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Speculation about which team Erik Zabel will be representing next year is growing, and the German sprint ace isn't do much to defuse it, writes Susanne Horsdal. Zabel, who is currently working as Tour de France co-commentator for German TV-station ARD, said during the broadcast that he's received a "good offer" from T-Mobile manager Olaf Ludwig. "But after 13 years with Telekom I think I deserve a very good one," continued Zabel, who added that he's had another offer that is "a notch better".
So far, Phonak are being touted as the favourites for Zabel's signature. Zabel, who has won 12 stages and the green jersey six times, was left off the T-Mobile Tour roster this year, which he admitted still hurt. "It was a kick where it hurts the most, but you have to separate that from the contract matter," said Zabel. The 34 year old is expected to make a decision before the end of July. Meanwhile, Team CSC yesterday renewed the contracts of Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Nicki Sorensen and Giovanni Lombardi.
"At the moment we're trying to set up the team for the next couple of years, and it's really important to reward and hang on to the riders who have helped bring us to the level we're at now. Throughout the last few years we have created a foundation, consisting of riders who can win races as well as contribute in a major way to our work towards a bigger goal. This is true for the three riders, with whom we've chosen to extend," says team boss Bjarne Riis.
- Steffen Wesemann, another T-Mobile rider, isn't about to change team, but is swapping his citizenship, reports German news agency DPA. The 2004 winner of the Tour of Flanders hopes to have his new Swiss passport in time to represent the Alpine country at the World Championships in Madrid in September. "I feel Swiss and don't want a double citizenship," says Wesemann, who's been living in Switzerland for the past six years and whose wife is Swiss.
- The Basque press is reporting that 2003 Tour Down Under winner Mikel Astarloza is on the verge of agreeing to join the Euskaltel team. The only sticking point appears to be Astarloza's desire to have his Ag2r team-mate and cousin I¤igo Chaurreau join the team as well, but Euskaltel's management are reported to be reticent about signing both riders.
- T-Mobile have announced they have signed Gerolsteiner's Thomas Ziegler on a two-year contract. The 24-year-old Erfurt-born rider is the third new recruit to the team, following recent deals with Patrik Sinkewitz and the Australian Michael Rogers (both Quick Step). "Thomas is a rider with a strong sprint and great prospects. He proved that just yesterday by winning a stage in the Tour of Saxony," said team manager Olaf Ludwig.
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