The T-Mobile International AG & Co. KG plans to commit itself to its top sprinter also after his career and accordingly made an offer to the 34-year-old. The contract parties will finalise their talks prior to the HEW Cyclassics (July 31, Hamburg). Zabel is not part of the roster for the Tour de France, starting on the 2nd of July. The nine-man Tour squad will be presented on June 22 (11 a.m.) in Bonn.
"Of course, I'm dissapointed," said Erik Zabel, who had hoped to the last to be nominated. It would have been his 12th participation in the Tour. "But I'm pro enough to accept the decision of the team management." He added: "I was aware of this being an option. Each year, it had been somebody's turn. This time it's mine." Zabel said he will now look for other goals to achieve this season.
"We have not taken this decision lightly," said T-Mobile sporting director Mario Kummer. "We have a clear concept and wouldn't let the discussions irritate us, which started at the end of last year." Kummer added: "You don't leave a world-class sprinter like Erik Zabel at home for no good reason." However, according to him, a different tactic will be used this year in order to succeed.
"It is as tough a decision for us as it is for Erik. With six green jerseys and twelve Tour stage wins, he has left his mark on the Tour like hardly any other German rider," said the future team manager Olaf Ludwig. "But with three riders in the team, who already stood on the podium in Paris (Klöden, Ullrich, Vinokourov), we are clearly aiming for yellow." For the departing team manager Walter Godefroot it is also "a new situation to compete at the Tour without Erik." However, Zabel would accept the decision of the team management, "since he is a pro to the core."
The contract negotiations between Zabel, Ludwig and T-Mobile are not affected by the decision. "Olaf made an offer that I appreciate very much," says Zabel, who agreed with Ludwig to have the talks finalised prior to the HEW Cyclassics on July 31 Juli. Zabel: "This way, Olaf can fully focus on the Tour preparations, while I can use the break to plan my future."
T-Mobile offers the amiable world-class athlete a sporting as well as a professional perspective after the end of his active career. The 34-year-old will be involved in the sponsoring activities of the Bonn-based mobile communications company.
Details will be announced after the signing of the contract.
T-Mobile will name the following 13 riders to the tour organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) on Friday, June 17:
Rolf Aldag (36), Giuseppe Guerini (35, Italy), Sergey Ivanov (30, Russia), Matthias Kessler (26), Andreas Klöden (29), Paco Lara (28, Spain), Daniele Nardello (32, Italy), Bram Schmitz (28, Netherlands), Stefan Schreck (26), Oscar Sevilla (28, Spain), Tobias Steinhauser (33), Jan Ullrich (31), Alexander Vinokourov (31, Kazakhstan).