As reported in Cyclingnews' last edition of News, Erik Zabel will no longer ride in T-Mobile's team colours next season. In a press conference after the HEW Cyclassics race in Hamburg yesterday, Zabel announced his decision to leave the squad, but did not yet tell the attending journalists which team had succeeded in signing him. "I needed a new sporting perspective. I'm leaving T-Mobile, and will announce where to on the 1st of September at the latest," the 35 year-old declared.
According to Zabel, his new contract would last for another three years and gave him a guarantee of starting at the Tour de France. And although the German was determined not to disclose the name of his new team yet, rumour is getting louder that the it might be the same squad his colleague Petacchi is leaving Fassa Bortolo's director Giancarlo Ferretti for: Domina Vacanze. The Italian travel company is reported to get support in its sponsoring the cycling team by German travel company giant TUI, according to website Radsportnews.
If this holds true, Zabel would certainly not replace any of Petacchi's best lead-out men, but share the racing schedule with the Italian: Petacchi would ride the Giro d'Italia, Zabel the Tour de France. And just as 'Ale-Jet', who agreed to his contract proposal only under the condition that Marco Velo, Fabio Sacchi and Matteo Tosatto were also signed, Zabel is reported to take two of his teammates with him to his new team - probably Jan Schaffrath and Rolf Aldag.
It therefore appears that the differences which led to the split between Zabel and T-Mobile were of sporting nature. "I want to sit in the saddle for another three years," Zabel said, commenting on his decision not to take T-Mobile's offer, which apparently included a position within the team management. "However, I could imagine a return to the team after that," he added, alluding to the possibility of becoming a directeur sportif. 'Ete' has also made his first experience as TV commentator with German broadcaster ARD recently at the Tour de France. "To see cycling from another perspective was very interesting; I enjoyed it a lot. I could imagine doing that in the future, too, after I finish my career as a professional," he concluded. But that moment seems now at least three years away - Zabel will then be 38 years of age, almost as 'old' as Mario Cipollini was when he decided to quit.