Evergreen Erik Zabel, just as everybody thought that he would never again be able to win a bunch sprint on the highest level, showed at the Vuelta that he was still one of the most gifted sprinters in the bunch. By winning two stages, the Milram rider proved that his nick name 'Mr. Consistency' was well-chosen as he reached his peak after a very long 2006 season.
"I've always raced a lot," said Zabel, who started out last winter with 6-Day track events and the Tour of Qatar in January. "I feel better now than at the beginning of the season." Last year, Zabel was able to score at the autumn classic Paris-Tours when he was still riding for T-Mobile - this fall, the German hopes to perform similarly well, especially at the World Championships next Sunday.
"The course resembles the one we had in Lisbon, which brings back good memories," the 36 year-old continued. "It's a hard course, but open to many tactical possibilities." Zabel took third place at the World's in 2002, and became second in 2004, so the victory would at least be numerically logical... but he knows that he will have many rivals: "We will have to watch out the most for Paolo Bettini and Alejandro Valverde." Even though the Olympic champion abandoned the Vuelta early, he "worked a lot here. He and Valverde are on the same top level," Zabel added.