Monday, August 01, 2005

End Of An Era (Again)

Change is the theme of the 2005 pro cycling season, apparently. Mario Cipollini retired. Lance Armstrong retired. Fassa Bortolo announced the end of its cycling sponsorship, which forced Petacchi and his lead-out men to find a new home. Alexandre Vinokourov has signed with Liberty Seguros. And now, one of the greatest sprinters and one-day racers in history, Erik Zabel, has announced he will leave T-Mobile/Telekom, the only team he's known in a career of 13 years and 191 victories (including Milan-San Remo 4 times and the Tour's green jersey 6 times).

courtesy Sirotti

Zabel is generally regarded as the most professional rider in the peloton. Everything he does, according to those who know him and have interviewed him, is with the benefit of cycling in mind. Despite being 35 years old, he still has the fire to race inside him. Though his wins come fewer and farther between these days, he still competes with the drive and determination of guys much younger than him.

Rumors now suggest that Zabel could be moving to Domina Vacanze, the same team that recently signed Alessandro Petacchi and several of his lead-out men.

With the combination of Zabel and Petacchi (not to mention Matteo Tosatto and Marco Velo), Domina Vacanze could quite easily become the new colossus of sprinting in the pro peloton. If Domina Vacanze could somehow sign Liberty sprinter Allan Davis, the team could secure the past, present and future of bunch sprinting...and make Zabel's desire to mentor Davis a reality.

At any rate, it's good to know that Zabel will still be around for a few more years. Cycling can only benefit from that arrangement.