2000 saw overall victory in the Tour of Romandie but a disappointing 24th overall in the Giro, and 2001 saw stage victories in the Tour of Romandie but another “weak” finish in the Giro – of 14th place. Saeco clearly thought it was time for a new start and brought in Simoni – Savoldelli found himself with the unfancied Alexia Aluminio team in 2002.
However, the Falcon surprised everyone, except maybe himself, when he swooped to triumoh in the 2002 Giro.
So the move to Telekom signifies a challenge for the Giro ? Not according to Savoldelli when talking to the Gazzetta recently.
“It is a big disappointment, the Tour remains the first objective of Telekom and I can’t do even more so because there’s no more Ullrich, therefore the best men on the team need to concentrate on France.”
“Botero and Evans have also joined the team which has kept Kloden: we four can and need to make the race difficult for Armstrong. Ullrich, if he’s well, with the right weight and is concentrated, seems to me to still be the only credible rival to the American. But we four will race in an attacking way, specially on the climbs, and who knows whether we four can do more than one racer could at the end of the Tour. It will be on the roads who is decided who is the leader, me or Botero: it’s the first time that I’ll be focusing on the GC during the Tour in the last three times I’ve done it (’96, ’99, and 2000) and it has only been for experience”.
There remains the disappointment of not being able to defend the Maglia Rosa that he won during the Giro d’Italia 2002. “I would say that my victory in the Giro has changed my life and my career for the better.”
Team Telekom started 2002 with confidence. “It is no longer enough for us to be the best Team in Germany – we must aim to be the best Team in the world,” declared Pevenage at the start of the 2002 season. The loss of Ullrich, for well reported reasons, was a bitter blow. Zabel’s dogged determination (still ranked First in the UCI rankings), heroic rides by Steffen Wesemann in the Paris Roubaix and great rides from Alexandre Vinokourov were highlights of what was ultimately a disappointing season by the pink machines high standards.
Coast and Gerolsteiner gathered more UCI points, and rather the best team in the world Telekom found themselves third best in Germany, Zabel lost the green. And Milan. Ullrich’s lost season was enough to make the Telekom management reassess.
Robert Bartko, Udo Bölts, Ralf Grabsch, Jens Heppner, Kevin Livingston and Jan Ullrich all leave the squad, but the team have made big name replacements – Mario Aerts, Paolo Savoldelli, Cadel Evans, Daniele Nardello, Christian Werner and Santiago Botero Echeverry join the squad that looks capable of performing well in the Classics, Grand Tours, and still have enough strength cover the smaller (but very important) week Tours.
Mario Aerts (Bel) -31 December 1974 – winner of the FLECHE WALLONE (1.HC) in 2002 the man from Herentals is one of an increasingly rare breed, able to excel in the Classics and compete in the Tours, and high mountains – two second placings on the mountain stages including his heartbreak defeat by Dario Frigo in Cluses in the 2002 Tour de france.
Rolf Aldag (Ger) – d.o.b. 25 August 1968 – Pro since 1991 with the Helvetia team, Rolf has been a stalwart in the Telekom ranks since 1993. Strong, experienced and capable of the odd stage victory, Rolf will be indispensible this season as a Team Captain who must help the new signings gel as a team.
Cadel Evans (Aus) -d.o.b. -14 February 1977 – Burst onto the pro scene in 2001 with victories in the Tour of Austria and Brixia Tour, unexpectedly heroic team leader for Mapei in the Giro, moving to Telekom when the Mighty Mapei quit pro-racing. As Evans himself says – “So, we will see, after the Giro I grew to like pink, now I will be able to wear it everyday.”
Certainly one of a rare breed, a natural Tour rider. The prospect of Evans and Savoldelli riding the Tour together may give the Postals a few concerns. His fans eagerly await to see if the rider from Katherine, Northern Territory, Australia, can make a big impact in the major races. One of the most intriguing and exciting prospects of 2003 – Telekom and Australian fans await!
Gian Matteo Fagnini (Ita) -d.o.b. 11 Ooctober 1970 – since turning pro 1n 1994 with first Mercatone Uno and then Saeco, Fagnini was always closely associated with the Lion King, Mario Cipollini. However in 2000, at the personal request of Zabel , the great lead out man was tempted to swap teams and ride for “Ete.” One of the great lead out men of the last ten years, once again he will be the last thing Zabel sees before surging towards the finishing line.
Of course should misfortune strike Zabel, Fagnini is more than capable himself of winning races.
Giuseppe Guerini (Ita) d.o.b. 14 February 1970 (he shares the same birthday as Cadel Evans) – on his day a brilliant climber and one forever associated with amateur photography after a Graham Watson wannabe halted his impressive surge up Alpe d’Huez in 1999. In 2002 he rode with new teammate Aerts and Frigo in the dramatic stage to Cluses but finished third of the three. One of the most stylish riders in the peloton, it would seem likely that Giuseppe will be riding as super domestique in the mountains rather than looking for solo glory.
