An interview with Dave Zabriskie, February 20, 2006
Much of the post-Lance attention has been focused on Tom Danielson but there is another young American who has been showing excellent potential, and is already in good form after finishing fifth in the prologue at the Tour of California. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes spoke to Dave Zabriskie at Team CSC's recent training camp in Tuscany.
If pre-race rumours are to be believed, Dave Zabriskie is in mean shape heading into the Amgen Tour of California. The Team CSC rider has shown his class with stage wins in each of the Grand Tours and, at 27 years of age, has a bright future ahead of him. Zabriskie is an excellent time trialist and good climber and, with a strong, motivated team backing him this week, he could well be one of those in contention for the overall victory.
Zabriskie had a solid early career with good rides in events such as the Tour of Georgia and Four Days of Dunkirk. His big breakthrough came in his last year with US Postal, 2004, when he won stage 11 of the Tour of Spain in an epic long-distance breakaway. That same season saw him record several other strong results, including victory in the US time trial championships, third in the US road race champs, fourth in the time trial at the Eneco Tour de Benelux and fifth in the world TT champs in Italy.
"I never have a plan or high expectations. When things happen I am excited and happy about it." - Dave Z's lackadaisical approach to life appears to work for him, and is one of America's brightest stage race prospects
That good run led to an offer from Team CSC and last winter he switched over Bjarne Riis' setup. Another strong year followed, with early rides such as eighth in the prologue of Paris-Nice, second in the Tour of Georgia TT and sixth overall there coming in the build-up to participation in the Tour of Italy and Tour de France. His prowess against the clock saw him topping the podium in both countries, Zabriskie winning the ninth stage TT in the Giro and then beating Lance Armstrong and the rest of the world's top riders in the opening stage of the Tour de France.
He held the race lead until the team time trial, where CSC looked on course to retain yellow right until the closing stages of the race against the clock. However luck deserted him; he crashed hard right before the finish of the race, limping across the line with his maillot jaune shredded and his moment at the top of the Tour's GC gone. Zabriskie tried to continue on in order to support team leader Ivan Basso but was forced to pull out of the race.
"I think [the problem] was that the chain slipped," he told Cyclingnews recently. "A lot of people have said they think it was that, from looking at the tape. I don't think I will ever have a definitive answer on that. But it was pretty disappointing."
The plan after that was to rebuild form and ride well in some later season events but a freak accident after a criterium in Denmark saw him finish the year early. Zabriskie was leaving a restaurant when a glass door swung back towards him. He put his hand out, only for it to pass through the glass and suffer deep cuts, severing a nerve and tendon.
The accident left a scar and some stiffness in his hand, but otherwise he has fully recovered. Now it's time for a return to racing, the chance to do well on home soil and the buildup for what he hopes will be another productive Grand Tour campaign this summer. He's a year older, a year stronger; greater heights could well be in store in 2006.
Cyclingnews: Dave, you had a complicated end to season in 2005. What was the last race you did?
Dave Zabriskie: It was San Francisco. I pulled out because I couldn't pull on the handlebars very well because of my wrist. It is more or less fine now, although it has a stiff feeling because the nerve is not all the way there.
I took some time off after than, just using it to catch up on things... Normal life. Nothing exciting!
CN: When did you get back on the bike?
DZ: Well, on October the first I started going to the gym and just getting more regimented. I have been working hard since then.
CN: You have collected stage wins in all the Grand Tours... That is pretty good going, especially as you are still pretty young... You went into the Giro last year and won the time trial there. Did you think before the race that was possible?
DZ: Yes. I was feeling good and as soon as I realised where I was [in the TT], I knew the roads perfectly and I said 'okay.' I nailed it on the descent and it had a nice flat finish, so it was perfect for me. But then I had to wait around and see if I won...
CN: The plan was to help Ivan [Basso] in the mountains there. That must have been a special experience given that the spectators in Italy are very passionate and there were some incredible climbs...
DZ: Yes, it is a pretty race... it was my first time to do it, but I liked the Giro a lot.
CN: After that, you went on to win the first stage of the Tour. You had a bit of a wait there as well before you knew the result...!
DZ: Yes, I was waiting all day because I was like the seventh or the 11th guy off, so I had to wait for all the other guys to finish. The more people came in, the more I became confident. Everybody was a minute behind or more. Then Lance came and he was really close, so I got a little nervous. It was pretty stressful!
CN: What were the emotions like, getting the stage and the jersey in the Tour de France?
DZ: It was a good feeling. I can't really describe it, it was pretty special...
CN: You had bad luck in crashing in the team time trial... did you work out what happened?
DZ: I think it was that the chain slipped. A lot of people have said they think it was that, from looking at the tape. I don't think I will ever have a definitive answer on that. But it was pretty disappointing.
CN: How did the people back home react to what you did in the Tour?
DZ: I think that people were excited for me, especially where I grew up in Utah. The local radio station had me on and they were pretty excited. It was nice... to be appreciated and recognised is good.
I gave a couple of the jerseys away and then kept a couple for myself.
CN: With Armstrong's recent achievements, I think there is a better appreciation than before over there about just how tough the Tour is and what it means to take a stage....
DZ: Yes, there is. I think he made it seem like it is the only race. It is the same as how it has always been but the people sometimes think that you only do that one race in the season.
CN: Earlier in the season, you had some good form in the Tour of Georgia...
DZ: Yeah, I was feeling strong there. I did some good training before it and then did the race. Georgia was training too, but it was good that I felt good. It is important to ride well when you are back home. I try to ride somewhat well most of the time, anyway.
I took a week off before the Giro, then spent the Giro trying to bring up my form. I think that worked out well.
CN: Overall, did the season exceed your expectations?
DZ: Yeah... well, I never have a plan or high expectations. When things happen I am excited and happy about it. That is always nice.
CN: You have been with CSC for over a year now, having moved from US Postal. How is the setup?
DZ: It is pretty different all right. But it's good here. I'm happy.
CN: So what is the plan this year?
DZ: I start with the Tour of California and then when I get back I will probably do Paris-Nice. There will be some training after that and then I will go back again for Georgia. After that, maybe I'll have a little break and then start doing some more races to build up for the Tour. That's the plan for now, anyway...