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In what was one of their last outings in the colours of T-Mobile, the team they have both served so loyally for more than a decade, Rolf Aldag and Erik Zabel clinched a very popular victory in the Dortmund Six-Day on Tuesday night. The veteran German pair finished ahead of the experienced Swiss pair of Bruno Risi and Kurt Betschart, tying Aldag with Patrick Sercu's record of eight victories in the Dortmund event, four of which have come in partnership with Zabel.
Long-serving Classics specialist and super-domestique Aldag is retiring from competition and taking up a new backroom role with T-Mobile, while sprinter and Classics star Zabel is moving to the new Italo-German Milram team. "Ever since I announced my retirement, I've been preparing for that final curtain," Aldag told T-Mobile's website. "Of course, I want to say goodbye with a win. However, my approach is not the same as it was 12 years ago. Then I thought: it's better to die than to brake. Come that final moment, my eyes are likely to become watery. After all, it means the end of an interesting part of my life."
Aldag admitted that even after all of his years in Germany's top team, he can still pass unnoticed even when racing in his own back yard. "I can still walk through a pedestrian zone without constantly being asked for an autograph. It's a different story with Erik. And I clearly wouldn't want to swap places with Jan Ullrich. If he goes out to a restaurant and spills something on his shirt, next day's newpaper headlines will read: 'Ullrich too stupid to eat ice cream'."
Aldag added that he may consider riding the Munich Six next week, "but that depends on my form, my future job in a new role at T-Mobile - and my wife. We are expecting a baby in January."
Zabel, though, will certainly be riding in Munich. "After that I am going on a two-week holiday. And I won't touch the bike. Some time in December I will meet up with my new team in Tuscany."
The Germans were helped to victory by a crash involving Risi when the Swiss pair were leading the event. The crash also forced the retirement of the British pairing of Rob Hayles and young sprinter Mark Cavendish, who went down with the Swiss and was taken to hospital. Cavendish was reported to have a fractured skull.
1. Rolf Aldag/Erik Zabel (Ger) 287
2. Bruno Risi/Kurt Betschart (Swi) 129
at one lap:
3. Robert Bartko/Andreas Beikirch (Ger) 300
4. Danny Stam/Robert Slippens (Hol) 243
5. Scott McGrory/Juan Llaneras (Aus/Spa) 228
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM