Rick Zabel enjoying early season apprenticeship at BMC

Son of German great keeping career goals close to his chest

German cycling is experiencing a renaissance of sorts with cyclists such as Tony Martin, Andre Greipel, John Degenkolb, Marcel Kittel and even the BMC trio of Marcus Burghardt, Dominik Nerz and first-year pro Rick Zabel making all the right headlines with world championship and Tour de France victories.

Even the German press, which has frowned over pro cycling in past five years due to its prolific doping scandals and controversies, is starting to take notice of the new generation of German cyclists making their mark on the peloton through their actions on the bike.

For young 20-year-old Zabel, a lot has already been learned in his first two months as a pro WorldTour cyclist. That says a lot for the grandson of Detlef Zabel and son of Erik Zabel, a six-time Tour de France points classification winner.

When Zabel lines up for the start of the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in Belgium on Sunday with his BMC Racing Team, the 2012 German U23 national road race champion will already have two successful campaigns under his belt starting with teammates Cadel Evans' second-place finish at the Tour Down Under in January and Taylor Phinney's win at the Dubai Tour in February.

Zabel told Cyclingnews that both experiences have helped him immeasurably for the start of his career.

"Professional cycling is hard work," Zabel said. "I had two good captains with Cadel Evans in Australia and Taylor Phinney in Dubai, and we were second at Tour Down Under and first at Tour of Dubai.

"I enjoyed doing my work for such great captains, and we had great success so for me it was invaluable experience."

Zabel played a large role in Evans success at the Tour Down Under – including the stage three win over the infamous Corkscrew.

"It was my job to help lead Cadel into the climb, and then just let him do the rest," he said. "To be a part of the team and ride alongside Cadel and watch him handle the pressure was a good experience for me.

"He is big hero and good captain and for me it was so good to see how he handled the pressure as everybody expected him to be good and he was good. Cadel proves that hard work pays off and it was such a pleasure to ride for him."

During the week-long stage race, Zabel says Evans spent a lot of time giving him advice that would prove useful as the race progressed – and for the rest of his career.

"I learned a lot while riding with Cadel, especially on conserving energy," he said. "If you save energy during the stage you have something in the tank for the final kilometres."

While Zabel also welcomes advise from his famous father, it's the guidance from his BMC sports director and teammates that he welcomes most.

"I have really good support from my team," said Zabel. "I want to grow up fast and I want to be a good team member so for me it's really important what the team thinks of me and the feedback they give me.

"For sure my father helps me where he can and when I am home we speak a lot, but my job is to listen to my team and put in the work. In a few years maybe I am the captain and guys work for me, but for now I am new on the team and it is my time to work as good as possible."

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