Zabel prepares L'Etape du Tour

Erik Zabel, advisor to Mark Cavendish (R).

Erik Zabel, advisor to Mark Cavendish (R). (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Former pro Erik Zabel will be one of 9,500 riders participating in the Etape du Tour on July 20. The cyclosportive, covering the Tour's 20th stage from Montélimar to the top of the Mont Ventoux, is the German's next sporting goal, alongside supporting Mark Cavendish in his efforts to claim sprint victories at this year's Tour.

The seven-time green jersey winner is at the Tour with Team Columbia-HTC, acting as a route scout in the stages prone to be decided in a bunch sprint. Zabel reconnoitres the parcours before the race and phones through useful information, especially on the final, decisive kilometres. "Yesterday, Erik's instructions were extremely helpful - the details in the road book are often not as precise," said Columbia's sports director Rolf Aldag after the finish of stage 10, Cavendish's third stage victory.

In between his duties for Columbia, Zabel goes on training rides to keep up his shape for the Etape. "I rode two hours on Wednesday morning. As soon as I can, I go out and train, which is not an easy thing to do at this Tour," said the legendary sprinter, who has accumulated "about 10,000 kilometres" this season. "What counts now is the fun," he added.

On July 20, riding up the dreaded Mont Ventoux in Provence will definitely be fun for the former fast man, who will join other ex-pros such as Chris Boardman and Laurent Brochard on the 167km ride.

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