His surname is synonymous with cycling royalty but Rick Zabel has begun to write his own narrative as a professional here at the Tour Down Under.
The son of six-time Tour de France green jersey champion, and confessed doper, Erik, made his first WorldTour appearance with BMC in Australia on Tuesday where he is happily supporting race hopeful Cadel Evans.
Zabel is a third generation cyclist and his pedigree showed notably last year when he won the U23 Tour of Flanders with the Rabobank development team. The 20 year old marked a solid pro debut yesterday finishing in the second group – four seconds adrift of race winner Simon Gerrans – with teammates.
“I feel quite good in the pro peloton but yesterday was not such a hard stage,” the German told Cycling Weekly. “Now with the harder stages I think I will suffer a lot.
“There are a few guys here who raced with my father and now they’re racing with me so it’s a bit crazy.”
Erik last year was named in a French Senate Commission report as one of the riders whose 1998 Tour de France urine samples retroactively tested positive for EPO. The 43 year old made a fresh admission shortly afterwards and Zabel admits the consequent negative press wasn’t nice, although doesn’t make excuses.
“He made a mistake, for sure, so I don’t have to defend him,” he said. “That’s how cycling was in that time. I’m happy that I can ride in a time where it’s possible to ride your bike good without taking [anything]. The time for my father, that was his time and now I’m writing my own story.
“I train a lot with him when I’m at home,” he continued. “But I have really good help from the BMC team and big support so for me it’s important what the team says. My father is like a fan supporting me from outside.”
Zabel has an early season race programme that includes February’s Dubai Tour and some of the smaller Classics.