|-written by Thomas of cycling4fans.de -
The German national team for the world championships in Hamilton is
built up around the "always in good shape" Erik, nicknamed "Ete", Zabel.
Athough the course this year is not considered to be a good one for
sprinters, it is not surprising that the german hopes for the first
World Champion in 37 years rest on Zabel. He has shown over the years
that he does well on hilly courses, perhaps even as best among the
sprinters. Some examples of his strength in difficult races: his 4 wins
in the "Primavera", the overall victory in the World Cup 2000, and his
5th place in the world championships in Lisbon 2001 on a course which
was considered as the most difficult in a long time.
Now, the riders in detail:
As already mentioned, this Telekom rider is the leader of the German
squad. At the moment he is in great shape, He won Paris Tours and had
two stage victories in the Vuelta, one of them even against the mighty
Petacchi, as also in Paris Tours. Of course he does well on the ascents,
but he has to hope for a group consisting of, let us say, at least 20
riders, because he won`t make the cut for a group created in an ascent
by the best classics guys, such as Bettini or Boogerd. If it all comes
down for a bunch sprint, he`s certainly a hot favorite for the rainbow
The young, 24 years old blonde from Telekom is probably the greatest
German prospect for difficult one-day races. Remember this year's Amstel
Gold, when he and Boogerd were the only ones who could react immediately
to Armstrongs attack, and his pivotal role in helping Vinokourov to gain
this beautiful victory. Also in April he won his first race as a pro,
the GP Miguel Indurain, in a sprint of a larger group. Then he headed
for the first time to the Tour, but he was not able to show his talent
there. Now, in the late season, he has found his way back to great
shape. On the Day of German Reunification he won the LUK Cup in Bühl and
managed to beat Rebellin in a sprint, which is not too bad. Kessler is
the only rider in the German squad who might be able to hold on with the
best in the ascents. In light of this, he might possibly be the joker in
He is a young, promising rider, only 23 years old, part of the
Gerolsteiner squad, and has already quite a few nice results in his
palmares. Especially in September he was in great shape and finished 3rd
in the high-ranked GP Fourmies, was 2nd in the Tour of Rheinland-Pfalz
and was 7th in the Coppa Placci. Like Kessler, he is capable of becoming
a strong classics rider. Fabian has already has a good nose for being
part of the decisive move in the race, which you can`t normally expect
from such a young guy.
He is with only 22 years the youngest on a young German squad. He rides
for Quickstep and has already become a very important supporter in the
difficult one-day classics. Even as a helper he placed 15th in LBL and
was very strong in the Championship of Zurich. He has shown his strength
in stage races as well, as good results in the Tour of Germany and Tour
de Suisse illustrate. He has a great future for stage races and hilly
one-day races, but in the upcoming World Championships his role will be
to support Zabel as long as possible.
This Telekom rider is young, too, 24 years old, and finished the Vuelta
as the best German in a solid 27th place. For his first Grand Tour, this
is a really a good result. His season didn`t start well, as he had
problems with illnesses and injuries all spring. He has his talents in
the mountains and so his task in the Worlds should be to join escape
groups so that the Germans won't have to chase them.
The next very young German, only 23 years old, is said to be a huge
prospect for stage races and time trials. His most remarkable results
are his title in the juniors' world time trial championship in 1997 in
San Sebastian and his victory in the very tough GP Schwarzwald in
August. In the Vuelta he had high ambitions which he was unable to
attain due to stomach problems. He certainly will support his Telekom
colleague and leader, whose name is Zabel.
He is 25 years old and also a member of Telekom. He wasn`t in the
spotlight too often this year, since he had surgery and started his
season late in April. Telling you that he prefers races like Paris
Roubaix could explain why you didn`t hear much of him up to now. He is
also a good rolleur and he will have to do the usual support tasks in
He is one of those riders who really loves to ride on cobblestones. He
impressed in Gent Wevelgem, when he beat the very strong Quickstep squad
which had 5 riders in the decisive move. By beating all of them, he also
became the first German to win this semi-classic. Normally you don t see
him near the top of the results lists, since he has to work for riders
like Telekom teammates Wesemann or Zabel, so don`t wonder at the Worlds
when you look at the results after the race.
I don`t think anyone doesn`t know who he is. He is the role model for
those riders who ride at the front all the day, sacrificing themselves
for their leaders. I`m sure all of you remember the Tour stage to
Morzine, when Rolf escaped with Virenque. The latter won the stage, but
Rolf was stronger than anybody expected and even at one time attacked
Virenque on a climb. For all his enormous efforts, he wore the King of
the Mountains jersey, as second in this classification to Virenque, in
the stage up to L`Alpe d`Huez. His words: I`ll wear a rain jacket, even
at 40 degrees Celsius. Me in the King of Mountains Jersey, that s a
On Sunday he`ll do his usual program, riding at the front of the
peloton, keeping Zabel out of the wind and otherwise helping his teaammates.
This cyclist from the Swiss Phonak Team has recently shown his good time
trial skills in the Vuelta, finishing 4th and 8th in the two long, flat
time trials. He should be in good shape and should be able to provide
good support in the flat.
He is 25 years old and rides for Gerolsteiner. As the economic situation
in cycling becomes more and more difficult, he has chosen a traditional
method of hopefully assuring himself long-term employment: he married
the daughter of team director Hans Michael Holczer. He is strong in
shorter stage races, as he is quite good in time trials but can climb,
too. For him, it`s surely a honour to be a part of the national team.
Last but not least, another young German cyclist,from Team Gerolsteiner.
Sebastian is 24 years old, but already he has great time trial skills.
Two years ago in Lisboa, he won the silver medal in the U23 TT World
Championships. This year in August he won the Tour of Denmark, his first
stage race as a pro. He can be very useful to make a high tempo in the flat.
This 34 year-old veteran and family father has already shined
beautifully in Worlds time trials. In both 2000 and 2002 he finished
second, missing gold by only a few seconds. He had a great season in
2003, as he won the German TT Championships in a Gerolsteiner clean
sweep, with Peschel and Lang finishing 2nd and 3rd. With his teammate
Peschel he also won the GP Eddy Merckx, and solo he won the GP des
Nations just a few weeks ago. You can very well expect him in great
shape and of course he is a strong candidate for a medal.
He is at the same age as his teammate Rich and had a lot of great TT`s
in the past too. In 1995 he won bronze at the Worlds, when a guy called
Indurain got the jersey and another guy called Olano was the runner-up.
In 2003 he had enormous bad luck as he crashed in the TT in the Tour,
just one day before he would have reached Paris. One of his lung wings
was badly hurt, but it hadn`t prevent him from finishing this stage.
Just about one month later, he won the GP Eddy Merckx with his teammate
Rich. In the GP des Nations he finished at an outstanding 4th place. If
you make your bet over the race, look at him!