Compared to the T-Mobile Team, where he rode for so many years, German sprinter Erik Zabel rates his new Team Milram as "maybe a little smaller, but it has more of a family feeling and through the Italian influence, it's more sympathetic."
In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, Zabel explained that the change to a squad with a lower budget also had its advantages. "I don't fly with Lufthansa any more, but with Air Berlin [a budget airline - ed.]. But that's not bad," the 35 year-old said. "It's also not bad when you don't get to go home directly after a race on Sunday, but instead on Monday morning. It's like earlier times when for example after a race that ends in San Remo, you get in the car, drive to Bergamo, spend the night in team manager Gianluigi Stanga's apartment, and the soigneur cooks an extra portion of spaghetti. That's the difference now. It is different, but charming in its own way."
He also noted that the change of sponsors from a large international telecommunications concern to a dairy-products company had a different feel: "The sponsor has tried to make it clear to the riders who it is and what it does. Sure there's a difference: If you go visit the farmer and stand in the stall and see the cows - or if you have dinner with the board of directors of T-Mobile. When I'm home in Unna [his home town - ed], then of course I know exactly which farm 'belongs' to Nordmilch and which of them is my sponsor, in that sense."
Looking at the sports side, Zabel said that he didn't feel he had anything more to prove in his career. "It's important to me to be happy with what I do." The sprinter thought that he had two professional challenges this year: To ride well with teammate and top sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, and to help the younger riders on the team. "Stanga expects that of me," Zabel noted.
And he doesn't worry about competition with Petacchi, or what the press will say about the two of them: "That's easy. One rides for the other. When the one who has sacrificed himself, so to speak, is portrayed as a loser in the newspaper the next day - then just don't buy the newspaper, don't even think about it."
Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer