Really glad to see that one of the classiest riders in the peloton is giving back to the sport … even more glad to see that it’s working with one of the two American registered UCI ProTour teams, even if the particular riders are not American.

VeloNews – Zabel guides young riders at Columbia

Fresh from retiring from one of the peloton’s most prolific careers, Erik Zabel is still busy at the races. These days he’s working with the young riders at Columbia-Highroad.

Mark Cavendish won Milan-San Remo after consulting with Zabel. “That was just amazing,” Zabel said of Cavendish’s closing sprint, and now the German veteran is officially working with several of the young riders on Columbia.

“I’m an advisor for the young riders’ development for the Highroad team,” Zabel said at the Tour of Flanders.

Besides Cavendish, riders under Zabel¹s tutelage include Edvald Boassan Hagen (who just won Ghent-Wevelgem), Mark Renshaw, Marcus Burghardt, Vicente Reynes and Marcus Sieberg.

“I’m busy with all of them,” Zabel said.

Zabel retired from his long road career at the end of the 2008 season, after winning nearly 200 major international races, including stages at all three grand tours, four wins at Milan-San Remo and six green jerseys at the Tour de France. Zabel was also active on the track in the off-season, and won his final six-day race this past January.

Although the Columbia riders listed above are young and still developing, it’s not as if Zabel has a stable of Cat. 5 riders to shepherd. So just what can Zabel teach these young men?

“The most important thing for riders is to have patience,” Zabel said. “Because they are young and they are so over-motivated, they want to win every day. That’s impossible. Even a day like [at Flanders], for example, my young guys didn’t finish on the podium. And just as Marcus was in the first group, the others were dropped. That¹s how it goes.”

It may be impossible for Columbia to win every day, but given the track records of Zabel and Columbia, more wins are almost certainly in the works.

Although, perhaps he should spend some time working with George Hincapie as well, to try to teach him that you can’t just sit in all the time and follow attacks … sometimes you have to make the race by going on the attack yourself.