Even before the official announcement of the T-Mobile Tour de France roster on June 22, the German squad revealed that Erik Zabel will not be part of the team's line-up in July. The team management thereby ended the speculation surrounding the sprinter's participation that has been going on in Germany for months.
"Of course I'm disappointed," Erik Zabel said, as he had still hoped to be nominated. It would have been his 12th participation in the Tour de France. "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 me."
Zabel said he will now look for other goals to achieve this season. "We have not taken this decision lightly," said T-Mobile sports director Mario Kummer. "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 have already stepped on the podium in Paris (Klöden, Ullrich, Vinokourov), "we are clearly aiming for yellow."
However, Zabel and T-Mobile will remain committed to each other in the future, as the German mobile telephony company has made the 34 year-old an offer beyond his career as a professional cyclist. Details of the contract will be announced only after the signing, with talks agreed to be finalised prior to the HEW Cyclassics on July 31. "This way, Olaf Ludwig [the team manager - ed.] can fully focus on the Tour preparations, while I can use the break to plan my future," Zabel said.
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)and Alexandre Vinokourov (31, Kazakhstan). Of these, nine riders will be picked and announced on June 22.