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Cyclingnews 2008 Reader Poll Results

Legend of Cycling

"Iron Man" Zabel takes it

Erik Zabel and Paolo Bettini at the 2008 world championships
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Erik Zabel, Germany's "Iron Man" of cycling, topped off his career as Cyclingnews' 2008 Legend of Cycling. The 38-year-old retired this season after more than 200 pro wins in his 16-year career. His major achievements include four wins at his favorite race, Milano-Sanremo, and six green jerseys at the Tour de France, winning the latter every year from 1996 to 2001.

The German turned pro in 1993 with Team Telekom, later T-Mobile Team, where he stayed for 13 seasons before changing over to the new German ProTour Team Milram in 2005. His number of wins has fallen over the last few years, but Zabel has continued to make his presence known, not only on the road but also on the Six-Day circuit.

Zabel is a man who didn't know the meaning of the term off-season. When the road season was finished, he went on the track. When the six-days season was finished, it was time for training camp for the road season.

He is also known for two mistakes he made in his career. In the 2004 edition of Milano-Sanremo, he raised his arms in celebration of his anticipated win, only to see Rabobank's Oscar Freire nip him at the finish line at the last second. More seriously, he admitted to having briefly used EPO in his preparations for the 1996 Tour de France, in a tearful press conference.

Close behind in second place was last year's winner, Paolo Bettini, who retired in a huff this year after being told there was not enough money at Team Quick-Step to let him ride another year. The little Italian, 34, can look back at a 12-year career featuring a gold medal from the Athens Olympics 2004 and two consecutive world championship titles, in 2006 and 2007.

Further back in third was Mario Cipollini, 41,who briefly came out of retirement to ride the Tour of California, where he finished third in the second stage.


                                                                                  Votes   %age
1 Erik Zabel                                                                       4255  35.76
2 Paolo Bettini                                                                    4100  34.45
3 Mario Cipollini                                                                  2304  19.36
4 Bobby Julich                                                                      780   6.55
5 Roger Legeay                                                                      353   2.97
6 Richard Groenendaal                                                               108   0.91
                                                                           Total: 11900