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(TMO)::WTF??

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Some sponsors would look at these kind of results (top placed rider) with a sense of panic:

Challenge Illes Balears: 24th overall
Vuelta Andalucia: 7th and 9th
ToC: 7th
Het Volk: 12th
KBK: 13th
Milano-Torino: 3rd
Paris-Nice: 33rd
T-A: 2nd
MSR: 13th
Dwars Door Vlaanderen: 15th

There's no overt sense of panic, however, at the T-Mob. Think about all that's gone on there: they went from being a horrible example of the old way of doing things: the stifling Ullrich star system that won them so few results even when they had multiple Tour contenders at once. Who can forget the sight of the Mob chasing down Alexandre Vinokourov at the 2004 Tour?

Now they're the prototype of the all encompassing team, a model which threatens to extinguish the Cycling doping culture. They have no less than 13 new riders to mold into the team, while having lost or dumped virtually all of their race captains of the past few years: Ullrich, Wesemann, Pollack, Kloden, Kessler and Kohl. So far, the results have been downright ugly -- no wins since a stage of the Algarve (Eisel) six weeks ago. Worse, T-Mobile have rarely been seen even mounting a serious challenge. But it's too early to write them off: they've been leveled by the flu at times, and otherwise should be expected to need time to create a system that everyone feels comfortable with.

On paper, at least, the parts are all in place. Andreas Klier just crashed out their best chances for Flanders-Roubaix week, but Roger Hammond can't be ignored on the pave, so all is not lost. Kim Kirchen has had a nice start to the year with his second at Tirreno-Adriatico and is gunning for the Ardennes.

Speaking of which, as thin as their roster is for the first round of cobbles, their Ardennes roster is deep: Patrik Sinkewitz went 5th/5th/4th at Amstel/La Fleche/Liege last year, and while he won't be coming around Valverde at the line anytime soon, he'll have Kirchen and Mick Rogers up front, with pluggers like Axel Merckx, Serguei Gonchar, Jakob Piil and Michael Barry to drive the train. The Magenta boys should finally be a factor by then, if probably not sooner.

Off the cobbles, Linus Gerdemann is the Tour guy, with Mick Rogers as plan B Mick Rogers is the Tour leader, with Linus Gerdemann the understudy. Bernhard Eisel is the Tour sprinter, with young Gerald Ciolek learning on the job. Adam Hansen is supposedly a mega-talent, although I might need some help explaining why (drawing a blank here).

The star of the team has to be the sponsor. Either out of touching loyalty, or because they have too much damn money to even notice, the Deutsche Telekom giant has stuck with Cycling from the Riis Tour to the present, through all manner of disappointments. When things bottomed out last year, the company quickly got behind the new team model as a solution to doping, rather than using doping as an excuse to check out (like, say, German television). As dissected earlier, the new team concept is by far the most innovative approach out there, and the only one to go beyond the CSC let's-just-test-everyone-constantly model (though it includes that too). T-Mobile, the sponsor, has been very consistent and very constructive in its support, so I suspect it'll take more than a really bad first month to raise eyebrows.

Let's check back in June and see if they've emerged from the chrysalis by then.