Team Milram does not have a sponsor for the 2011 season, but team manager Gerry van Gerwen has said he is not giving up hope. The Dutchman apparently still has two inquiries from potential sponsors, but admits that nothing will be settled until September.
Milram had been sponsored by Nordmilch AG since 2006, but the dairy product company announced in October 2009 that it would stop its sponsorship at the end of this season.
Van Gerwen, 57, said at a press conference, Wednesday, that he would apply to the International Cycling Union for the team's licence by the August 15 deadline. He must submit his team roster by October 1. If he does not have a sponsor by that time, he said, he will continue to look for a sponsor for the 2012 season.
It is questionable as to what roster he might present. His riders have been told that they are free to look for new teams. So far, Linus Gerdemann has been linked to the new Luxembourg team and Gerald Ciolek is said to be in talks with HTC-Columbia.
Only last week van Gerwen said that three potential new sponsors had expressed interest in the team, with one said to be a European bike manufacturer. The Süddeutsche Zeitung today reported that the company was the Belgian company Ridley, but that it has decided to go with another team.
In a statement issued Wednesday morning, Nordmilch noted that its sponsorship “was tied to clear marketing goals from the beginning and defined to attract attention to Milram. These goals have been reached.” The company thanked the management and riders for the “successful cooperation.”
Milram was founded in 2006 with an Italian licence, with its top stars being sprinters Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel. The team's suffered a series of doping-relate crises in 2007. The most long-reaching one was when team manager and ProTour licence holder Gianluigi Stanga was accused by Jörg Jaksche of organised doping practices in the past. Up until then, van Gerwen had been the team's business manager, but he took over the ProTour license and became the general manager.
In that same year, Zabel confessed to having used EPO in 1996. The team was apparently more upset at his making his confession at a press conference sponsored by his former team and Milram's German rival, T-Mobile, than at the the contents of the confession itself.
The same month, Petacchi tested positive at the Giro d'Italia for the asthma drug salbutamol. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ultimately suspended him for one year, noting that the dosage was probably unintentional. The team fired him in May 2008, when the suspension was announced.
Igor Astarloa was released by the team in 2008, after he had shown “irregular blood values”. The former World champion had first signed with the team in 2007.
Team Milram has had 10 victories so far this season, with two coming form captain Linus Gerdemann. It has not lived up to its own expectations in this year's Tour de France. Sprinter Gerald Ciolek finished second in the fifth stage, and surprisingly stayed with the favourites' group in Tuesday's difficult Pyrenean stage. The team's other captain, Gerdemann, is currently 84th overall, over two hours down. The team is last in the team rankings.
Milram's departure would leave Germany without a top-league pro cycling team for the first time since the early 1990s. As late as 2007 there were three German ProTour teams, Milram, T-Mobile and Gerolsteiner. T-Mobile ended its sponsorship in 2007, and the team moved to the USA. Gerolsteiner ended in 2008.
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