Known more for his lead-out skills than chalking up a win for himself, Team KATUSHA ALPECIN’s Rick Zabel earned bragging rights with a strong sprint win in Friday’s stage 2 of the 5th Tour de Yorshire. Lighting out from the front and showing a clear set of wheels in the process, Zabel enjoyed his moment in the spotlight in Bedale.
Rick Zabel: “I’m so, so happy to win a race. I really couldn’t believe it. I just realized it when I went to the podium and I was standing here. Tears came to my eyes. As a bike rider you want to win, and my last win was four years ago. Normally I am a lead out guy and I don’t have too many chances for myself. It’s just a super nice day for me that I can see ways to win races at the professional level.” Second and third places with the same time of 3:09:16 (41.85km/h) went to Boy van Poppel (Roompot-Charles) and Chris Lawless of Team INEOS on the 132k stage from Barnsley to Bedale.
Zabel: "I don't know how, but I came in a good position in the last 500m, then I saw the 300m sign and I know I can do a long sprint. I thought 'OK, I must go for it. If someone comes over me at least I tried.' I was so afraid when I came in the last 50m because I'm not a guy who wins often and I thought today maybe I can win, and I was so afraid if someone comes over - it was such a relief when I crossed the line.”
Relief also came to team director Claudio Cozzi, praising the effort from Zabel: “We are very happy. Today we worked hard to arrive in a sprint, with Rick ultimately doing good work. He gave everything. He won the stage and now we are in second in GC.” The win puts Zabel 1-second behind race leader Jesper Asselman of Roompot-Charles.
Zabel: “Short stages are always full gas, and it was a headwind all day, but we still raced pretty hard. The last five kilometers were pure chaos, and I was close to crashing a few times. We just started here with five guys but we’re really motivated. There are some good sprinters here. I'm just so happy I can win a race. It's also really important for the team because we haven't won so much this year. To get a win here is really amazing.”
Success in a bike race doesn’t come alone and Zabel was quick to acknowledge the hard work put in by his teammates today: “Thanks to my teammates who kept me out of the wind all day. They really believed in me. A few times today Nathan Haas said, ‘Hey man, you can win today. I believe in you.’ If you don’t try, you never win. That’s what I thought about in the last 500 meters. I had good momentum – I just started 10-15 wheels back. With 100 meters to go, I thought ‘Man, keep going, you can finish on the podium.’ At 50m I was still hopeful and then I crossed the finish line first. Thank you so much to the team.”
The Tour de Yorkshire continues on Saturday with stage 3. At 132k, the stage begins in Bridlington and ends in Scarborough.
With part of today’s course set to be used in the world championships later this year in Harrogate, Zabel has hopes of being selected to represent his home country Germany: “I would be happy if I could give a hand for that.”