Milram sponsor to pull out?

German pro cycling may be facing extinction, as Nordmilch AG may be on the verge of ending its...

German pro cycling may be facing extinction, as Nordmilch AG may be on the verge of ending its sponsorship of Team Milram, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The dairy company is allegedly ready to pull the plug immediately, but, according to the newspaper, the company managers were "rather upset when the consequences of such an action was made clear: it would be the abrupt end of German cycling."

Team Manager Gerry van Gerwen was surprised by the news, saying, "I haven't heard anything about it."

But Nordmilch AG confirmed on its website on Thursday that its "engagement in professional cycling is currently being examined. We will inform the public on further developments once they become available."

Earlier this month, Nordmilch announced the departure of Martin Mischel, head of sales and marketing, because of "a difference of opinions about the company's further business policy." Mischel was the one who had coordinated the sponsorship of the cycling team.

The reason for the problem is doping. The recent Stefan Schumacher and Bernhard Kohl cases "caused us some uncertainty," according to Otto Lattwesen, head of the directors board. The decision by German television ARD and ZDF to stop broadcasting the Tour de France live was a further blow. "We are the only German cycling team, but nobody watches any more," he said.

The firm has a contract with the team through 2010, and Lattwesen said that "all possibilities are being explored. But I would not advise saying immediately, we're getting out of it." (SW)

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