There are both first-timers and veterans attending the Beijing Olympics for American cycling, and what some may not realise is that Dave Zabriskie is one of those first-timers. The 29 year-old from Salt Lake City is the current U.S. time trial champion, a stage winner in all three Grand Tours and one of the best moustache growers on his Garmin-Chipotle team. But along with his accomplishments have been a string of injuries at inopportune moments, as Cyclingnews' North American Editor Mark Zalewski found out.
The most recent of these injuries came in this year's Giro d'Italia where, after helping his team win the first stage team time trial, he crashed on the second stage and fractured his first vertebrae. And while a major injury is tough for any athlete to overcome, endurance athletes, and particularly cyclists, can find their carefully structured seasons ruined by the inability to train.
"I think it's just harder for a cyclist," said Zabriskie. "A sport like baseball or basketball, you might miss a few games but it's not that big of a deal. But in cycling if you get injured it messes up half your season and you miss big events like the Tour."
Perhaps the only positive outcome of a season-defining injury, particularly in cycling, is that it can allow a rider to put an intense singular focus on one event in their racing schedule, compared to training for five or six major goals. Maybe it is just trying to look at the positive side of an otherwise bad situation, or maybe it will make a difference for Zabriskie as he sits in the start house for the Olympic time trial on August 13.
"You are never quite sure how things are going to turn out but everything is really coming together quite well," he said.
Actually, in non-sporting terms, his injury's timing allowed him to participate in an event for which many male professional athletes are often away from home: the birth of his son, Waylon. Being at home for the first weeks after the birth would not have been possible with the team's rigorous training schedule for the Tour de France, but with no bike riding possible at first he had all the time in the world to enjoy the experience.
"I couldn't really do much though, because of my back," he said, laughing.
And for any cyclist, it is not long before that bike comes calling once more, as well as the schedule of sleep required. "I tried to help out at first but I just couldn't stay up with him all night - I had to keep a schedule. But [my wife] has been great about it!"