Team Milram will send Erik Zabel and Christian Knees as co-captains to the Tour de France, it announced today at a press conference in Dortmund. The German ProTour team will look to help Zabel get his seventh green jersey for the best sprinter, but will look to Knees for stage wins and the general classification.
"The new role in the team is a special honour for me," said Knees, who won the Bayern Rundfahrt last month and finished ninth overall in the Tour de Suisse. "I thank the team for the trust that it has shown in me and I want to pay this back with a good performance." According to Zabel, "The new structure is very important to our team. The entire responsibility no longer rests all on my shoulders." It will be Knees' third Tour de France, but the 14th for sprinter Zabel, who will celebrate his 38th birthday on July 7.
The two captains will be supported by youngsters Niki Terpstra and U-23 World Champion Peter Velits, both making their Tour de France debut, and all-rounders Björn Schröder, Ralf Grabsch and Martin Müller. Brett Lancaster and Marco Velo will prepare the sprints for Zabel.
Meanwhile, Team Manager Gerry van Gerwen is looking to other changes for the team in the future. Having fired its star, Alessandro Petacchi, after the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld doping charges against him, the team has been forced to re-invent itself. He stated to the Kölner Stadt Anzeiger that "everything must change now."
Milram will start working with trainer and sports scientist Achim Schmidt of Cologne, who will take over the team's training. In addition, today's press conference was also the grand opening of the team's new base in Dortmund. The Dutch team manager wants all of the riders to move to that area, to make training and preparations easier.
The team is riding under a German license this year, and has a majority of German riders, a trend which van Gerwen wants to continue. "We want to become as German as possible." To that end, he is looking for available German riders, and has his eye particularly on Team High Road's Linus Gerdemann and Gerald Ciolek. "When their contracts expire and they are available, then I will be interested," he said. (SW)