By Daniel Benson in Mallorca
Erik Zabel has become the latest Team Columbia recruit – joining the team as an advisor to their budding sprinters from the beginning of 2009.
The recently retired pro will work alongside the young sprinters such as Mark Cavendish, André Greipel and Mark Renshaw, bringing to the team his 18 years of racing experience. However, he will not become part of the team management and has no full-time contract.
Zabel rode for the team when it was known as Team Telekom and T-Mobile Team from 1993 to 2005, before finishing his career out at Team Milram from 2006 to 2008.
Known for his dedication and ability to win throughout the year, the signing of Zabel is a signal of Columbia's intent to dominate the sprints once again next year. This season, the American outfit won a grand total of 84 races, many of them coming from bunch sprints.
Bob Stapleton was quick to praise his newest ally. "I've always had a lot of respect for Erik and I've known him for a few years now, but it was interesting to see how he was accepted by the athletes and they're already asking him questions," he said.
"It's hard when riders come out of retirement early. I mean, are there going to be rivalries? With Erik being a sprinter, you know what sprinters are like, and our team having so many good ones, but I was really excited to see how the riders were open to it. It has been really encouraging."
The 38-year-old won an unprecedented six Green jerseys at the Tour de France, as well as four titles in Milano-Sanremo. In total, the German won over 200 races spanning an 18-year career. He links up with former T-Mobile teammates Rolf Aldag and Brian Holm at Columbia.
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