Zabel weighs in on Cavendish Greipel feud, favors both in the Tour
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Zabel weighs in on Cavendish Greipel feud, favors both in the Tour

by VeloNation Press at 10:25 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France

Mark CavendishHTC-Columbia's sprint coach, Erik Zabel, was one of the most prolific sprinters in the sport of cycling.  The German ended his career in 2008 with more than 200 victories to his name, including a record six green jerseys in world's biggest bike race, the Tour de France.  His new position with the American team has him working with arguably the two best sprinters in cycling today, Mark Cavendish and André Greipel.

While Zabel has been both the number one and two sprinter in the world at different times during his career, he now has the unenviable task of trying to keep the drama between Cavendish and Greipel to a minimum.

Both riders have been taking pot shots at each other in the media this year, with the Manxman telling the Telegraph earlier this month that being on the same team as the German "is not a problem, because I am a better rider."

Zabel told Radsport News: "We have talked with both riders. There has to be mutual respect. And one thing is clear: The team's management makes the decisions."

Andre GreipelCavendish's comments were in response to Greipel's statements about being left off the Milan-Sanremo roster last month:  "It was a slap in the face. My performances have not been so bad to deserve being left off the team.

"Cavendish currently has some problems. I've done some good races. When it comes to a sprint, you can count on me."

At the time, Greipel also shared his concerns about missing a chance to ride in this year's Tour de France: "I have so far been pleased with the team, but if I didn't get a start in Milan-Sanremo, I think I can expect that my summer holidays will be spent on the Baltic Sea."

Cavendish spoke to Greipel's assumption quite clearly by telling the paper, "There's no chance he's coming to a bike race that I'm in. Me on bad form is still better than him."

Zabel criticized Cavendish for getting personal saying, "The interview was a mistake on Mark's part. He has understood that."

Team owner Bob Stapleton told the Guardian earlier this week that he doesn't see any problems beyond the talk.  "They are going to race as team-mates whenever they are called upon to do that," said Stapleton, "but it really doesn't make sense for us to put two top sprinters in the same races. In most cases they have multiple races to do and we want multiple wins, so it makes sense that they follow different programs."

While Stapleton believes all the banter is a reflection of their competitive nature, he was clear in his opinion that they would be better served focusing on the bike. 

"They're guys who are both trying to [win]," added Stapleton. "Mark wants to get in shape, he's super competitive and sometimes that shows up in ways that are less desirable. But he has said himself, 'When I've got my helmet on, don't listen to me' – I put [his recent comments] in the same camp."

Erik ZabelThere is a currently a truce between the two sprinters, but whether it will last is yet to be seen.  The big question is whether or not Greipel will get his chance in this year's Grande Boucle.  Zabel is in favor of HTC-Columbia bringing both sprinters to the Tour in July, but knows their legs will do the talking when it comes to the decision.

"Both have the possibility to show themselves before the Tour. André rides the Giro, Mark the Tour of California," says Zabel, who can imagine a 'double solution' for the Tour. "In the management I am a proponent to go to the Tour with both guys. But I only have one vote."

Zabel's colleagues see it differently. "To let both go at each other is neither nice, nor helpful, nor successful. We have to find a solution somehow," says sports director Rolf Aldag, but he admits that "André deserves a chance at the Tour."

Based on Stapleton's comments he would side with Aldag, putting the vote at two to one with Greipel on a mid-summer holiday.  Zabel sees Cavendish with a clear advantage adding, "Cavendish showed at the Tour that as the sole sprinter he can win. By winning ten times in two years he certainly has a bonus."

With Greipel's contract expiring at the end of the year and the Belgian Omega Pharma-Lotto interested in bringing him on board, 2011 may provide the definitive answer to the question.  "I'd regret it if he would leave HTC-Columbia," says Zabel.

Stapleton feels the same way: "We would like to keep all of our quality riders on the team and André is a quality rider," he said. "We think very highly of him. I think we are a big enough team to support multiple races and riders; if we can't do that, then the management hasn't done a very good job."


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