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91st Giro d'Italia - Milram Team Preview
 
By Bart Hazen
Date: 5/10/2008
91st Giro d'Italia - Milram Team Preview
 

91rst Giro d'Italia - Milram Team Preview
All Hail the Mighty Milram Sprinter's Train! Erik Zabel leads the fast legs of the team in blue in search of stage wins; while 2003 world champion Igor Astarloa seeks redemption.

Team Milram starts with Erik Zabel as the team captain after Alessandro Petacchi decided not to start due to bronchitis. Petacchi was later suspended until August 31 after the Italian Olympic Committee went to the Sport Tribunal in Lausanne to appeal the decision of the Italian Cycling Federation that cleared Ale-Jet of charges as an accidental overuse of an asthma inhaler during the 2007 Giro D’Italia.

The team is built for the sprinter stages; but has some riders who will be allowed to pursue opportunities in breaks and stage victories... like 2003 World Road Champion Igor Astarloa or promising youngsters, Matej Jurco and Fabio Sabatini.


Evergreen Erik at the team presentation, will he add the missing stage victory to his incredible palmares this year. Photo © Fotoreporter Sirotti

Erik Zabel is one of the legends of cycling despite his recent confession of a brief use of epo during his Telekom period in the mid nineties. Zabel turned pro in 1992 and has impressive palmares with 12 stage wins in the Tour de France, 8 stages in the Vuelta, 5 times the Green jersey in the Tour, 13 stages in the Tour of Germany, 4 times Milano-SanRemo, 3 times Paris-Tours, Amstel Gold Race, HEW Cyclassics, 3 times Rund um den Henninger Turm, Six day races, two times German Champion and much more as he has over 200 wins in his 17 years as a professional. Zabel announced that 2008 will be his final year as a professional cyclist. He will start for the 2nd time in the Giro but has never won a stage, Erik will be looking to add a Giro win to his palmares this time around. In 2008 he's won a stage in the Volta Comunidad a Valenciana and was twice fourth in both Gent-Wevelgem and the Scheldeprijs.


Igor Astarloa with a determined look in his eye at the presentations.
Photo © Fotoreporter Sirotti

Igor Astarloa rode with Cofidis, Lampre and Barloworld after Saeco who he was with in 2003 when he became world champion in Hamilton, Canada; that year Igor also won the Fleche Wallonne. The Spainard has won stages in the Brixia Tour (04), Burgos (05) and his last major victory at Milano-Torino in 2006. Igor signed with Milram in 2007; but this year hasn't produced significant results; but promises a return to form and will be hunting a victory in some of the hillier stages which favor his talents and prove he still has fire in his legs.


The big blue train of Milram stands on the stage during the team presentation.
Photo © Fotoreporter Sirotti

Team Milram
2008 Giro d'Italia Roster

• Erik Zabel
• Igor Astarloa
• Markus Eichler
• Sergio Ghisalberti
• Matej Jurco
• Alberto Ongarato
• Enrico Poitschke
• Fabio Sabatini
• Marco Velo

Another rider who was predicted for a great future is Sergio Ghisalberti. He had his best year in 2006 but never reached that level since then. He finished 21st in the Giro in 2006, 4th in the Settimana Coppi & Bartali, 9th in Romandie and 10th in the Vuelta a Burgos. 2005 wasn’t bad either with a 3rd rank in the Giro del Trentino and 8th in Langkawi. But in 2007, and so far in 2008, he is without a victory.

Milram Sprinters Train
The remaining riders of the team are domestique's who are part of the successful Milram sprint train for Petacchi with Zabel as final lead-out man for the Italian in the sprint. The train will now ride for Zabel; but the question remains who will get the role of final lead-out? Likely that role will be for the fast veterans Alberto Ongarato and/or Marco Velo.

Alberto Ongarato is pro since 1998 and his most important wins are a stage in the Volta ao Portugal (2004), a stage in the Tour of Luxembourg (2005) and a stage in the Region Wallonne (2005). 2005 was his best season as a professional. Ongarato can do well in a bunch sprint or breakaway given the opportunity.

Marco Velo has been a professional since 1995. He has a good time-trial and useful in the climbs too. Velo is a multiple time-trial champion of Italy. In 2001 he finished 11th in the Giro. Since he joined Fassa Bortolo in 2002 he has become important in the Petacchi train leading to Ale Jets victories.

Another experienced guy in the team is German Enrico Poitschke. Enrico is 38 years young and has won stages in the Ringerike GP, the final GC in the Ringerike GP and a stage in the Peace Race in 2001. The German who turned pro in 2000 has also won the Rund um die Hainleite in 2003. He can sprint well and is also important fixture in the Milram train.

The team will be completed by the youngsters Markus Eichler, Matej Jurco and Fabio Sabatini.

Markus Eichler isn’t really a youngster at 26 year of age, but is still one of the younger guys in the team. Only Jurco and Sabatini are younger. Eichler turned pro in 2003 with Team Comnet. In 2007 he joined Unibet.com but after the team ended it sponsorship he switched to Milram. 2006 was his best season wins in GP de Lillers, Köln-Schuld-Frechen, Ronde van Drenthe and several others. Eichler is a typical rider for the one-day races and we will definitely see him in one of the many breaks during the Giro.

Matej Jurco is a Slovakian rider and is 23 years old of age. He turned pro in 2004 with De Nardi. In 2005 he rode for Domina Vacanze and signed with Milram in 2006. He is a three time time-trial champion of his country and is a rider who likes to go in breaks as well. Milram may use Jurco as a rabbit on the sprinters stages to force the other teams to chase while they save their legs for the final sprint.

Last but not least we have the youngest rider of the team, Italian Fabio Sabatini. Sabatini is also 23 years old, and a few months younger then Jurco. Sabatini turned pro in 2006 with Milram. Fabio is also one fast legs and important guys in the famous Milram train. Last year he rode both the Giro and the Vuelta.

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