Den Bakker joins Zabel and Petacchi at Milram

Maarten den Bakker has signed with the new Italo-German outfit Team Milram, which already boasts sprinters Erik Zabel and Alessandro Petacchi. Den Bakker is contracted for one year. Dutchman Gerrie van Gerwen will be team manager of the newly-formed team, along with Gianluca Stanga.

A topic of controversy surrounds the hiring of German Jörg Strand, previously a Stasi officer in former East Germany, whose primary responsibility was to monitor and control political resistance. One of the branches of that organisation was to protect the secret doping programme that took place in the East German Republic. "I have spoken openly with Strand and management about his background," said Van Gerwen. "But what he actually did during that time I don't know. I am now working with him and have learnt that he's a driven and trustworthy man."

The new ProTour team will replace the Italian Domina Vacanze squad and has a contract with Milram, a brand under German dairy producer Nordmilch, for four years with an option for a fifth year. Den Bakker will be the only Dutchman riding in what will be a roster of Italian and German riders, where the team will ride Colnago bikes and wear Santini clothing.

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