Rick Zabel hopes to accomplish something at the start of his career that his father Erik didn't accomplish in his 16 years as a professional – a world championship title. The younger Zabel will make his Worlds debut on Saturday in the junior road race at the UCI World Championships.
The elder Zabel never won a Worlds title but won silver in 2004 and 2006, and bronze in 2002.
There was never much doubt as to what Zabel would choose as a career. “The basis was always there through my family. It was so much fun. The fascination still hasn't let go of me,” he told the dapd news agency.
Zabel bears a strong resemblance to his father, and not just facially. “At any rate I have inherited his ambition. And surely too, the eye and understanding of race situations, to take the correct rear wheel in a sprint.”
The 17-year-old has proved his abilities this year, winning both the under 23 versions of Rund um Köln and Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn-Frankfurt. It was enough to gain him a contract for the coming year with the Rabobank Continental Team.
“I'm betting everything on cycling. I would regret it if I hadn't taken this step,” he said. It also puts an end to his school days, to his parents' displeasure. Zabel attended the Sportschule in Erfurt for the last four years. “Without this experience I wouldn't be the rider that I am today.”
Father Erik is naturally quite proud of his son. “He has talent and is on the right way. He loves cycling, that is the most important thing.” He is in Copenhagen to help out where he can.
The two are frequently at races in opposite directions but when the elder Zabel is on hand “like at the Worlds, he looks at the course and gives me tips,” Rick said.
When possible, the two also train together, and there is no question as to who is the top rider in the family. “He is absolutely stronger than me, he would drop me if he rode with only one leg. He trains more than he says. When I ride with him, it can happen that I say, “Dad, I'd rather ride behind you or I might not make it home.' He can still ride hard.”