The new Italo-German venture Team Milram was presented in Bremen, North Germany yesterday, and while everybody knew that the team will be the sprint train squad to look out for in 2006, some observers still had their doubts about the compatibility between its two star riders, Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel. At the Nordmilch headquarters however, the Italian fast man Petacchi announced that he would participate in the Giro d'Italia as well as the Tour de France and - maybe - even the Vuelta a España, and that Zabel and himself would share the season's goals according to their capabilities.
"It's not the first time I will participate in all three Grand Tours," Petacchi said. "I look forward to this adventure. My other goals include Milano-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Tours at the end of the season."
"I will aim for the Green jersey at the Tour," said Zabel. "Between Alessandro and me there won't be any problems as we are both professionals and honest people." Admitting to Petacchi's superiority in the final hundred metres, Zabel said that he could very well imagine being the Italian's lead-out man at one of his own favourite races, Milano Sanremo. "If we are both on the finishing straight together, we will not ride against each other. A victory by Petacchi would also be a victory for me," Zabel continued.
Meanwhile, 'Al-Jet' admitted that he could still learn a lot from the 35 year-old German. Relating to the so-called train that Team Milram will now try to consolidate within its roster, he said, "It will be hard to re-create a train like we had at Fassa. But it is necessary - for me more than for Zabel, as I don't have his racing smartness."
Former rivals Zabel and Petacchi will thus collaborate on all occasions. "Prior to the finishes, we will discuss which one of us will go for the victory and who will prepare the sprint. What counts is that one of us is in front in the end," Zabel added, and Petacchi continued: "If Erik and I give our very best and agree with each other, we will have quite an advantage over other sprinters - we will be very unpredictable."
Team manager Gianluigi Stanga is enthusiastic about his new team leaders. "The team is twice as strong now," he said. "This is my 24th year as a manager for professional cycling teams. I have always directed great outfits and I can see all the conditions for very high results in this team."
A detailed report on the Team Milram presentation will follow.