Zabel telling his old war stories.

Zabel telling his old war stories.

by Molly Hurford

Although Erik Zabel never made it big in cyclocross, when we at Cyclocross Magazine heard that he was speaking at an intimate reception in New York before heading up to the Berkshire Cycling Classic, we had to stop by and see what he had to say. As it turns out, Zabel has raced cyclocross before, and while he admits that he was never good enough to make it in the larger Euro races, he was a junior champion cyclocrosser in East Berlin (back when East Berlin was a place). Over the course of the evening, Zabel shared stories from his many years in pro cycling, including how he got his start in East Germany, and where he was when the Berlin Wall came down (answer: training).

Zabel talked about how he used to train: without thinking too much about power, numbers, or training style. His reason for using a PowerTap? “We think, how many kilojoules we burn today? Oh, must have been a hard day.”

And while cyclocross was never going to pay the bills, Zabel knew early on that he was destined to be a sprinter, mainly because of a process of elimination during his training school. “I wasn’t good at hills. The only thing I can be good at is sprinting, so I think, I am a sprinter.”

Zabel will ride the first annual Berkshire Cycling Classic in Lenox, Mass. on this Sunday, May 6. The event is the American stop on the fifteen-event UCI World Cycling Tour for 2012 through 2014. The rides are held as Cyclosportif (or Gran Fondo) events.

With over 200 professional wins, Zabel is considered one of the greatest German cyclists and best sprinters in cycling history. Zabel won a record six consecutive green jerseys designating the best sprinter of the Tour de France between 1996 and 2001. He was also best sprinter at the Vuelta a España three times (2002, 2003, 2004) as well as winning Italy’s most famed racing classic, Milano–San Remo (four times).  Zabel retired from pro cycling in 2008.

Zabel said of his upcoming role as “Patron” of the Berkshire Cycling Classic, “This will be my first time riding in the States since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. It is a wonderful chance to meet American riders and to ride the beautiful Berkshires.”

The UCI World Cycling Tour (UWCT) is a series of UCI-sanctioned Gran Fondo/Cyclosportif events that are held around the globe. The top 25% in each age group of the qualifiers will automatically have the right to compete in the UWCT Final and race for a coveted UCI rainbow jersey. The Berkshire Cycling Classic will be the only UWCT event in the United States this year.

Starting and finishing in Lenox, Mass. on Sunday May 6, 2012, the Berkshire Cycling Classic features route selections of 62 and 81 miles (100k and 130k). Overall times for both distances will be recorded and ranked according to age groups.

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