The German riders on Team MTN-Qhubeka powered by Samsung face their next big challenge this coming Sunday in the Rund um Köln. Gerald Ciolek and Andreas Stauff will lead the team in the city with the world famous cathedral.
Team captain Ciolek comes to his hometown with a win in Milan-San Remo and a fifth place in Frankfurt behind him, and wants to show his local fans his best side.
"I have always wanted to win Rund um Köln," he admitted. "I live only 150 metres away from the finish line.
"Team MTN-Qhubeka powered by Samsung is highly motivated and we absolutely want to ride for the win. Andi [Stauff] and I know the course very well and have often trained together on the roads around Cologne. Our families and many friends will be along the course. That motivates us even more.
"Rund um Köln, as my home race, is one of the most important races for me this year. I am very familiar with the course and train on it every day. Gerald and I know every climb by heart. I am highly motivated for this race," Stauff said.
"In Gerald, we have someone whose goal is to win the race. Tactically, Rund um Köln is difficult to gauge. We have the right rider on the team for every option, in order to win. I could also imagine being at the front in a lead group."
The race also has a special meaning for Team Principal Doug Ryder, who earlier lived in the German city and rode for Team Cologne in 1993 and 1994. "Rund um Köln is a race I enjoyed doing in 1994 as I lived in Cologne and it was such an important race for us at that time, so I can imagine how it must feel for Andreas and Gerald who are residents of Cologne," he said.
"Your home race always comes with high expectations, so the team will race in full support for Andreas and Gerald. The race has been run for nearly 100 years and has had incredible champions in the past in one of the most beautiful cities in the world."
Not only will Ciolek and Stauff be supported in their hometown by their many friends and fans, they will also have a strong team behind them in Cologne.
For the challenging ride through the hilly land to the banks of the Rhine in downtown Cologne, sport director Jens Zemke will also look to another German, Martin Reimer. The former German champion from Cottbus will wear the yellow-and- black jersey of the team along with South African champion Jay Thomson and his countrymen Jaco Venter and Johan van Zyl. The squad also includes Lithuanian Iganata Konovalovas and Jani Tewelde of Eritrea.
At the 97th running of the classic race Rund um Köln, Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung will face some strong rivals, with the possibility of another showdown between Ciolek and Andre Greipel. The German Tour de France stage winner from Team Lotto Belisol will ride in Cologne for the German National Team. In Frankfurt, Greipel finished ahead of Ciolek, in third place.
Sunday's race starts in Hückeswagen and runs over 200 challenging kilometres through the "Bergische Land" to the finish line on the banks of the Rhine River.
The highlight of the race is the famous cobblestone passage on the climb at Schloss Bensberg.