Zabel, 23, leaves BMC Racing at the end of the season having spent three years with the team and joins the Russian outfit on a two-year deal. With Jacopo Guarnieri leaving Kristoff's side and moving to FDJ, the Norwegian was in need of leadout riders. Step forward Zabel, who has picked up a few results during his time at BMC, but lacked a pure sprinter to work for.
"My contract ends and I was looking for a good opportunity," Zabel told Cyclingnews.
"I was thinking about staying at BMC and also looking at the other offers that I had. I was made a really good offer by Katusha and when I found out about how they are becoming more international and want focus on more on the sprints, it sounded really good for me.
"Some other teams were interested but after the Giro d'Italia I was in contact with Katusha. There were some other offers but I'm pretty pumped to sign with them. They also signed German rider Tony Martin."
Katusha has refreshed their roster for next season with veteran leader Joaquim Rodriguez hanging up his wheels and Jurgen Van Den Broeck moving to LottoNL-Jumbo. They have re-signed leadout men Marco Haller, Michael Mørkøv and Zabel will hope to fit into Kristoff's impressive train.
"Working with Kristoff is something I would profit from and learn from. He has won so many races this year and for me it's a really good opportunity to play a role in the final and that was one of the main reasons. It also gives me a role in the Classics, as well as the sprints," the former U23 Tour of Flanders winner added.
Will Zabel take up the role Jacopo Guarnieri held as Kristoff's last man? "Maybe. They lose him but they still have some other fast guys like Haller to help. I'm looking forward to getting in the sprint train and having an important role. It's too early to say now. We have training camps and then we'll see. For me it would be super nice to be his last man but we'll see."