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Last Updated: Friday, 25 June, 2004, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Erik Zabel
ZABEL FACTFILE
Erik Zabel
DOB: 7/7/1970
Nationality: German
Best Tour: Green jersey, 1996-2001
Erik Zabel is one of the legends of world sprinting but he has been something of a nearly man recently.

This season he has picked up limitless second places - among them two during Catalan Week, and one in the Milan-San Remo and the Tirenno Adriatico.

At last year's Tour de France he could not match the pace of Baden Cooke and Robbie McEwen in the green jersey race.

But he is riding high in the world rankings and will be going for arguably his last real chance for green.

Many argue that Zabel might now well be past it and the time has come to allow the younger generation to move their way through the ranks.

But his Teutonic determination means he will do his utmost for at least one more massive push for the sprinters' ultimate prize.

Zabel has been one of the Tour's stars over the last decade and Lance Armstrong's gargantuan efforts often mean that the German's go unnoticed in cycling's most arduous race.

Before Zabel no rider had ever won more than five green jerseys and, even then, Ireland's Sean Kelly did not win them consecutively.

But every year, as sure as the Tour finishes in Paris, Zabel has been there in green, with his son celebrating on his shoulders and occasionally with dyed green hair.

That was not the case in the last two years and, knowing his manner, it will have hurt sufficiently to inspire him to greater success in the future.

It remains to be seen whether father and son will make their annual Parisian walk up the podium steps at the end of July.

The signs had been there that Zabel's domination was slipping when he was pushed to the tightest of margins by O'Grady the previous year.

But cycling's Mr Consistency, who turns 34 in the early stages of the Tour, is still among the favourites for this year's green jersey.

Unlike some sprinters, he has the stamina to get over the high mountains, even if improvements in that area have slightly blunted his highest speed.

His Tour de France career started poorly when he abandoned the race on his first attempt in 1994.

But, unlike most sprinters who are happy just to get to Paris, Zabel has a best Tour finish of 61st back in 2000.

Zabel is also one of the nice guys of the circuit, and has a personal museum at home that houses all the bikes he has ridden to victory.





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