why he changed teams so suddenly. Was it the money? Was it the prospect of taking Ullrich's throne? "Money really didn't matter for me," insists Gerdemann, although he admits T-Mobile is an excellent deal for every rider.
"What attracted me was T-Mobile's 'rejuvenation cure' nowadays. There are so many young talents, who will strengthen the team in the long run over the next few years. I see it as a challenge to be part of that.
"Prospects are very good at CSC, but they are even better for me with this young squad."
The now 23 year-old is particularly pleased to be in a German team because it makes him feel at home. And he believes it is the key to greater personal success. "Let's face it: Ivan Basso will be the man for Riis for years to come. I think, my team will open more doors for me," Gerdemann says.
But when asked about the general difference between CSC and T-Mobile, Linus Gerdemann knows no definite answer: "Every team is different. You can't compare structures at CSC and T-Mobile.
"I always enjoyed being at CSC and never regretted riding for Bjarne Riis. Both teams have their good sides. And they are both really excellent."
This may raise several questions: why was T-Mobile so keen to recruit Linus Gerdemann? Where does he see himself in this battle of the giants? And what is the wunderkind capable of? Only time will provide the answers.
Even though the young German comes across as friendly and modest, he does not lack the necessary confidence. "I started very young in this sport and caught on extremely fast. Not many do," he says.
And he is certainly proud to be one of the few.