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Back 2019-06-07

Rick Zabel on Sprinting, Burgers, and his Fav Wheels as a Kid

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As a teenager, Rick Zabel had a pair of Zipp 404s he saved for special races. These days he’s riding Zipp every day as a pro racer on Team KATUSHA ALPECIN. Zabel, born in 1993, is a key rider for KATUSHA with roles including lead-out specialist and sprinter. We caught up with him recently as he was taking part in a charity ride. Below is an edited transcript:

READ ZIPP INTERVIEW WITH ERIK ZABEL TALKING ABOUT HIS SON

Photos © Wil Matthews

You’re taking part in a charity ride called VELO-X (Instagram @velox_tour). Can you tell us about what cause this ride helps?

I am not just taking part in this charity, I am actually the organizer along with my fitness coach Arne Greskowiak. We bring German celebrities on a bike. We do

this for two reasons: We want to show that everyone can ride a bike, and if we do it with a nice group of people who are well known by others, it gives a good sign to people that they also should go instead of car with a bike to work, or go out with the family on Sunday because bike riding is nice. Also, we were riding for the Toni Kroos Stiftung (Instagram toni.kr8s_stiftung). That’s Toni Kroos, a football player for Real Madrid. We are riding for his Stiftung its called in Germany, which helps sick children and their parents and hospitals for children here in Germany.

(To Donate: https://www.tonikroos-stiftung.de/nc/aktionsspenden.html?cfd=n7e3k)

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How difficult is it to make the transition from lead-out specialist to a sprint leader?

It is actually not that big of a difference for me because the pressure is just always there. As the lead out you don't ever want to make a mistake and want to bring your sprinter to the line as good as possible because you want to win as a teammate. Now I get the chance to sprint a few times myself, which is really nice because I can now get a chance to be in the spotlight and the guy with the responsibility. I think that is why we all do the sport. Somedays we have to take all the pressure and responsibility. Of course, you are nervous but it's nice in cycling you can have that day and you just want to do good.

How important was your victory in the Tour de Yorkshire for your and the team's morale?

I think very important. It was only our second win this season, and tour of Yorkshire is a well-known race. It was a really big success for me and also for the team. You could feel that the team was happy, other riders were happy and saying congrats, so it was a really nice day for me.

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What is it like to have your father, Erik Zabel, on the team staff?

It’s pretty awesome because he has a lot of experience and helps out a lot. He is a really good performance manager, getting us nice bikes, always in contact with our sponsors like SRAM and Zipp to get us good material. He has a lot of experience in sprints and racing, so he's a big help to the team in that aspect as well.

Do you remember the first time you beat your dad in a sprint?

He stopped racing in 2008 and he still kept training pretty well. We trained a lot together but were never really in a competition. Maybe there was a point when I got better than him, but this was necessary because I wanted to be a professional rider and he had already stopped.

Did you ever ride Zipp wheels growing up?

Yes, I had one pair of Zipp 404. I rode with them from, I think I was 15 years old when I got them, all the way until I was 18 or 19. They were my race wheels, just for special races like the German championships and other important races. I loved them. I still have them, actually, in my garage. Zipp was also super special. I liked the logo and when they are turning I like the black and white (swirling effect). When I was young I saw the CSC team (which rode Zipp) and it was always special for me to see those wheels.

When you’re in a race and hungry, what is your favorite food item to find in your musette?

I’m not a really big fan of race food, actually, but I am always happy when I have a Coca-Cola in there. There is a little bit of caffeine in there and sugar. I just like a cold Coke; it’s just a good feeling to drink one in the race.

What is your favorite pro race?

I really like the Tour of California as a stage race. But I’m a big fan of one-day races, and I really love to race in Germany…. My home race, Rund um Koln, is a favorite race. Another is Hamburg Cyclassics. I love Paris-Roubaix.

What was your best day on the Bike?

My best day on a bike was 2017 when I finished my first Tour de France, Stage 21 in Paris riding on the Champs-Élysées finishing your first Tour de France…. There is no better day than riding the last kilometers of a Tour de France. That’s the best kilometers of your life.

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You recently raced the Amgen Tour of California. What is your favorite thing about racing in the United States? Is there any food or restaurant in California you particularly enjoy?

In-N-Out Burger in California. We also went there Saturday after the race and had some Double-Double burgers and fries and a milkshake.

The best parts about racing there are the big roads and the podium ceremony at the start and the finish, like the commentators when they go crazy at the start, “3-2-1!.” The fans are great there. When we did Stage 4, all day on the Pacific Coast Highway, the scenery was maybe the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen on a race. It was beautiful.

Follow @rickzabel and @katushacycling on Instagram.