By Shane Stokes
Consistency throughout the season and a commitment to team work and clean cycling were some of the goals outlined today at the launch of the 2007 T-Mobile men’s and women’s teams in Mallorca.
A large contingent of international press were present, many of them being flow in by charter flight for the function, as well as Tour de France chief Christian Prudhomme and UCI President Pat McQuaid.
New general manager Bob Stapleton was one of the first to speak during the presentation and he set out a strong message of intent. "I am very proud to be here today," he said. "2006 was a challenging year for the sport but I think we have made tremendous progress.
"It was a very tough year for everyone…What we did is we focused on what we could do in our own house. We wanted to make sure we could bring in the best people, best methods and really build the team spirit that we feel is fundamental to doing well."
Last year ago Jan Ullrich was the star of the presentation and there was then a real feeling that 2006 could be his year. As it turned out, Operación Puerto blitzed his career and very nearly led to an end to the team. The sponsors ultimately elected to stay put on the understanding that the T-Mobile squad would make a serious commitment to an anti-doping stance from that point on, leading the way in the fight against the problem.
Stapleton made it clear that this was a genuine goal. "I think we have to go into the season with an optimistic mindset but also with a commitment to doing all that we can [to fight doping]. I think that there are many people in the sport who want to move in a new direction and we want to help to be part of that."
"It is a constant challenge; there is still tremendous uncertainty and it is hard to separate fact from fiction. All we can do is set the bar very high and work together with the teams, the event organizers, the governing bodies and the testing agencies to progress the sport as much as we can.
"I think this is a very pivotal year for the sport. We need to earn the respect and the interest of the general public, and that is going to take a concerted effort from all the members of the community."
For their part, T-Mobile have introduced a battery of anti-doping tests, and have gone to lengths to ensure that all riders understand that there is a zero tolerance policy as regards drug use. Management and riders all spoke about their satisfaction with this, the general feeling being that they were happy to be part of what they hope is a changing culture in the sport.
Following the departure of Ullrich and Andreas Klöden, team leadership at the Tour de France will transfer to Michael Rogers. The Australian finished 10th in 2006 and said that he was looking forward to the challenge this time round.
"My whole career has been based on steady improvements and finishing inside the top ten last year while doing domestique duties was pretty satisfying," he stated. "If I can get into the same shape again I hope to go better, perhaps top five is possible. I’ve worked hard this winter, doing a lot of mountain biking, and feel like I am in good shape. Things are great with the team this year, there is a really good atmosphere."
The squad has a total of 28 other riders, including talented up-and-coming Germans Patrik Sinkewitz and Linus Gerdemann, Tour de France stage winners Sergiy Gonchar and Giuseppe Guerini, new signings Axel Merckx, Michael Barry and Roger Hammond plus promising young sprinters Mark Cavendish and world under 23 champion Gerald Ciolek.
An impressive T-Mobile women’s team was also launched, led by former world champion Judith Arndt, double world cup winner Oenone Wood and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg. The gifted young riders include Danish road and time trial champion Linda Villumsen, former junior world champion Suzanne de Goede and former junior world pursuit champion Alex Rhodes.
"We are going to try to have as good a year as in 2006," said Arndt. "Last year we won three world cup placings, I was on the top step of the podium several times and I think we made €50,000 for Unicef [the team supports its Schools for Africa campaign]. We were always at the forefront of races and this year, I think a lot of different team members will win races. I believe we can achieve a lot of goals."
More from the T-Mobile launch will follow soon on Cyclingnews. For the full roster and transfer information, visit our 2007 teams database.