Rick Zabel scored his first in almost four years to relieve the pressure on his Katusha-Alpecin team. The German took stage 2 at the Tour de Yorkshire in Bedale with Boy Van Poppel and Chris Lawless rounding out the top three. The win was Katusha-Alpecin’s second victory of the year.
"That's a big relief. It's just the second win for me as a professional. It feels very good and I almost forgot how it feels to win. It's a good feeling to win again," Zabel said after his win.
Katusha-Alpecin has struggled for results all year with Marcel Kittel unable to find his groove. The team put in a rousing performance in Paris-Roubaix through Nils Politt's second place but on the eve of the Tour de Yorkshire Kittel pulled out of the race. Zabel, who typically rides as a lead-out man for Kittel, stepped up in Bedale and the relief was clear to see with several Katusha riders joining the celebrations after the finish.
"Of course if he was here then we'd be sprinting for him but that's how life goes," Zabel said when initially asked about Kittel's absence.
"Sometimes you get an unexpected opportunity and today I was able to take it. Which is a super nice feeling."
The German admitted that the team would enjoy a boost in confidence after taking their first victory since early February but that the squad would not rest on their laurels.
"The pressure is still there because we want to be a really good cycling team. This win gives us all a boost of motivation and it shows that we keep working hard and that we give everything on the level that we want to be at. It's a great day, and we'll enjoy it, but keep working for the next one."
On a personal level the win was also a huge moment in Zabel's career. The Katusha rider, now 25 years old, came through the ranks with BMC Racing and enjoyed a number of impressive placings during the early years of his career. Since then he has devoted himself to team duties and helping faster finishers, such as Kittel. However, his win in Yorkshire was a landmark moment for the underrated and popular lead-out man.
"I was emotional and for a moment tears came to my eyes. Normally I'm a lead-out guy and I don't get too many chances. In 2017, I was close two times in Frankfurt and the Tour of California but winning is a different thing. It's just a super nice day for me and it's a relief to win at this level."