Despite still riding professionally as part of the Munich Six-Day, German veteran Erik Zabel has explained that although he feels some "nostalgia" about his imminent retirement, his farewell will be "a relief". The 38-year-old, considered one of the best sprinters of the past decade, has already announced his withdrawal from the traditional Christmas race in Dortmund, held on 26 December.
"Even though I feel this nostalgia, it's certainly also a relief," said Zabel. "When you are not active, you run fewer risks – like flat racing in wet snow and [the risk of] falling... it's just nice to think about these things," added the man who has ridden in the pro peloton for 16 years. Currently leading in Munich with Leif Lampater, Zabel told the German press that the racing is not "more intense, only because it is the last time."
"This is just the end of another stage, and nothing else," said the German. Zabel can count 150 victories in international competition, including several stages of the Vuelta a España, Giro d'Italia and Tour de France; he holds the record for green jerseys, having secured six. However, he noted that Milan-Sanremo was the "the most beautiful and saddest" event of his international career.
Zabel also referred to his relationship with the press in his 16 years as a professional, saying that he'll manage well without "media noise", and that despite repeated cases of doping among the bunch [last year he confessed to having used EPO for a short time in 1996 - ed.] he was optimistic and he continues "to believe in cycling."