Erik Zabel and Alessandro Petacchi will ride together for a new German team in 2006, according to the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper. The team will incorporate the structures of the current Domina Vacanze and Wiesenhof teams, with German dairy company Nordmilch replacing Wiesenhof as a sponsor under its 'Milram' brand.
As always at this time of year, though, initial reports may be slightly optimistic. Nordmilch spokesman Harald Schomacker told Germany's radsport-news.com, "I can confirm that we are in negotiations but the contracts and amounts are not yet decided. Basically a cyclesport sponsorship with Erik Zabel would fit with our new mid-price 'Milram' product range."
Zabel is reported to be bringing long-time team-mate Rolf Aldag and Jan Schaffrath to the new formation, while former Fassa Bortolo riders Alberto Ongarato, Fabio Sacchim and Marco Velo will follow Petacchi. Velo has just been confirmed as signing for Domina Vacanze, but T-Mobile clearly believes Aldag is planning to stay put (see below).
The deal - if it comes together - is reported to give Erik Zabel a job for the next three years, with a guaranteed start in the Tour de France. Zabel was disappointed not to be selected for T-Mobile's Tour team this year, and subsequently decided to move on from the team.
Wiesenhof manager Jörg Strenger isn't saying much about his team's involvement in the new arrangement. "I can't confirm anything," he told radsport-news.com. "I am still looking for a sponsor to succeed Wiesenhof and will be taking out a Continental pro license with the UCI."