Zabel sights cycling finish line

Milram sprinter likely to call time after 2008

Germany's former king of the sprints, Erik Zabel, said Thursday the 2008 season could be his last on the bike.

Zabel, a record six-time consecutive winner of the Tour de France's green jersey, revealed his future intentions on the day his Milram team unveiled their significantly rejigged squad for the upcoming season.

The 37-year-old German recently hit the headlines when he admitted to having "briefly" used the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) earlier in his career while he raced with Telekom. And with his current contract expiring in December, Zabel admitted he is already thinking of his future away from the peloton.

"I think it will be my last season as a cyclist," said Zabel. "But if at the end of the year I realise I'm still enjoying cycling as much, or if (team leader) Alessandro Petacchi asks me to stay to help him for an extra season, then I might reconsider."

Despite the leadership provided by Italian sprinter Petacchi, and Zabel, for their third season in the pro ranks Milram have made significant changes as they bid to align with the teams hoping to finally wipe out doping.

Team manager Gianluigi Stanga has left the team, and Milram have invested in a group of mainly German cyclists as they aim for success in the one-day classics and the major Tours such as the Tour de France.

"We want to re-establish ourselves as a German team in 2008," said team chief Gerry van Gerwen.

In line with many other top cycling teams, Gerwen aims to establish a strict anti-doping programme run internally by the team.

Zabel has won 12 stages on the Tour de France to go with the six points classification prizes he won on the race. But the German is set to be stripped of his 1996 green jersey - the first of his six in a row - following his admission that he used EPO in 1996.

© AFP 2007

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