T-Mobile to be an "international team of character"

The Team T-Mobile of the future will have "an international management team with international personnel and an international sponsor," says incoming general manager Bob Stapleton. Not only that, it will be "a team which believes in clean and fair sport." In an interview with Welt magazine, he said that he is looking to develop a "team of character, with riders who have a good heart, head and good legs, are willing to well together as a team and have excellent prospects. That's what's interesting and significant for the sport in these tough times. "

One change will be a new international team of "young, progressive and clued-in" directeurs sportifs, with only Valerio Piva (Italy) and Brian Holm (Denmark) continuing over from the current team. They will be joined by Tristan Hoffman (Netherlands) and Alan Peiper (Australia). They will be managed by Rolf Aldag, "who after a long pro career has a knowledge of the peloton that's second to none and has the right kind of character."

Having lost its biggest stars, the team will no longer be concentrating on the Tour de France, Stapleton says. "Our goal now is to be competitive throughout the entire season with riders that bring the right character and qualities - both on and off the bike - and to no longer depend on just one or two stars to deliver. And, of course, even if it's the Tour that guarantees maximum media coverage, T-Mobile will also be in action in plenty of other countries, where races attract good media coverage. It is our strategy to attract broader coverage of the team, rather than pump the bulk of our budget into the Tour."

He briefly addressed the fate of his predecessor, Olaf Ludwig, and why he was being removed. "From day one things didn't run as smoothly between him and the sponsor as both sides would have wished, and they had different views on some serious issues. It just didn't fit. Why, I couldn't say."

Does he see himself as a crisis manager, he was asked? "You could say that about anybody involved in this sport right now. The crisis in cycling is not going to go away until certain fundamental changes are made. There are many who prefer to take a business-as-usual approach. My approach is: let's turn the sport on its head and start afresh. That's exactly what we are doing at T-Mobile. I hope that other teams and decision-makers are on the same page. By the way, what's happening in Germany right now is very encouraging: the national cycling federation is making real efforts to improve anti-doping measures."

Stapleton hopes to lead the way in the anti-doping fight, with the introduction of a three-tiered program. "First: monitoring the athletes. They must commit to following our program of medical supervision. Second: We will put in practice state-of-the-art testing procedures. Just consider the blood volume testing that we want to introduce. Third: a code of conduct for riders. Our rules are even stricter than what the ProTour proposes. With the strict contracts we are offering, I think that we can be certain that our riders are conducting themselves correctly. We are convinced that we have signed up some really good people, who won't be prone to doping. With the right environment and with proper support through clever and innovative training they can develop with us."

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