Rick Zabel
Rick Zabel.

How do you get an interview with rising BMC Racing Team rider; Germany’s Rick Zabel?

We thought a good start would be not to ask any questions about his ‘D,A,D,’ – he’s his own man; but it helped too that Xylon Van Eyck of Corso Sports Marketing who now represent young Rick is a friend of ours and has helped us with many cool interviews in the past.

The German Junior Madison Championships came Zabel Junior’s way in 2009 with more track podiums at national junior level in 2010 in the points, team pursuit and madison.

There were a raft of strong junior road results in 2011 with a fifth place in the Junior Worlds as a high point.

His first year as a U23 in 2012 saw him lift the national U23 road race title for Rabobank Continental for whom he also won the U23 Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2013.

Last year saw him step up to the World Tour with BMC Racing Team and land a share of a win in the Tour of Trentino TTT.

Still only 21 years-old he took time to answer our questions as he steeled himself for a Northern Clasics campaign:

When did you first decide you wanted to be a pro, Rick?

“I was 16 years old, first year junior (U19), I did the world championships on the track in Montichiari, Italy and also my first international road races and did quite well.

“I started taking it all more serious to be even better in my second year juniors and my dream was then to become a pro.”

You were originally a track rider – when and why change?

“I was not a specifically just a track rider.

“I did road and track cycling but first I had more success on the track which I guess is why people thought I’d focused on the track alone.

“I was in the track national team, I did two times the track worlds as a junior, and I really liked it but when I became good on the road as well in my second year juniors I decided to concentrate more on the road for the U23 ranks because my dream was to become a professional.”

How did you get the Rabo ride?

“When I was second year junior I started to look out for a good U23 team.

“I got contact details for Piet Kuijs (he was a Rabo-DS) and contacted him.

“He said they would follow my results and then; ‘we will see.’

“Luckily I had a good year so they took me.

“That was my big goal because at the time, Rabo was the best U23 team in the world.”

Tell us a little about your time at Rabo.

“It was a really nice but also a hard time. I was one of two Germans in the team and all other riders were Dutch.

“So first I learned Dutch; that was really good so I could speak with everybody. They had good riders and everyone wanted to become a pro and wanted to be good. They also had a good race program.

“Everything was really professional, like a small pro-team.

“I had to learn a lot and it was not easy but I knew if I could make it here, I could make it anywhere.”

You won the U23 Flanders – you must look forward to riding the ‘big Ronde’ one day?

“Yes of course! It’s a really cool and legendary race!

“I’m proud that I’ve won the U23 version and to be good at the pro race as well is a dream of mine.”

How did the BMC Racing Team ride come about?

“After I won U23 Flanders a few teams were interested in me.

“Allan Peiper from BMC Racing Team visited me at home and we had a good talk.

“After meeting with him, I wanted to ride for BMC.”

Rick Zabel
Rick warms up at the USA Pro Challenge last year. Photo©Casey Gibson

Season 2014 and the World Tour; what was like it moving up from Continental and U23 – what’s the biggest difference?

“Of course, it´s hard.

“It´s faster, especially in the finals.

“Fighting for positioning is a lot harder because so many more riders are good at it.

“The races are much more structured and controlled, teamwork is much more important but to ride in the `champions league` is really cool.”

Alan Peiper – tell us about working with him, please?

“He’s a great man! I´m really happy that he’s with the BMC Racing Team.

“He has a lot of experience and is just a cool guy.

“He takes care of young riders like me but also in general of everybody in the team.

“You can always call him any time if you need to talk.

“He’s one of the best people I’ve met in cycling.”

Do you have a mentor at BMC?

“Mentor is a big word.

“I have a few people who look out for me but if I need to pick one it would be Allan.

“Working with him is really professional and cool!”

Who sets your training schedules ? are you ‘hi-tech’ or ‘old school’?

“Marco Pinotti; he’s a really good trainer – so I`m happy that he´s my trainer!

“I became good with typical old school German training so I like it and believe in it; but now with BMC Racing Team I do also a lot of hi-tech training stuff.

“So you can say I do a mix of both, I think that’s really good for me!”

Rick Zabel
Rick enjoys some downtime at the European U23 Road Champs. Photo©ROT

Where are you based – and why?

“I live in Unna, Germany; I was born and raised here.

“My family and friends are here and also it´s a good place to train.

“The weather is OK, not too much traffic and a few people around to train with; I can train on hilly or flat terrain but most of all, it´s my home.

“In winter I spend a lot of time in Mallorca.

“There’s good weather in winter and also a great place to be as a bike rider.”

Last year you rode Australia and Dubai, this year Dubai and Qatar – which did you prefer?

“It’s hard to compare.

“It depends which goals you have later in the season but I liked both; Australia and the Middle Eastern races, they are different but both are cool.”

Your second rides in Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne this year – are they races you think you can excel in, one day?

“I would like to.

“I’m working hard to be good there in the future; they’re nice races that I really like and believe will suit me!”

What would make 2015 a success for Rick Zabel?

“Riding a Monument such as Flanders or Roubaix.

“I would also like to do my first Grand Tour.

“In general I would like to ride the season at a constant high level and improve a lot from last year and to get results where I can.

“To win one race would be a dream. I know they’re high goals but I will give my best to reach them.”

Rick Zabel
Rick gets a hand from his dad, Erik. Photo©spa

Who is his dad, anyway?

With thanks to again to Rick, Xylon and to Sean Weisse at BMC Racing Team for their cooperation and patience.