By Tim Maloney, European Editor
Recently, Cyclingnews caught up with the sometimes enigmatic Dave Zabriskie at the Giro d'Italia. Currently sitting just outside the top fifty in the general classification, CSC's Zabriskie has had a quiet Giro with some exceptions and has earned the praise of RAI-TV's Davide Cassani. The Italian commentator has remarked on the noticeable improvement the Z-man has made in his climbing at the Giro and his picture perfect time trial position, calling it "the best in the peloton."
The 28 year-old from Salt Lake City had a superb year in 2006, with a podium (third) in the Tour of California, the prologue and time trial stage win at the Dauphine Libéré and another US TT Championship. Zabriskie, in the last year of his contract with CSC, has always ridden well in Italy.
His first big international win came with a TT victory at the Giro delle Regione as an espoir rider. In 2004, Zabriskie was fifth in the World TT Champs in Verona and the following year, came back to Italy for the Giro, where he rocked to a stage 8 TT win and then was third in the Giro's final TT in Torino. Zabriskie finished 104th on GC in that Giro and looks set to be much further up the overall classification ranking when this Giro wraps Sunday in Milano.
When asked how his Giro was going Zabriskie didn't give the usual boring bike rider answer. "You know, I wake up in the morning and I piss excellence. I'm just a big hairy American winnin' machine," said Zabriskie to Cyclingnews. Inspired by his hero Ricky Bobby of film Talladega Nights, Zabriskie was brimming with confidence as the final week of the Giro d'Italia unfolded.
We told the CSC man about the RAI-TV comments and he explained "I've lost a little weight, moved my seat up and back a little", which has helped overall. But on the "tappone" to Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Zabriskie had worked so much for his teammate Andy Schleck he ended up in 92nd, over 36'00" down on stage winner Riccò. Previously, on stage 13's uphill TT, Zabriskie was fourth, beating many top climbers like Pellizotti, Cunego and his teammate Schleck in the 12.6-kilometre climbing test to the Santuario di Oropa.
Z-Man told Cyclingnews that his role at the Giro is "To help out Andy Schleck, to stay with him as long as possible on the mountain stages." Zabriskie must be doing a good job, as Schleck, a 21 year-old phenomena is currently sitting third on GC and has the Maglia Bianca of best young rider at the Giro. As for his personal ambitions at this years Giro, US TT champ Zabriskie would love to win the upcoming stage 20 TT next Saturday, a 43-kilometre race over many of the same roads of the 2004 World Championship.
"Yeah, I would like to do well there," Zabriskie said in his usual understated manner, but his small smile belied his number one objective for this year's Giro d'Italia; another Grand Tour TT stage win in his palmarès.
Zabriskie's best friend in the peloton is Floyd Landis, even if the 2006 Tour de France winner hasn't raced since last year's Tour. We asked Zabriskie if he has been following Floyd's case and he explained "you know how it is when you're racing; you're in the race bubble so I haven't really had a chance to follow it. I hope it all turns out well for him."
Part of the legend of Z-Man is his website, www.davezabriskie.com and his wacky fun interviews in the "Z's Point" section. We asked Zabriskie if he was doing interviews at the Giro and he explained. "I no longer travel with my computer. I find now that when racing I just want to concentrate on that and not waste time trying to find connections to the internet. But I have some ideas about how we can get some new content on there."