The peloton welcomes back a familiar face next month: Linus Gerdemann. The German, stage winner and yellow jersey wearer at the 2007 Tour de France, returns with Africa's MTN-Qhubeka team. He sat out the last year after contract negotiations with former team RadioShack broke down.
"Mentally, it was a roller coaster," Gerdemann told Cycling Weekly. "Once I realised I was not racing in 2013, I was able to relax and just enjoy the summer."
Gerdemann won a stage in the 2005 Tour of Switzerland in his debut year. He was successful in the 2007 Tour, conquered his home tour in 2008 and as late as 2011, won the Tour of Luxembourg. He was unable to secure a new contract, though.
He joined Leopard in its debut year, 2011, with Andy and Fränk Schleck and Fabian Cancellara. Johan Bruyneel replaced Brian Nygaard as general manager for 2012 and brought in sponsor RadioShack. Gerdemann began to negotiate the renewal of his two-year contract but another management shake-up complicated the talks.
"It's complex," he said. "I didn't have a close relationship with Johan Bruyneel. Then he left [fired, linked to the USADA doping investigation - ed.]. We'd been talking about the contract, and then Luca Guercilena took over.
"Luca said, 'I'd really like to have you in this team but I have no budget anymore.' He was really working on it. I think Flavio Becca [then team owner - ed.] was also a problem. Luca was trying but with Flavio..."
Becca sold the team this summer to Trek. The American bicycle manufacturer took it out of Luxembourg and registered it at home for 2014, which the UCI confirmed on Tuesday. Guercilena continues to manage the team, which goes by the name Trek Factory Racing next season.
"At the beginning, it wasn't a nice situation. I was still talking to them until March. I have a good relationship with Luca, he's doing a good job there, but unfortunately he couldn't do anything. He tried," Gerdemann added.
"The bigger problem was that roller coaster ride. It looked like I was going to sign then not. The ups and downs, being focused but then realising it's not working out. You beginning asking yourself, 'Why am I preparing so seriously?' At that moment when it was clear I wasn't racing, I stopped and was able to enjoy my life."
The 31-year-old rarely spends time in Germany, about 10 days a year, he said. He divides his time between Majorca and Monaco. Doug Ryder, who manages MTN-Qhubeka, contacted Gerdemann this summer via his current German star and this year's Milan-San Remo winner, Gerald Ciolek. He offered him a contract through 2015 and a chance to lead Africa's first professional team in a Grand Tour.
With MTN's Tirreno-Adriatico ride and Ciolek's San Remo win this year, Ryder believes his second division team maintains a good chance of receiving an invite to RCS Sport's biggest race, the Giro d'Italia.
Gerdemann begins racing at the Tropicale Amissa Bongo in Gabon next month. He said his goal is to race for a stage win in the Giro d'Italia and if he goes well, the classification.
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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