By Susan Westemeyer
After several months of speculation about whether he'll head back to T-Mobile or stay on at Milram, Erik Zabel has made a final decision to stay with the blue team in 2008 under a new manager, Gerry van Gerwen. "There is no doubt about Erik riding for Team Milram next year. Erik will fulfil his contract with the team," said Van Gerwen, who replaces Gianluigi Stanga in the management role.
Stanga had served as team manager for the team's first two years and in fact holds the team's ProTour license. He fell into disrepute when Jörg Jaksche accused Stanga of introducing him to doping, charges the Italian denied. In August, a spokesman for sponsor Nordmilch indicated that Stanga would be replaced by van Gerwen, and that the sponsor would either buy the license from Stanga or attempt to take over another existing ProTour license. There was no word as to what has become of Stanga.
"The combination of experienced riders like Zabel and the many new young riders form the basis for the 2008 Team Milram," according to van Gerwen. "As captain, Erik will also have a special responsibility for the team."
Zabel had tried to have the last year of his contract with Milram cancelled, apparently so that he could re-join his former team T-Mobile. According to Milram, Zabel, team management and representatives from sponsor Nordmilch met over the last few weeks and agreed to fulfilling the contract. "We had good discussions and went over various options with Erik Zabel," van Gerwen said. "We are happy that we can count on him again next year and that Team Milram will continue to develop with his help."
"With 27 wins we have closed a successful season for Team Milram," Zabel said. "Next year many young riders will join us, who I can support with my experience. The new season will be a big challenge for our team and I gladly accept this challenge."