Zabel in doubt: I will not take a final decision "before August."

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11.01.2008/ Erik Zabel and Alessandro Petacchi had a difficult year. Petacchi was tested positive for Salbutamol, but the Italian sprinter was cleared because he had a medical exemption. Erik Zabel confessed to have taken epo in 1996, his confession was part of a wave of confessions by former Telekom riders. It was expected that Zabel would retire after the 2008 season, but at yesterdays team presentation it seemed that Zabel is in doubt. Erik Zabel and Alessandro Petacchi spoke with the media during yesterdays team Milram presentation.

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Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel are team Milram's captains (© Cyclingheroes)

The UCI and Team Milram introduced new weapons in the fight against doping, Erik Zabel said: "I think we are doing the right thing. I believe in it." Alessandro Petacch said: "A lot has been changed. There will still be individual cases but I think the new biological passport is an important new step."

Asked how it feels to have a bad image as a doping offender, Zabel said: "Surely I had a difficult time after the story that became public at 2007. It was difficult to face the spectators, the fans and the critics but the actual problem was 10 years before, the case was from 1996. Since then a lot has happened but I have to face the things that happened. I understand that journalists and joe average don't have a lot of faith anymore but for me as an athlete I have to face it and deal with the new measures. Just filling out where you are [Zabel is talking about the so-called 'where abouts'] every day and hour for 3 months. Everybody should try that... They are all talking about so-called loopholes, well I didn't see them."

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Alessandro would like to win the Tour of Lower Saxony again... (© Cyclingheroes)

Zabel had a hard time after his confession: "Its not easy for me, its not like I leave this room and just forget about it. It isn't very pleasant."

Asked about his chances in the upcoming season and especially at the Bremen Six Days which started yesterday evening, Zabel said: I am looking forward to the Six Days. I won the race last year and I am highly motivated. In 2006 and 2007 I experienced that Bremen is not the quiete northern charme... I was really impressed and I am pleased to start here. The hall really rocks. Of course I hope to repeat last years victory... I have a great partner with Leif Lampater who won Rotterdam last week. But it won't be easy, we have to race against Risi/Marvulli and Keisse/Bartko."

Alessandro Petacchi would like to win the Tour of Lower Saxony for the third time in a row. Petacchi said: "I think the Tour of Lower Saxony, which I have won the last two years and where I have won several stages, is an important stage race. Its shortly before the Giro d'Italia and of course I hope to perform well again this year. I want to have good results and I want to win [the Tour of Lower Saxony]. I hope that the route is the same again as last year, I don't know that yet but I am confident that I can win it again."

Zabel will take a break after he raced several Six Day this winter:"My road season will start a little later. After the Six days in Rotterdam and Bremen I will prepare four weeks for the new road season. I will start my road season mid-February at the Tour of Algarve."

Zabel flirted with a move to T-Mobile last year. Asked what the main reason was to stay with Milram and if he is happy with his decision, Zabel said: "I have a contract and a good relationship with Nordmilch [sponsor], the team... Velocity and before with Ciclosport. Working together with Alessandro but of course also with the other riders. I think it was the right decision. I am very happy to be part of Team Milram."

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Erik Zabel: "It wasn't easy." (© Cyclingheroes)

Although 2007 was a very difficult year, Zabel is still motivated: "I think it is like with everybody else. There are good days and there are bad days. Like today, its January, the sun is shinning and you want to get on your bike and ride. At other days you might need some extra motivation to go out. But I think that's normal."

Zabel is planning to train at Mallorca after the Bremen Six days but "when the weather stays this way I will have to change my 'where abouts' and will train in Unna [Erik Zabel lives in Unna, Germany].

Zabel's first race in Germany will be the Cologne Classic. The German sprinter expects to ride the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana as well.

It was expected that Zabel would retire after the 2008 season and indeed he said: "I assume I will retire. Its for sure. I think this will be my last season. Except if I have so much fun this year or the team or Alessandro needs me.. Then I would have to think about it. Later Zabel said he would not take a final decision "before August."

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Team Milram 2008 roster
Igor Astarloa (Esp), Luca Barla (Ita), Volodymyr Diudia (Ukr), Markus Eichler (Ger), Artur Gajek (Ger), Sergio Ghisalberti (Ita), Ralf Grabsch (Ger), Andrey Grivko (Ukr), Dennis Haueisen (Ger), Matej Jurco (Slov), Christian Knees (Ger), Christian Kux (Ger), Brett Lancaster (Aus), Martin Müller (Ger), Alberto Ongarato (Ita), Alessandro Petacchi (Ita), Enrico Poitschke (Ger), Elia Rigotto (Ita), Dominik Roels (Ger), Fabio Sabatini (Ita), Björn Schröder (Ger), Sebastian Schwager (Ger), Niki Terpstra (Ned), Martin Veltis (Slk), Peter Veltis (Slk), Marco Velo (Ita), Erik Zabel (Ger)

Manager: Gerry Van Gerwen (Ned)

Sports Directors: Vittorio Algeri (Ita), Antonio Bevilacqua (Ita), Oscar Pellicioli (Ita), Jochen Hahn (Ger), Raoul Liebregts (Ned)

Link: New Cyclingheroes Website

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