Top ProTour squad T-Mobile made an unexpectedly low-key start to the Classics season at Het Volk and Kuurne – but it was partly due to several of their top riders all being under the weather from sickness.
Classics specialist Andreas Klier, former Paris-Roubaix winner Servais Knaven, sprinter Bernard Eisel and Britain?s Roger Hammond were all hit by either a flu? bug, an upset stomach or an unpleasant combination of both over the weekend.
After riding Het Volk, Klier came down overnight with stomach problems and quit after 15 kilometres at Kuurne, Knaven was forced to pack from Het Volk after 130 kilometres with similar troubles, and Eisel started Kuurne but then crashed and quit, as his ?flu worsened.
Hammond, who finished both races, added that his stomach problems had ?pulled down my form a bit, made it harder to hit top gear.?
?Your immune system?s a bit messed up with hard training and then you?re more vulnerable to illnesses. But we?re not alone, even [Kuurne winner Tom] Boonen was down with a bad cold earlier this week.?
?These are the typical illnesses and bugs that a lot of riders get at the start of the season.? T-Mobile directeur sportif Tristan Hoffman told CW?s website. ?Very easy to catch, even from something as simple as shaking hands.?
?With the benefit of hindsight, we probably shouldn?t have let Eisel start, but sometimes these things do clear up faster than you expect.?
?Given the circumstances we didn?t have that bad a weekend, but it?s clear that we didn?t race as well as we could have because of these problems.?
More riders have also been affected by illness recently in T-Mobile. Young British pro. Mark Cavendish was forced to spend a week in bed getting over a bug similar to the one his team-mates were affected by. ?Mark?s was more serious though.? Hoffman added.
Cavendish was forced to miss one of his programmed races, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne as a result. His scheduled participation in the Three Days of West Flanders this week remains very doubtful.