That wasn't a windstorm blowing over Germany late Sunday afternoon, it was a
collective sigh of relief. Erik Zabel won the Henninger Turm race - he can
still wins sprints, he hasn't forgotten how! It was only T-Mobile's second win
this season, and a long overdue one.
Evidently Erik enjoyed his moment in the spotlight so much that he decided to
extend it, by expressing his desire to ride the upcoming Giro d'Italia for the
first time ever. This thrilled the hearts of German fans, who now had a reason
to watch the Giro - who wanted to watch the no-name Gerolsteiners and T-Mobiles
who had been nominated? And it certainly made the hearts of the sponsor beat a
little faster - even if Erik doesn't win any stages, he will be in the running,
and in the television picture.
Another group of German cycling fans was thrilled by the announcement, a
group that one wouldn't expect to react so happily - the Jan Ullrich fans. Now,
you have to understand that some Ullrich fans are also Zabel haters: Zabel
selfishly takes up a place on the Tour team, a place which rightfully belongs to
an Ullrich helper, and there Ullrich has never been able to repeat his Tour
victory. It's all Zabel's fault!
Oh, yes, why are they so happy? Because, the theory goes, he'll wear himself
out in Italy and won't be in any condition to ride the Tour, thus turning over
his place on the Tour time to its rightful owner, an Ullrich helper.
But what they don't know is that Erik wants to go for the triple this year:
starts in all three Grand Tours. Will he be able to pull it off? Will he be
able to beat Petacchi in the sprints in Italy, in even one? Who knows? But it
sure will be fun to watch!