Team Milram is getting “Back to Basics” in 2010. That means, “Be healthy, have fun and work professionally,” according to team manager Gerry van Gerwen. The Dutchman introduced the new concept at the German ProTour team's season presentation last week in Dortmund, Germany.
“Be healthy in body and mind,” he expanded. “Live healthily and responsibly" and “have fun – don't complain about the weather but enjoy it, even if it is snowing.”
Riders must go back to their roots, he said, “and ask themselves, why did I start to ride? Because it was fun. Now and then I see that one or the other has forgotten that.”
As for being professional, he asked the team to “work hard to earn your living. Be committed to the team and do your duties by the sponsors and fans.”
Van Gerwen hopes that this new philosophy will turn the team around. It brought in only seven victories last season, and he expects much more from the team this year.
He conceded that the riders may have had too much freedom last year, and perhaps not enough direction from the team, telling Cyclingnews, “We have a lot of confidence in our riders and staff, everyone, not just the riders. But after a while we said, hey, we have to draw a line. Otherwise they are too free and do what they like.
“We are still the same people, but this is the line, and now be a professional. That is the difference to last year.”
Another new step this season has been a new sort of training camp. The whole team met in December for training camp at the usual all-inclusive luxury resort, but in addition, the team is dividing up by their first races, and at those training camps, there is something different.
“We wanted to improve the team, make the team a team, but how?,” van Gerwen said. “Instead of a survival camp, we made it simple. We rented some apartments and turned them over to the riders. They were forced to work together and communicate with one another – to do everything from shopping to cooking, and they don't all have that much experience with grocery stores – cleaning toilets, etc
“After a few days they understood that they had to work together, that they were getting to really know each other. At first it was very hard for them, which was exactly what we wanted.”
In January 2009, van Gerwen called for 25 wins on the season, and he did it again this year. “With a team like this, with these athletes, these talented young men, then 25 wins is possible, it must be.” But, he added, “I will take 15 wins if that includes a Classic and a Grand Tour stage.”
While he was not satisfied with the number of wins the team had in 2009, he was pleased “with the way we presented ourselves.” The team was often involved in escape groups, especially during the Grand Tours.
That sort of representation must continue this year, van Gerwen noted. “Our presence and aggressive riding are important, but we must see that we are present in the finale, too. It is important that we always ride attackingly and aggressively, making our presence known.”
As a German team, the German races are of course of utmost importance. “Rund um Köln and the Bayern Rundfahrt are the best German races, high-quality races, and we will send our best possible teams to them. Our goal is to win them. Nothing else is acceptable.”
The team has five new riders this season. Belgians Roy Sentjens and Wim de Vocht are there to strengthen the Classics team. Roger Kluge is “a super athlete” who will be involved in Gerald Ciolek's sprint lead-out train. Fellow German Dominik Nerz, the U-23 national road champion, is “a super talent, and still very young” at only 20.
The other newcomer is the first to have provided Milram with a podium place this season. Australian Luke Roberts finished third in the Australian national time trial. Roberts, who van Gerwen called “a forgotten rider,” also has a German connection.
Roberts is married to a German woman and lives in the Cologne area. Van Gerwen said he is a “super man, with a super team spirit, super professional in all respects.” He too will be part of Ciolek's lead out, as “he can ride unbelievably fast, a classy rider.”
There are changes too in the assignments of the sport directors. Ralf Grabsch debuted as Directeur Sportif last season after a 13-year riding career. “We discovered that Ralf is very direct in his communications. That works well with the rides and ties in with our Back to Basics plan. We have made him the main DS.”
In that role he replaces Christian Henn, who “with all his experience, should do race analysis, which we have missed over the last years,” according to van Gerwen. “Where and how are the hills, where must a rider be at what point in a race, that sort of thing.”
Another obvious theme for the team is that of sponsorship. The team's contract with Nordmilch expires the end of this season, and the northern German dairy company has indicated that the contract will not be extended. The possibility exists, though, that Nordmilch may stay on as a minor sponsor.
“We are talking very often with Milram,” van Gerwen told Cyclingnews. “The hope is always there.”
But the most important thing for van Gerwen is that “We have chosen to be a German team and will continue to be one.” Germany is “such a big country, a core country in Europe. The chances are here, not in Holland or Flanders.”
Above all, he is confident that the team will continue to exist after this season. “ We didn't bring the team from Italy to Germany to quit the business, so we will continue with the team. The investment was very large in terms of time and money. That is why we will continue the team and we will work very, very hard to continue.”
Van Gerwen concluded, “It sounds a little bit funny but I'm not nervous.”