By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Firenze
Rock and roll, dude: Dave Z enters the record books
When Cyclingnews asked David Zabriskie before Stage 9 in Firenze how it felt to enter the cycling stats as the third American in cycling history along with Andy Hampsten and Tyler Hamilton to win a Giro d'Italia time trial, he smiled and said: "rock and roll, dude" - yet another example of his unique sense of humor, provoking plenty of laughter from his CSC team-mate Christian Vandevelde.
Zabriskie told us that as Stage 8 unfolded, "I was waiting in our team car, watching the race on TV and I was really happy to realize that I had finally won." Already used to a Grand Tour podium appearance from his stage win at the Vuelta last season, Dave Z seemed to drink much more spumante than maglia rosa Di Luca. We asked the CSC rider if he had heard from the folks back home and he replied: "Yeah, I spoke to my girlfriend and my mom; they were happy I won." We then asked Zabriskie to rate Vandevelde's performance and after jokingly wondering if Vandevelde would even make it to Milano, Zabriskie praised his fellow American, saying, "he's doing really good. His back is sorted out and he seems happy and is smiling all the time."
For his part, Zabriskie has seen an improvement in his performance since joining CSC. "The team has excellent organization and I would also say that Bjarne has helped my training, too; getting the power back into my left leg and a lot of big gear training that has helped me this year." The power increase for the American is clearly there, as Zabriskie rode the flat final 16km of Saturday's Stage 8 TT at an average speed of 55km/hr!
We also asked CSC team boss Bjarne Riis about David Zabriskie and he smiled and replied: "Well, David is a funny guy... he has a very unique sense of humor. I think you have to get used to him. He has a special personality and I think you have to figure him out and work with him because he's a good guy. But for some people, they feel he's strange. But he has a good character and he's a very good bike rider. I saw him in the Vuelta [where he won Stage 13] and in the Worlds TT [Zabriskie finished fifth] and we brought him onto the team. You have to get to know him and I think it's nice to be able to work with David; he takes some time but that's how we do it on CSC. He has to learn to sit in the peloton and other things."
Riis continued, saying: "David has a lot of humor, sometimes maybe too much for some people, but he's also a guy who brings a lot of spirit to the team and makes the atmosphere good. He's a good guy and I think we have the possibility to work with David and see him progress in the coming years. You'll see him more in this Giro, especially on the climbs. You could see that in the TT on Saturday."
Whitey has not left the building
As the riders signed in before Stage 9 in Firenze, Cyclingnews heard a laff riot over the loudspeaker and went to investigate. At the center of a scrum of riders was Cofidis man Matt White, sporting the most flamboyant shades seen in the peloton since Greg LeMond showed up with his Oakley Eye Shields motocross eyewear 20 some years ago. Although sponsored by Oakley himself, Whitey had found a pair of strange retro shades in the hinterlands of Calabria and decided that he needed to make a Monday morning fashion statement to spice up the Giro.
With his mate Stuart O'Grady laughing in the background, Whitey modeled his new peeper-keepers exclusively for Cyclingnews. "It's the new 'Elvis Lives' model, mate...you know, I'm just trying to bring a bit of class back to cycling," joked the Sydneysider. "Things are going good so far at the Giro... but the real racing hasn't started yet," he added, referring to the upcoming mountain stages. No word whether Oakley will fine White for contract violations, or else get the 'Elvis Lives' shades off him for their 2006 product line.
Billy Boy: Discovering Bileka
Fans of the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team may have noticed the name of Volodymyr Bileka this season, as he's posted good placings at the Tour of the Algarve in February and three fourth place stage finishes at Setmana Catalana in March. Bileka enjoyed a solid amateur career on Italy's legendary Palazzago amateur squad, where he was runner up at Paris-Roubaix (U23) in 2001.
Nicknamed Billy, the likeable Ukranian came to Discovery with his long-time friend Yaroslav Popovych. Bileka has been good during the Giro d'Italia, his third time in the Italian tour, with a third place sprint in Stage 6 and then 15th in Sunday's Stage 8 TT, just ahead of defending Giro champ Cunego.
Billy is at the Giro to support Discovery Channel team leader Savoldelli and before the start in Firenze, we chatted with the 26 year-old, originally from Drogobych, but now resident in Poggio a Caiano, just west of Firenze. We caught up with Billy Bileka in the hospitality villagio in Firenze as he chatted with two of his tifosi, Domenico and Pinza.
CN: Billy, we noticed that not only are you a fast sprinter at this Giro, but you are also a good time trialist. What's your secret?
VB: Well, I trained well over the winter and started the season at my new team Discovery Channel team. So when I found myself in the sprints, I tried to give it my best. I'm a pretty good sprinter so why not try... but at the Giro, the finale of the stages has been hard and so you need some luck too.
CN: What about your time trial performance? There wasn't much luck there.
VB: Well, I'm not bad in time trials either... When I was a young rider, I had many good performances, so I can still do well. Sunday I was motivated; I started well and since I had good legs, I tried to do well. I live in Poggio a Caiano, where the Intergiro was and so the last climb and descent are roads I've done very often in training.
CN: What is your role on the Discovery Channel team at the Giro?
VB: My main job at the Giro is to work for the team and support Savoldelli. It's a hard race this year with a lot of good riders this year, but Savoldelli is good and getting better. The team has a lot of faith that Paolo can have a good Giro and finish on the podium.
Smiling Simoni sardonic: "On Thursday, the real Giro starts"
Although the Italian cycling press was quick to write off Lampre-Cafitta's Gilberto Simoni after his mediocre time trial last Sunday, the 33 year-old Trentino mountain man from Palu di Giovo seems amused by it all.
Cyclingnews asked Simoni before the start of Stage 9 in Firenze for his take: "Up until now, we've only done 6km of climbing. I'm tranquillo, because if someone wants to win the Giro d'Italia, the real work (to win) hasn't started yet. From Thursday, when we start the Dolomiti, the real Giro starts."