I was just having a conversation with Petey Van P about great riders and their ability to focus affectively year after year while obtaining their desired results. Obviously Lance is the template (since we were talking about grand tours), but we threw in other riders like Hinault, Indurain, and even Lemond. That got me to thinking about an all time favorite, Ete Zabel. How does he compare?
Not taking any time to look it up I know he's got between 175 - 200 career victories on the road, was one of his generations best sprinters, and winner of the Green jersey 6 straight years. But that doesn't begin to describe just how focused and how dedicated this guy is. Now of course it takes a bit more to win the overall at the Tour for many consecutive years than it does the maillot vert, but it's not like Erik was only racing 40 days a year either. When you add in his 6 day winter races, he never has an off season. He goes from the boards to the February road races all the way through WC in the fall, then right back to the boards. And he produces all season long. He wins in the spring, wins in the summer, wins in the fall, and wins in the winter. He can ride the cobbles (Het Volk), hills and sprint (MSR), cobbles and hills (Flanders and Amstel) hills (any grand tour), and finish it off with a dose of long, hard miles (San Sebastian, Lombardy). Plus, he's one of the most likeable guys in the peleton. I've never heard anyone say a remotely hard word about him. He is a professional in every sense of the word (much like Jens Voigt). Must be the East German in him :-)
In my book he's one of the greatest riders to ever throw a leg over the saddle and easily resides in the pantheon of the greats. What say the rest of ye?