The Week That Was...
Former Cofidis rider and wearer of the maillot jaune, David Millar, is set to return to professional cycling next year with the Spanish Saunier Duval - Prodir team. Although his return was expected, few thought that Millar would find a place in a ProTour team following his ugly fall from grace last year.
Speaking to procycling.com, Director Sportif Mario Gianetti said, "As far as we're concerned, the deal is in place. It should be a matter of days before something is signed. We've been interested in Millar since before the Tour de France. Now we are very confident.? Although Millar has received several offers (from teams such as Quick Step, Liberty Seguros, and Illes Balears) for his services, the Spanish team appears odds-on favorites to secure his signature.
Gianetti went on to add that, ?I don?t see any reason why he shouldn?t start the Tour next year. He is apparently already in reasonable condition and with his professionalism, he can be at the start of the Tour ready to fight for the yellow jersey in the prologue. The Tour is his race, after all.?
Millar is currently serving a two-year suspension after admitting doping offences when the French police searched his apartment in
"I've been training very hard and I hope to make a successful return to racing in 2006," said Millar.
Meanwhile, Millar?s former Cofidis teammate, Stuart O?Grady, has announced his departure from the French team. Both O?Grady and fellow Aussie, Matt White, are headed for Giancarlo Ferretti?s Fassa Bortolo team and its new sponsor.
Although he had offers from other teams, including Phonak and T-Mobile, the last-minute negotiations have proven to be the draw card for ?Stuey?.
After spending his entire professional career with French teams (having previously ridden with Credit Agricole before Cofidis), O?Grady cited the laid back and occasionally less than professional attitude of the French teams as the major motivation behind his move. During this year?s Tour de France, his Cofidis team announced that several of their current squad would not have their contracts renewed for 2006, an event ultimately provoking O?Grady to put himself on the market to help him achieve the victories of which he still dreams.
In addition, joining O?Grady and White on the team are a further eight new recruits including former winner of the Giro d?Italia, Gilberto Simoni.
One rider missing from the 2006 Fassa Bortolo line-up is Italian fast-man Alessandro Petacchi who has joined the newly formed Team MILRAM. Joining Petacchi is German veteran sprinter, Erik Zabel. The new ProTour outfit will be made up of members of the Italian Domina Vacanze team and the German Wiesenhof team.
"We are delighted to have found a fitting sponsor in MILRAM for our new cycling team. With this strong and committed partner, we are in a position to offer our cyclists the ideal environment for them to put the wind up the established teams on the ProTour," says Director Sportif, Gianluigi Stanga.
"We are currently in talks with other cyclists who will join the cyclist ranked second in the world and six-time winner of the green jersey, Erik Zabel, and the ace sprinter Alessandro Petacchi to complete the team. We plan to unveil the completed team on
After 13 years with the German outfit, many are still surprised by the departure of Zabel from T-Mobile. Other major movements within the team include former pro, Olaf Ludwig, taking over at the helm, supported in turn by Jan Ullrich?s personal coach, Rudy Pevanage. With new riders, such as Aussie Michael Rogers, to support Ullrich next year, hopes are high.
With the team?s 2006 Tour ?squad? already announced by Pevanage, Ludwig went on to explain the new professional focus within T-Mobile. "The team will train together, race together and jointly test new equipment. On top of that, we will have to put ourselves and our workflows constantly to the test." Only in this way, "can we foster the right team spirit and avoid allowing errors to creep in."
Although we still have some wonderful races yet to go before the end of this season, 2006 is already shaping up to be an interesting proposition with the annual move around throwing up a few surprises already. New teams, new faces, no LA to dominate the Tour leaving us with the most open race yet for seven years and the guarantee that, thanks to the Curse of the Rainbow jersey (and possibly an upcoming surgery), Tom Boonen will not dominate any of the Northern Classics. Bring on the new year!
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Until this time next week,