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2009 SUMMARY: After a disastrous 2008, team boss Van Gerwen decimated the roster, brought in most of the best German talent around and set a target of 25 wins. The result, however, was a step backwards, with just nine victories. On the plus side, Gerald Ciolek gave the dairy-backed squad a major tour success with his sprint victory at the Vuelta. However, after Niki Terpstra’s Dauphiné stage win in mid-June, Ciolek’s September success was the team’s sole victory for the rest of the season. There’d been a shorter drought early in the year too, leaving the impression of talent undermined by a lack of confidence.
LOOKING AHEAD: Let’s hope that Ciolek’s Vuelta win was a good omen for the new year. Three or four good wins before March is out would make a huge difference and lift Milram out of the gloom that’s settled on German cycling. It’s asking a lot for that burden to be carried by 23-year-old sprinter Ciolek but he’s got the speed to push Cavendish, Petacchi and company. Linus Gerdemann and Fabian
Wegmann must step up too, otherwise Van Gerwen might be looking at another restructuring programme at the end of 2010.
THE LINE-UP: The loss of former World U23 road champ Peter Velits may be keenly felt. The Czech has been quietly moving up the pro hierarchy and has opted to continue that advance with HTC-Columbia. Given the team’s golden touch with riders who have failed to shine elsewhere, expect Velits to become a world-beater and increase Van Gerwen’s head shaking. The riders coming in look good for the Classics but are short on winning potential.
ONE TO WATCH: If Ciolek is to push Mark Cavendish in sprints, the support he gets from his lead-out team will be vital. Luke Roberts, who was Olympic team pursuit champion in 2004, has been signed for his ability to maintain the high speeds Ciolek will be counting on. Roberts spent three years with Team CSC but five of his eight pro seasons have been with German outfits, so he should have little trouble settling in.