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Rick Zabel, 22, aims for a classics win

  • By Gregor Brown
  • Published Feb. 17, 2016
  • Updated Feb. 17, 2016 at 12:46 PM EDT
Rick Zabel finished Paris-Roubaix in his first attempt last year at age 21. Photo: Gregor Brown | VeloNews.com

QURIYAT, Oman (VN) — Rick Zabel is not satisfied. He completed his first monument and grand tour, Paris-Roubaix and the Giro d’Italia, and won a stage in the Tour of Austria last year. The 22-year-old says it is not enough.

The son of sprinting great Erik Zabel sat in the shade of an advertising board with American teammate Joey Rosskopf to escape the Middle East heat at the Tour of Oman on Tuesday. Nearby, BMC Racing teammates Richie Porte and Greg Van Avermaet prepared. This marks the beginning of Zabel’s third year, an important one for the young German who has that same smile as his dad.

“I’d like to step up as a rider,” Zabel told VeloNews. “After two years with BMC, I have a good idea of what the team is like and what the team wants. We have a strong classics team, for sure I want to be a part of this. I want to be a good support for the leaders there and maybe to lead for myself in the next years.”

Zabel will work for classics leader Greg Van Avermaet, but he will gain further experience and maybe start the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) for the first time. As an under-23 rider, he won the cobbled Belgian classic into Oudenaarde.

“For me, it’s my goal that I want to show myself. For sure, the team wants to see it, but it’s the goal first for myself. I’m ambitious and I want to get results,” Zabel said. “I want to help the other guys, but to show the others that I can get results as well. That’s why we race, to win.”

Instead of spending more time in the U23 ranks as an amateur, Zabel began racing for U.S.-registered BMC Racing in 2014 when he was just 20 years old. He developed steadily to capture his first win, a stage in the 2015 Tour of Austria. And not just that, he debuted in his first monument (Paris-Roubaix) and grand tour (Giro d’Italia).

In Roubaix, Zabel quickly adapted. He stuck with his leaders in the front group until there were nearly 40 kilometers remaining. He ultimately made the time cut and finished in the velodrome — something other seasoned professionals still find hard to accomplish in the classic dubbed “Hell of the North.”

“I was nervous. It’s fine to fight for position for one cobble section, but then you have another and another. The race keeps going for 160 kilometers. The more you do, the more you suffer. It’s terrible,” Zabel explained.

“I’d say one for the classics and those tough stages that end in a sprint. My heart beats faster when we talk about the classics.”

Followers perhaps first remember Zabel with his green hair on the Tour de France’s Paris podium with his dad in the green points jersey. Zabel said he does not mind the extra attention that comes with having a famous dad.

“It’s normal given my name that people from the outside first think of Erik,” he said. “I’m my own bike rider and I have my own goals. I can handle it.”

FILED UNDER: News / Road TAGS: / /

Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown

Bikes kept Gregor Brown out of trouble growing up in Oklahoma — BMX, freestyle and then watching Greg LeMond's Tour de France wins on CBS television's weekend highlights shows. The drama of the 1998 Tour, however, truly drew him into the fold. With a growing curiosity in European races and lifestyle, he followed his heart and established camp on Lake Como's shores in 2004. Brown has been following the Giro, the Tour and every major race in Europe since 2006. He will tell you it is about the "race within the race" – punching out the news and running to finish – but he loves a proper dinner, un piatto tipico ed un vino della zona.

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