Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) may have surprised many with his win in Milan-San Remo, but four-time winner Erik Zabel was not among them. The former sprinter had picked Ciolek as a dark horse , and said the younger sprinter “perfectly put into effect everything he had planned.”
“He was already very strong in Belgium at Het Nieuwsblad and the Three Days of West Flanders, but perhaps only insiders noticed that,” Zabel told Radsport-news.com. Ciolek finished 11th in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and won the second stage of the latter race.
In San Remo, however, “Gerald delivered his masterpiece,” Zabel told radsport-news.com. “He is very, very strong and rode by far the cleverest of all the favourites. And on the Poggio he made a top impression. Those are the ingredients you need to win a race.”
Zabel said that he noticed in the Belgian races that Ciolek “once again had the light touch like he had several years ago. Plus, he held on to Sagan, who tried to fill the role of favourite. And then he beat him in the closing sprint and so perfectly put into effect everything he had planned.”
Now a directeur sportif with Katusha, Zabel looked back at the weather during his rides in the race. “In 2007 there was similar heavy rain, but it was much warmer. But like today, with only 2°C at the start, then rain, snowfall, stopping the race and then the later new start – that has never happened before,” said the 42-year-old, who admitted he was happy to have been in a team car rather than on a bike.