By Susan Westemeyer
It remains unclear as to whether Team Milram will be a German or an Italian team next year, and who will manage the team and hold the license, but at least the team's line-up is starting to take shape. It was announced today that the team would retain its sprinter duo of Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel.
"The subject is closed, Erik stays," business manager Gerry van Gerwen told the sid press agency. Zabel had recently indicated that the team management and sponsor had agreed to cut the final year of his contract. After Paris-Tours, however, team-mate Petacchi said otherwise, noting that the German "said he'd do his last season with us again next year." T-Mobile Team had expressed interest in signing Zabel.
Two definite newcomers to the team for the coming season are the U23 World Champion Peter Velits and his identical twin brother Martin, it was announced this morning. The Slovakians, who rode this year for Team Wiesenhof-Felt, which is stopping at the end of the year, signed for two years. Marcel Sieberg is said to be leaving Milram after only one year and heading to T-Mobile.
Complicating matters, this summer a spokesman for sponsor Nordmilch AG said that it would like to separate itself from Team Manager Gianluigi Stanga, who holds the team license, with the insinuation that Italian riders would be leaving, possibly with Stanga, and would then be replaced by German riders. However, it has also been rumoured this week that Mirko Celestino, Alberto Ongarato, Elia Rigotto, Fabio Sabatini, Carlo Scognamiglio and Marco Velo have all re-signed for 2008.
Under one scenario, Nordmilch would buy the ProTour license from Stanga and install van Gerwen as the new team manager. Alternatively, it was suggested that the team could take over the ProTour license from Unibet.com, which is ceasing operations at the end of the season.
The team is expected to present its plans for future in the next few weeks.