By Susan Westemeyer
German Erik Zabel believes he will leave Team Milram at the end of the season, despite having another year to go on his three-year contract. "In a team-internal meeting, it was agreed with the team and the sponsor that this would be shortened to two years," he told sport1.de. "And that makes it legitimate that another team, which is interested, has made me an offer." Zabel expects to have everything cleared up in the next two to three weeks.
After Zabel's doping confession in May, it was rumoured that Milram wanted offload him and also that T-Mobile was interested in re-signing the rider. When T-Mobile last week announced its line-up for the coming season, it noted that it still had three places to fill. "[If Zabel] could clear up his contract situation, then we would be glad to have him," T-Mobile team manager Bob Stapleton said. "He would fit in our team."
The sprinter indicated that he did not think reaching an agreement to terminate his contract with Milram would be too difficult. "We are all adults and don't need a lawyer to clear up our future," he said.
The 37 year-old is definitely planning a future in cycling. "I am optimistic that I will still be active next year," Zabel outlined. "Wherever that will be."
Looking back at the World Championships, Zabel criticised everyone from the race organisers to winner Paolo Bettini. "It turned into a situation which was sad and caused damage, not only to cycling and the federations, but also for the city of Stuttgart," he said. "I don't understand why all the problems only cropped up in the last three or four days before the Worlds. Everything could have been worked out in the last few months."
"Of course it would have been good if Paolo had signed the declaration," Zabel noted. "[But Bettini] had some arguments which deserve to be heard."
Zabel will ride Paris-Tours and the Six Day Races in Munich and Dortmund to end his season.