By Susan Westemeyer in Dortmund, Germany
Team Milram has continued the transformation which it started this season and is looking forward to a 2009 season as a largely German team with two new German captains, Linus Gerdemann and Gerald Ciolek. The team announced its 25-man roster at a press conference Thursday in Dortmund, Germany.
The major steps that the team took were in signing Gerdemann and Ciolek to two-year contracts. Signing Gerdemann turned out to be hard work, according to Milram team manager Gerry van Gerwen. The first talks took place during the Tour de France, and since the German had a contract with Team Columbia through the 2009 season, in the end four contracts were necessary to accomplish the transfer.
The process was slow but the ending "was somewhat faster than planned." It is assumed that van Gerwen had to buy out the contract from Columbia manager Bob Stapleton, but, as he told Cyclingnews, "Under the terms of the agreement, I am not allowed to talk about the details."
Gerdemann's duty will be to ride strong, van Gerwen said. "The whole team must and will support him with all that it has." The main goal will be the Tour de France. "He does not need to win it, but we expect a good result."
Gerdemann and Ciolek will share the captain's duties. "We want to make them the absolute top stars for Milram. There is also Fabian Wegmann, who wins his races and does his work – but these two, Linus Gerdemann and Gerald Ciolek, are the leaders."
He signed the two out of necessity, van Gerwen told Cyclingnews. After the team fired Alessandro Petacchi for doping, it was left without a leader, or, as the Dutchman said, "the team didn't have a head. So we said, let's build a complete new team, and at once."
He couldn't afford to wait and risk another year like 2008 "Our sponsor Milram looked at what it is getting for its investment. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good, either. So we knew we had to make some immediate changes."
Milram will go with a 25 man roster in 2009, with the majority of the riders (17) being German. In contrast to the team's first year, when it still had an Italian license and 15 Italian riders, it will next year have only one, Luca Barla.
Team Milram for 2009: Italian Luca Barla, Germans Gerald Ciolek, Markus Eichler, Robert Förster, Markus Fothen, Thomas Fothen, Johannes Fröhlinger, Artur Gajek, Linus Gerdemann, Christian Knees, Christian Kux, Martin Müller, Dominik Roels, Matthias Russ, Ronny Scholz, Björn Schröder, Paul Voss and Fabian Wegmann, Dutchmen Servais Knaven, Wim Stroetinga and Niki Terpstra, Slovaks Martin and Peter Velits, and Austrians Thomas Rohregger and Peter Wrolich.