At 34, Erik Zabel may feel he can no longer get ahead of Alessandro Petacchi and Oscar Freire in bunch sprint finishes (see yesterday's news), but he will still be taking them on anyway when he lines up on Saturday for the 88th Giro d'Italia. Zabel's T-Mobile team announced yesterday evening that there has been a slight change of plan in Zabel's racing schedule.
Zabel and the team had originally planned that he would take a few weeks off from racing after Sunday's Rund um den Henninger Turm, and start again at the Bayern-Rundfahrt (Tour of Bavaria), May 25 - 29. However, "his bikes are already on the way to Italy," said T-Mobile directeur sportif Mario Kummer in a team statement.
The decision was made jointly by Kummer and Zabel when the two discussed Zabel's race programme after Henninger Turm. "I am going great guns at the moment and I believe that the Giro fits well to my programme," said Zabel, adding that he is keen to try something different after, "14 years of always the same preparations. May always used to be my race-free month, but now I want to try something new."
It's tempting to speculate that Zabel - whose enthusiasm for racing his bike is legendary - may have decided to reinvent himself as other sprinters have done toward the ends of their careers. Perhaps this Giro will be livened by the spectacle of some Laurent Jalabert-style solo breakaways in the mountains!
T-Mobile's full line-up for the Giro d'Italia is: Erik Baumann, Matthias Kessler, André Korff, Daniele Nardello, Olaf Pollack, Jan Schaffrath, Bram Schmitz, Christian Werner and Erik Zabel.