Torsten Hiekmann (Ger) -d.o.b. 17 March 1980- Time trialist, Junior World Time trial Champion in 1997 in San Sebastian (Spa), 2nd in 1998 at Valkenburg (Ned). In the U23 event in 1999 in Treviso (Ita) he was 5th, and was 15th in 2000 in Plouay. Good showing in the 2002 Giro – a rider to watch (and time more than likely) in the future, both in time trials and stage races.
Danilo Hondo (Ger) – d.o.b. 4 January 1974 – great road man with great finishing sprint when he is not second to last in Zabel’s train. Strong enough to be German Road Champion 2002, and had another three victories to match that. May once again be the Telekom spearhead in the Giro.
Kai Hundertmark (Ger) – d.o.b. 25 April 1969 – experienced pro – in the peloton since 1991 with the Histor team, rode for P.D.M. and had two years with the Motorola before joining Telekom. Came within a whisker of winning the 2001 Tour Down Under, a race he specialises in due in part to having relations in Australia. The rest of the year it’s largely a case of being water carrier and bodyguard for the bigger stars.
Bobby Julich (Usa) – 18 November 1971 – joined the pro peloton in 1992 riding for the 1992 Spagno team, and was particularly determined to stay in the sport as an independent the following year, rode for Chevrolet in 1994 (for related article Click here) before joining the Motorola team in 1995. 1997 and 1998 with Cofidis saw Bobby J on the verge of greatness , culminating in an excellent third place in the 1998 Tour de France. Two years at Crédit Agricole saw Julich never really re-capturing his best the arrival of Moreau to the team was enough to force the surprising move to Telekom. Now a pro with bags of experience, he will exert an influence within the Telekom team that may not capture headlines but is fundamental to their success.
Matthias Kessler (Ger) – d.o.b. 16 May 1979 – Former D.S. Rudy Pevenage once said of Kessler, “He is the Teams “Pitbull Terrier.” A fan’s favourite and easy to see why – 6th in Liege, 14th in Vuelta a Murcia, 18th Giro Lombardia, 25th in the Giro and an excellent 2nd in the Giro del Piemonte cat. 1.1 Italian race in October was scant reward for a full season of hard cycling – definite prospect.
Andreas Klier (Ger) – d.o.b. 15 January 1976 – Turned pro in 1996 with Team Nürnberger before joining TVM Farm Frites in 1999 before joining Telekom in 2001. Based near Brussels, Klier is a rider who thrives on the Classics. Usually found helping his team Captain over the cobblestones, he gained a rare victory in 2002 with a fine solo win in the GP Jef Scherens Leuven.
Andreas Klöden (Ger) – d.o.b. 22 June 1975 – Pro rider with Telekom since 1998, Klöden made a huge impression in 2000. The winner of Paris-Nice, and the first German to win the Baskenland Tour second in the Tour of Germany and an excellent third in the Olympic Road Race, it appeared that Telekom had discovered a true heavyweight to ride alongside Jan Ullrich. However, bad luck, illness and injury (and some critics would argue his close friendship with Ullrich) have slowed down the progress of the man from Mittweiden.
Flash in the pan or a genuine Giant of the road? It will be interesting to see how Klöden responds to the team changes in 2003.
David Kopp (Ger) – d.o.b. 5 January 1979 – Two victories in the 2001 FBD Milk Ras in Ireland were enough to convince Telekom to sign the rider from Bonn as a full pro in 2002. However a season of illness hampered the youngster’s progress. “In the spring I caught bronchitis which I could not shake off since I was too impatient,” said Kopp. Digestive problems followed and it was not until September when he had an excellent Paris Brussels race that Kopp could ride with full health. So a partly wasted season; interesting to see the youngster’s progress in 2003.
Daniele Nardello (Ita) – d.o.b. 2 August 1972 – A pro since 1994 with Mapei when he burst onto the scene with a stage and overall victory in the Alpine Classic. A rider forever associated with the Mapei team, not only is he a great climber but also has the strength to compete at the top level in the one-day Classics. The former Italian Champion has had top ten finishes in the major Tours. Telekom will be looking at his wealth of experience to guide the team in the major Tours and one day Classics. A great team mate to have riding for you as Tafi said after his victory in the 2002 Tour of Flanders: “Now I’m really happy to win Flanders and I have to thank our team who rode great and especially Daniele Nardello.”
The combination of Aerts and Nardello in the Telekom line up adds a new dimension to the Telekom’s rosta.
