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T-Mobile post-Tour reception, July 24, 2006.
T-Mobile meets fans in Bonn
German team T-Mobile returned to its home base in Bonn for a post-Tour fans and media reception on Monday. Susan Westemeyer was there for Cyclingnews to report on what was generally a successful Tour for the magenta team.
It could have been better ...but it could have been a lot worse, too. The Tour de France got off to what might politely be called a rocky start for Team T-Mobile, what with its captain, another rider and the directeur sportif being not only thrown out of the race but suspended from the team.
But it ended up with three stage wins, three days wearing the leader's yellow jersey, the overall team ranking and, oh yes, the third place in GC.
That third place seems to be a sticking point. Andreas Klöden ended up on the podium in a race he initially expected to be a super-domestique in, but despite that achievement he is left with a feeling of ‘what if?'. "With a little luck, I could have done more," he said Monday at T-Mobile's corporate headquarters in Bonn, Germany, at a reception for the Tour team. The gathered fans didn't seem to care - they were happy to celebrate their heroes. The crowd was perhaps a bit smaller than in past years, but just as enthusiastic.
"It bugs me, that it was third place, the second spot was surely reachable," he stated. "We missed our chance." Who missed it exactly, the riders or the team management? "Mistakes were made by both," he answered. "The riders make the race but the those who sit in the team auto make the tactics."
He had earlier given his thoughts on the race in his online diary at www.t-mobile-team.com. "I'm not likely to forget these three weeks in France any time soon," he wrote. "Standing on the podium in Paris is quite an awesome experience. I didn't expect it to happen after the turmoil at the start. I came here as a helper and then all of a sudden I found myself in the captain's role. That meant a lot of extra responsibility. The pressure weighed heavily on me and I couldn't prepare myself for that."
Klöden thanked team-mate Matthias Kessler for his role in the squad's Tour success, saying that the team captain motivated the riders to keep going after a difficult start.
"Matze Kessler has a huge share in this success," he continued. "He was our team's motor, spurred us on and gave us courage. He laid down a marker with his stage win in Valkenburg. It was a triumph of the will, which lifted our morale.
"I'd like to take the opportunity to give a big thanks to 'Matze'. He was always there when I needed him in the past three weeks. A great support, not just on a sporting level!"
Kessler was in a chatty mood at today's reception. He won't be riding in the ProTour race in Hamburg, but the Deutschland Tour is on his schedule, even if there's not a lot of time to recuperate. He'll put his legs up for a week, then hopes to "bring a good performance for the team" in the Deutschland Tour. How does he feel about his own TdF? "I'm more than satisfied, I didn't really have a bad day."
And how did the team manage to cope with the suspensions at the beginning of the race? "It affected us. You can't just erase something like that. Somehow it seemed as if they accompanied us the whole time."
Where will Kessler be riding in the future? "I don't know yet. I wanted to ride the Tour first, then we'll see in the next few weeks." Riding again with Jan Ullrich would be great, but "you have to see that it will be difficult for him to ride again." And would he like to stay with Andreas Klöden? "We are good friends, so when it works out, it would be good to stay together."
T-Mobile CEO Rene Obermann said that the sponsor "can be proud of this team. [Despite] the problems at the start, it held together." Also he addressed the theme of that third place: "If you ask me, Klöden could also have earned the yellow jersey. If it wasn't for his crash and not being able to train properly, who knows how high he might have finished?"
It was a "great Tour", he said, but "it had its shadow side at the beginning. T -Mobile stands for a clean cycling sport. Our only chance that cycling has is a 'no tolerance' policy for doping."
And that one name that is most usually associated with T-Mobile was mentioned only one time: Has Jan Ullrich congratulated Andreas Klöden? "He was the first one."
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Images by Susan Westemeyer/Cyclingnews.com