Erik Zabel is riding his twelfth Tour de France and his first for a team other than T-Mobile. The sprinter is not directly affected by the newest doping scandal - professionally, that is, but it does affect him on a personal level. His 12 year-old son Rik is, like his dad, a passionate cyclist. "When I go to a junior race with Rik, then I am always happy to note that this is still my sport in its roots; I see how I was back in those days. But all those kids and their trainers and their parents watch the Tour, too, of course, and follow the news. When I think about the message they are getting right now about pro cycling, I think to myself 'damn it all!'"
Speaking on the doping affair, he told the German Welt am Sonntag magazine, "The whole thing is very uncomfortable and I don't feel well with it. Let's face it: Cycling has lost a lot of credit through this latest affair, credit it had built up since the 1998 Festina affair. When stars like Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich or Francisco Mancebo are not allowed to start, then that is really bad for cycling," he added.
"Cycling is perhaps the sport that is most like real life," the winner of six Tour de France Green jerseys continued. "Every guy can take part in it and be successful: Big, small, fat, thin - you see all of them in the field and depending on the circumstances, each group can put its own characteristics to use; for example, a lighter rider in the mountains or a heavier one in the sprint. And just like in real life, we have gangsters and honourable men, clever ones and dumb ones. Maybe that's why everyone loves our sport so much."