Dirk Reichl (Ger) – d.o.b. 12 september 1981 – Another rider who showed his potential in the 2001 FDB Milk Ras with a victory on stage 2. The youngster seems a natural road racer with some good performances in this years Tour of Belgium – one to watch.
Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) – d.o.b. 7 May 1973 – a string of impressive victories as an amateur (Trophée De Gasperi 1995, Coupe delle Pace 1995, 2 stages Baby Giro 1995) was enough to convince the Rislotto – Z.G. team to sign him in 1996. An excellent 13th place in the Giro Italia in 1997 was the start of a long campaign to win the “Corsa rosa” 1998 and riding for the Saeco team saw victory in the Giro del Trentino and 9th overall in the Giro. 1999 saw another improvement, adding the Trofeo Laiguelia to another Giro del Trentino victory and finishing 2nd in the Giro.
Jan Schaffrath (Ger) – d.o.b. – 17 September 1971 – Hard working domestique who rarely makes the TV spotlight: “I am responsible for the first 120 to 150 kilometers. Usually trying to hold the field together or covering any early breaks,” he says.
Although maybe missed by the fans, Jan has a huge reputation amongst his fellow professionals – “You can only win races with the assistance of such professionals such as Jan Schaffrath,” Alex Zuelle once observed.
Stephan Schreck (Ger) -d.o.b. 15 July 1978 – fourth in the U23 World Championship Time trial in 1999, Stephan joined the pro ranks with Telekom in 2000 – “I experienced the change from the U23 to the professionals, it was like moving from a normal two-litre car into a Formula 1- racing car,” said Stephan.
However, good rides this year, including a stage 5 victory in the International Hessen Rundfahrt 2002, would indicate that the transition has finally been made.
Stefan Schumacher (Ger) – d.o.b. 21 July 1981 – superb time trialist and great young prospect, his double victory of best young rider in both the Niedersachsen-Rundfahrt and the Peace race indicate the rider’s potential.
Illness interrupted the young rider’s season but he has not disappointed his many fans who consider him to be one of the best young prospects in the peloton.
Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) – d.o.b. 16 September 1973 – made his debut with the Casino team in 1997 and made his mark the following year with victories in the 4 Days of Dunkirk, the Tour de l’Oise and the Circuit des Mines. 1999 saw no let-up in pace, with overall victory in the Vuelta Valenciana, 2 stages in the Midi Libre and a stage and overall in the Dauphiné Libéré. Year 2000 saw the move to Team Telekom and further success with a stage win in the Vuelta, and a silver medal in the Olympics. The Tour of Germany was conquered in torrential rain in 2001, and Vinokourov again demonstrated his power in the shorter Tours in 2002 with a brilliant victory in the Paris Nice.
Not quite robust enough for the major tours (though a good bet for a top twenty place) expect to see more brilliant rides from Alexandre in 2003.
Christian Werner (Ger) – d.o.b. 28 June 1979 – Great prospect, after two seasons with the Team Nürnberger Christian moves up a division. Great ride in this year’s Rund um Köln which he took third place as he also did in the Rheinland – Pfalz Rundfahrt. Reknowned for his climbing abilities, expect to see Christian in the German stage races, having fun in the Black Forest!
Steffen Wesemann (Ger) – d.o.b. – 11 March 1971 – His tenth year with Telekom, and the ten years have seen the rider from Lipzig gradually emerge as one of the Classic Races top contenders. His father was an East German international cyclist and the race Steffan watched as a youngster was the Peace race.
After a good start to his pro career in 1993 with a stage victory in the Tour de l’Avenir, 1996 saw a truly astonishing ride in the Peace race, in which he won seven stages and took the overall for the first of three victories in the event.
But as Steffan has matured, so he has increasingly become more associated with one race – Paris Roubaix. Second last year and hampered by a broken cleat in 2001 (the effort of riding on one leg caused an inflamed tendon for which he paid for many months after the race) when he finished seventh, Wesemann will again be looking for glory on the pave again in 2003.
Sergei Yakovlev (Kaz) – d.o.b. 21 April 1976 – made his pro debut for the Besson Chaussures team in 1999 – the rider from Almaty, Kazakstan, then transferred to Cantina Tollo in 2001 before joining Telekom in 2002 – good all rounder.
Erik Zabel (Ger) d.o.b. 7 July 1970 – UCI ranked world’s Number One rider – the ultimate professional. 159 pro wins in a glittering career that has seen him rank with the true sprinting greats and remain very popular in his homeland where he often picks up National and international awards.
Turned pro in 1992 with the long forgotten Fründenberg team, but has been in the pink of Telekom since 1993. Rumours abound that he was less than happy with the antics of Jan Ullrich and a split had occurred in the team, however it will be interesting to see how the new influx of riders affect the performance of a rider of true legendary status.