By Susan Westemeyer in Dortmund, Germany
German cycling was given a glimmer of hope with Thursday's announcement that Linus Gerdemann will leave Team Columbia to sign with the German Milram squad. The sport in Germany has had its share of kicks in the teeth in recent years, from Jan Ullrich's alleged connection with Operación Puerto to the recent doping cases of Stefan Schumacher and Bernard Kohl, and Gerdemann felt it was his duty to help.
"Right now it's important to give something back to German cycling,which has given me so much. Right now is not the easiest time in Germany, but it is a challenge that Team Milram and I want to accept," he told Cyclingnews.
The 26-year-old said that it wasn't so important to him to leave Columbia as it was to join a German team. "Columbia is a very, very good team, but I think that I can accomplish some things in Germany. I think that is the wrong impression, that I wanted to leave Columbia, it is an outstanding team that has deserved its successes."
The transfer marked the second time that Gerdemann has gotten out of a contract early to go to a German team. The first time was when he left CSC for T-Mobile in 2005. He gave the same reason then – a desire to ride for a German team.
He denied any bias against non-German teams, saying, "foreign teams are also interesting but at that point in time, Germany is more interesting to me. You should never say never. I can imagine riding for a foreign team at some point."
Gerdemann looked relaxed and confident, his deep tan contrasting with the cold rain outside. "At least its better than the snow at home," he noted. That home, by the way, is not in Germany but in Switzerland.
One of his main priorities, he noted, was "to be open and do all I can to bring back the sport's credibility back. I have shown that I can win races clean. He said that not only is he ready for every control at any time, but also, "if they want to hold my samples and open them in 50 years I have no problem with that."
How does he feel about the return to the peloton of Lance Armstrong or of those who have served doping suspensions, such as Floyd Landis or Ivan Basso? "You really can't blame people for wanting to come back, but it is surely not always in the best interest of cycling for its credibility. We must simply wait and see who rides the Tour next summer."
Gerdemann also criticized the German television for canceling its coverage of next year's Tour de France. The decision is "hard to understand," he admitted. "I think it is an unusual way to fight doping. I think it hits the wrong ones in the fight against doping."