He had won several times the green jersey for the best sprinter on the most prestigious race on the planet, the Tour de France. He used to win stages on the biggest cycling races, you couldn't miss him on the finishing line mostly in the pink-white colors of the T-Mobile team. The Czech cycling fans saw him winning the big brother of this race, the famous Course de la Paix. Although he is now adviser to the ProTour team HTC-Highroad, last week you could see him downtown Litomerice or even on his bike on the roads in the region. The former excellent sprinter Erik Zabel came to watch his son, Rick, competing as member of the German national team at the 40th edition of the Course de la Paix Juniors. Moreover, this smiling and sill fit guy was not only just enjoying his stay, he was even decorating the winners of some of the stages. You could tell the young riders were trully enjoying the moments.
Eric, How was this years Course de la Paix Juniors for you?
I find it very nice race. The weather was nice, there were challenging stages and the race was well organized. This is always a great combination. It was rally interesting race to watch and not only because my son was taking part in it. I have to admit, for me it was a nice entertainment and I enjoyed it. I was welcomed most kindly.
You surely spoke with your son during the race, what did he say?
First of all that this years edition was unbelievably difficult and definitely the most demanding in the Nations Cup series so far. But he liked it anyways. (he smiles)
He won a intermediate sprint, but he was struggling in the hills. Is he following his fathers track and he is going to be a sprint specialist?
Yes, it might be so. (he smiles, but continues seriously) In the first mountain stages he was going very well. I liked his performance and dedication. On top of it he knows well how to find his way in the peloton, but there is still a lot to learn for him. I'm satisfied with how everything was perfectly organized and with the way the German national team raced as a whole. That is important, because all of them cooperated well.
What it means for you when someone says "Course de la Paix Juniors"?
I never took part in the "Juniors" race, but I know the big brother, the "Course de la Paix" very well. The name "Course de la Paix" has a good name in the world. Everyone knows this name, even outside the world of cycling. It is known and it was followed by several generation of rides and fans. It is a huge tradition and I'm glad it is ongoing at least in the juniors category. It is definitely a pity that it disappeared for the elite category. Nevertheless, I think that the team around Svatopluk Henke here in Terezin is doing a great job. He deserves a huge appreciation for this race and I'm truly happy I could kind of be a part of it this year.
Can the Course de la Paix Juniors be a good start for a rider's cycling carrier?
Yes, definitely! For instance in Germany there is the Trofeo Karlsberg, a multi stage race, part of the Nations Cup as well. But to be honest, the Course de la Paix Juniors is much more difficult and significantly more interesting. Many more people talk about it. Anyways, the winers of such races often proceed to the professional peloton and I believe there were such rider this year as well.