Zabel says Armstrong’s return will boost cycling

German cyclist Erik Zabel said Tuesday the return of seven-times winner Lance Armstrong to the 2009 Tour de France could provide the tarnished sport with a much-needed boost.

Zabel, 38, who captured the Tour de France’s green jersey for the points winner six times between 1996-2001, will retire after Berlin’s Six-Days cycling in the German capital at the end of January.

But the sprint king says Lance Armstrong’s planned return to the Tour de France next summer will help boost the sport’s image after a string of failed drugs tests in recent years.

“Lance will provide cycling with a new boom in racing,” said Zabel at a press conference in Berlin. “As the Tour progresses, the media focus around Armstrong will grow more intense.”

But Zabel insists he is not tempted to return for next year’s Tour de France and another clash with his old rival Armstrong.

“Berlin is definitely my last race as a professional,” said the Team Milram cyclist.

Armstrong has joined Kazakh team Astana and is planning to race in the Tour next year having last competed in 2005.