Strategy for the day?
"I purposely avoided contesting the intermediate sprints despite the
loss of points for the points title. My focus was on winning the stage,
and I can think more about the green jersey now that I've done that."
Are you staying with the team?
"It's not clear for anyone what it going on, we know less than the
journalists. A number of riders had signed contracts with Lotto that go
on another season or even two, and we've been told they will be respected.
But we've been hearing different messages, so we'll have to wait and see.
Through the media we've heard we're all free next season, so it seems that
none of us will have contracts for next season."
Strategy at the finish?
"I deliberately left one side of the road open by going down the barriers
so that I could look across at everyone. But fans leaning over the barriers
kept hitting me on the head and arms with those big green hands that PMU
hand out so I was forced out. When I was getting close to the line I was
fading a bit but really wanted to cross the line with my arms in the air
and wearing the Australian champion's jersey. I hope I managed that. But
the race organisation need to do something about those hands because they
are really dangerous. It's the second time it's happened to me. Maybe they
need a second barrier in front of the crowd."
The German looked delighted to have taken the yellow jersey for the
second time in his career. Speaking right after the stage Zabel said the
team had been good all day, and that being in yellow was a change in fortune
for them. "After the sad situation in Luxembourg when we heard about Jan
the motivation of the team was to create some good news, and now we have."
Speaking in the press conference later, Zabel wasn't quite buoyant,
perhaps disappointed with the tone of some of the questions put to him.
Asked if he was happy at being in the yellow jersey despite failing to
win the stage, the German simply responded: "I'm very happy with yellow."
He admitted that he didn't like losing like he had two days in a row,
and that he would have preferred to have taken the yellow jersey by winning
the stage as he had done in 1998. Then asked if he'd be celebrating with
champagne in the home of the fizzy stuff, a by now almost solemn Zabel
said that he probably wouldn't. "We've got the team time trial tomorrow
and we need to be a top level for that. The directeur sportif will save
it for later."
Rarely has a rider looked so keen to get away to the dope control.
A longer version of the Robbie McEwen interview appears at www.procycling.com.