In "The Start Ramp," veteran cycling cyber-journalist Sarah tracks and reports on the Tour's Young Rider Competition (riders under 25 on Jan. 1) and Tour first-timers.

Marcus Fothen
Marcus Fothen
Photo Gerolsteiner
Friday, July 14, 2006

Rider profile: Marcus Fothen

Even under the pressure of working for his team leader, Marcus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) has shown that he has a bright future ahead of him. Stage 11 of the Tour was the second day of mountains, and a stage that many consider to be the start of the 'real' tour. Instead of cracking under the pressure like so many young riders did, Fothen rode with the top contenders for much of the stage. He finally crossed the line in 13th place, only three minutes back from the stage winner, Denis Menchov (Rabobank).

Not only is Fothen twelve minutes ahead of the second place young rider, Damiano Cunego, but he's 10th in the General Classification. His team is also second overall. Though he's only 24 (he'll be 25 on September 9th), he is the highest placed Gerolsteiner rider in the Tour. Of course, this being the Tour de France, that could all have changed in Thursday's stage, as Fothen told Letour.fr Wednesday after stage 10.  He also discussed his primary focus at the Tour:  "The white jersey is a good reward but my priority is still to help Levi (Leipheimer) whenever I can. That was what I came to the Tour to do and I'm going to honor that commitment."

And he's doing quite a good job.

So, who is Marcus Fothen? He's a German rider in his second year as a professional, and his second year with Gerolsteiner. His first team was Team TEAG Köstritzer. His brother, Thomas Fothen, also rides for Gerolsteiner.

It should come as no surprise that Fothen is doing so well in his first Tour de France. Last year he finished the Giro d'Italia, his first grand tour, in 12th place in the GC.

His other results are just as good. In 2002, Fothen was the German time trial champion at the under-23 level. In 2003 he was the World TT champion at the U23 level as well as the German TT champion at the same level for the second year.

In his first year as a professional, he won the 2004 GP Schwarzwald. He also finished 3rd in the Luk Challenge (with Sebastian Lang) and fourth overall in the Regio-Tour International during the same year (he finished second on stage 2).

2005 was no different. With the exception of the 12th overall place in the Giro, Fothen had several top ten finishes. He helped his team win the GP Eindhoven. He also won the young riders competition in the Circuit de la Sarthe, finishing second overall.  He finished third on stage 2b of the same race. And he finished second at the Luk Challenge, again with Lang.

If Fothen continues to ride as strongly as he has in the past two years, he could end up on top of more podiums. He's definitely a cyclist to watch in this year's Tour, as well as in the future. And with such a large lead in the young rider's competition, we'll definitely be seeing more of him this Tour.

Good luck, Marcus!