German dairy company Milram said it is unlikely to renew its sponsorship of its top cycling team after their mutual contract expires at the end of this year.
The image of cycling in Germany has suffered badly from doping controversies, souring the media’s, and public’s, appetite for the sport in recent years.
While also shaking up the employment market worldwide, the recent global economic crisis has prompted many sponsors to think twice about investing their money.
Milram spokeswoman Godja Soennichsen explained: “As things currently stand, a renewal of the contract is not something we’re considering.”
It means that it Milram walks away from the sport, there will be no German teams in cycling’s professional elite.
Team chief Gerry van Gerwen, however, said he will fight to find a German sponsor.
“Germany is such a big country, and it’s bang in the middle of Europe,” said the Dutchman, who has fixed the second rest day of this year’s Tour de France as the cutoff point to find a new sponsor.
T-Mobile, where 1997 Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich was team leader, was Germany’s, and one of the world’s, biggest cycling teams before it fell apart in 2007 in the wake of a series of doping allegations.
Gerolsteiner suffered a similar fate, before folding at the end of 2008.
Stefan Schumacher, a double stage winner at the 2008 Tour de France, as well as former teammate Bernhard Kohl, of Austria, tested positive for doping at that year’s race.
Milram was created in 2006, with Italian sprint king Alessandro Petacchi as its leader, to be supported by German legend Erik Zabel.
However even the squeaky-clean Petacchi, a record stage winner at the Grand Tours and a former Milan-SanRemo champion, was snared for doping.
The team issued an optimistic press release Thursday, as it presented its 2010 squad at a football stadium in Dortmund.
The 2010 teams includes 24 pro cyclists, including 16 German riders. It will be led by the two German captains Linus Gerdemann and Gerald Ciolek.
Van Gerwen predicted the team will win about 25 races this season, while starting about 250 events.
New signings include German track specialist Roger Kluge, who is changing over to road racing. Other new riders are German U-23 champion Dominik Nerz, Classics specialists Roy Sentjens and Wim de Vocht, and veteran Australian Luke Roberts.
Milram for 2010:
Gerald Ciolek (Germany), Wim De Vocht (Belgium), Markus Eichler (Germany), Robert Förster (Germany), Markus Fothen (Germany), Thomas Fothen (Germany), Johannes Fröhlinger (Germany), Artur Gajek Germany), Linus Gerdemann (Germany), Roger Kluge (Germany), Servais Knaven (Germany), Christian Knees (Germany), Dominik Nerz (Germany), Luke Roberts (Australia), Dominik Roels (Germany), Thomas Rohregger (Austria), Matthias Ruß (Germany), Björn Schröder (Germany), Roy Sentjens (Belgium), Wim Stroetinga (Netherlands), Niki Terpstra (Netherlands), Paul Voß (Germany), Fabian Wegmann (Germany), Peter Wrolich (Austria)