The new Zabel-Petacchi vehicle is launched in Madrid, the worlds course gets a surprise tweak, and J
– Strapping men in lederhosen and copious piles of dairy products made for a curious backdrop to the presentation of the new Italo-German Milram team on Friday afternoon. Star signing and team figurehead Erik Zabel – minus lederhosen – spoke of how the birth of the new team gave him “enormous motivation” ahead of the 2006 season. Team marketing director Jrg Strenger confirmed that Zabel would target the Tour de France next year with Milram co-leader Alessandro Petacchi focusing on the Giro. Strenger also claimed that Petacchi had expressed a desire to sacrifice his own chances at Milan-San Remo to support Zabel in La Classicissima. Current Domina Vacanze boss Gianluigi Stanga will take charge of Milram in their debut season, thus allowing the team to take over Domina Vacanze’s ProTour licence. The composition of the team will reflect its split personality, with eleven Italians and nine Germans already under contract. Michael Schiffner and Andreas Petermann, both currently working for the Continental Division Wiesenhof team, come in as directeur sportifs. The team’s budget is estimated to be around six million euros per year. – Apparently stung into action by criticism from leading sprinters Robbie McEwen and Tom Boonen, the world championship technical committee has made a last-minute change to the circuit which will play host to the race for the rainbow jersey on Sunday. A potentially crucial and dangerous U-turn 600 metres from the finish-line has been scrapped in favour of a wider, less acute turn into the Paseo De La Castellana, where Sunday’s race will finish. The change also applies to tomorrow’s women’s elite and Under 23 races. Speaking to the media at the Hotel Mira Sierra this afternoon, Italian team coach Franco Ballerini seemed confident that the change would improve Alessandro Petacchi’s rainbow-jersey prospects. “It’ll be a lot easier to control the sprint, if that’s how the race ends,” Ballerini commented. Petacchi was more cautious, saying “it’s not the corner which concerns me as it is or was, but the whole course. If after 271km I’m near the front and have a few team-mates left, it’ll be the others who need to worry.” Ballerini also confirmed today that Alessandro Ballan and Davide Bramati had not made the “azzurri’s” starting nine for Sunday. An Italian team obviously geared up for some long, hard stints on the front of the peloton will line up as follows on Sunday: Daniele Bennati, Lorenzo Bernucci, Paolo Bettini, Giovanni Lombardi, Luca Paolini, Alessandro Petacchi, Filippo Pozzato, Matteo Tosatto e Marco Velo. – IOC president Jacques Rogge on Thursday gave Lance Armstrong a resounding vote of confidence in the controversy pitting the seven-time Tour champion against French newspaper L’Equipe. Reacting to L’Equipe’s claims that Armstrong used EPO in the 1999 Tour de France, Rogge told Belgium’s De Morgen that Armstrong should be considered innocent until proven guilty. “The Armstrong case is of no use to the war on doping because of the way it has been dealt with,” Rogge said. “It shouldn’t be up to an athlete to prove his innocence; the sporting authorities should investigate and decide whether someone is guilty or not.” Rogge added that the Chatenay-Malabry tests which L’Equipe cited as evidence to support their claims constituted scientific research, and not legitimate dope tests.