PIC BY TIM DE WAELE
The man dubbed "the new Jan Ullrich" by Bjarne Riis earlier this year, Linus Gerdemann, has controversially split with Riis and his CSC team to sign for T-Mobile.
Riis revealed on Friday that he had released Gerdemann from a contract due to expire at the end of the 2006 season when he learned that the 23-year-old had already agreed to join T-Mobile in 2007.
"Of course, Gerdemann should have fulfilled his contract for the coming year with me," Riis commented. "But I'm not going to work with a rider and invest a lot of time and effort so that he can switch to a rival team...Linus went for the money."
Riis had said earlier that he was unwilling to match T-Mobile's offer for Gerdemann, claiming that "Linus hadn't shown enough yet [for what he was demanding]." This was in spite of Riis's oft-stated admiration for Gerdemann and the youngster's stunning performances this spring, which included a stint in the leader's jersey at the Four Days of Dunkirk and a stage victory at the Tour of Switzerland.
T-Mobile's move for Gerdemann comes as no surprise. At the world championships in Madrid a month ago, T-Mobile chief Olaf Ludwig revealed that his team had approached Gerdemann before he joined CSC in May this year. Ludwig told procycling that T-Mobile had offered the then German Under 23 champion the chance to begin his pro career with T-Mobile in 2006, but that Gerdemann was already impatient to leave the amateur ranks. He therefore couldn't resist Riis's invitation to join CSC with immediate effect.
Within three months, Ludwig was ruing his team's loss and in August began talks in the hope of securing Gerdemann's services at the end of his two-year contract with CSC. While in soccer, such an approach would be illegal, the consensus yesterday was that, in cycling terms, T-Mobile had merely infringed an unwritten code of conduct. Riis criticised Ludwig for not "speaking to me first" and said that T-Mobile had behaved "incorrectly".
A T-Mobile spokesperson rejected this, claiming that Gerdemann's signing had been "a clean operation". "We did nothing wrong. We only had an oral agreement with Linus for 2007 and not a written contract," said Christian Frommert, T-Mobile's Director of Communications.
On a brighter note for CSC, one rider who will again be starring for the team in 2006 is Luxembourg national champion Frnk Schleck. The 25-year-old, one of the revelations of the 2005 season, has committed to ride for CSC for a further three seasons, the team announced yesterday. "We have never doubted his potential and the results he's brought home this year only go to show that he has class," said Riis in reaction to the news. Schleck was a key contributor to CSC's victory in the ProTour team classification and finished 13th on the individual ProTour rankings.
PIC BY TIM DE WAELE