Garmin-Sharp's Dave Zabriskie, seven-time US time trial national champion and winner of stages in all three Grand Tours, obviously knows how to suffer. But his efforts so far at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado have taken agony to a new level.
In a moment broadcast to the world on live television, Zabriske dropped from a breakaway that he had been powering throughout stage 1 and vomited in the road before seeking medical attention for cramps and nausea. He eventually finished with the gruppetto, some 15 minutes after his teammate Tyler Farrar brought home the stage win in Telluride.
"I was going pretty hard, pretty deep," he told Cyclingnews after the stage. "And then the last super deep effort - I let the group split and then bridged up to those guys - that was pretty hard to get to them. I was planning to pull them and I finally, I don't know; the body said stop and my spirit said you're puking."
Then, after one night of recovery, Zabriske hit out again on the super-fast opening of stage 2 from Montronse to Crested Butte. He joined teammate Alex Howes, Mathias Frank (BMC Racing Team), Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan), Vincenzo Nibali and Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas-Cannondale), Julien El Fares (Team Type 1-Sanofi), Craig Lewis (Champion System Pro Cycling Team), Chris Baldwin (Bissell Pro Cycling), Matt Cooke (Team Exergy), plus Rafael Infantino Abreu and Jorge Camilo Castiblanco Cubides (EPM-Une) in a 12 rider breakaway that escaped about 20 km into the 159.3 km race.
Again, Zabriske wasted little time going to the front of the group and supplying power to pull the leaders away from the chasing field. Seeing Zabriske make another tough selection at the front of the race and then digging another deep hole for himself may have surprised a lot of casual observers, but Garmin-Sharp team manager Jonathan Vaughters said he never worried that one of his star riders would be ready to ride hard again on stage 2.
"I knew that he'd just ridden so hard that he just threw up," Vaughters said. "I mean good for him. That's what I pay him for. He definitely put in a pretty solid effort the last couple of days. He'll be tired tomorrow, there's no doubt about that."
Zabriske's horsepower helped the leaders build a fairly sizeable five minute gap just 40 km into the race, apparently catching even the wily veteran by surprise. When the official time board moto approached the leaders to inform them of their latest split, he laughed and said, "Are you kidding me?"
They weren't. The bunch let the gap hover around the five-minute mark until the leaders passed through the town of Gunnison, where they started the last 52 km and the long, grinding climb to the town of Crested Butte and the ski area above. Zabriske attacked the group again outside of the small college town and dropped dropped Voigt, Agnoli and El Fares in his wake.
Lewis said the loss of cooperation in the group may have pushed Zabriske to make his move rather than any specific race strategy. "I think he was more just tired of messing around, so he rolled away," Lewis said. "Fortunately, we dropped the guys we wanted to."
The break's advantage held until the final 15 kilometres with a concerted chase from a number of teams slowly whittling it down. As the leaders approached the final steep rise to the finish at three kilometres to go, they still led the peloton by 40 seconds. Camilo Castiblanco (EPM-Une) launched an attack and the lead group started coming apart as the chasers reeled them in one by one. Tejay van Garderen and Christian Vande Velde eventually pulled away from the rest and finished first and second, respectively. Zabriske finished with a large group more than four minutes down.
It was another very long, hot, windy day off the front for the rider who had pushed himself to the brink just 24 hours before. So how does a rider who suffered so horribly for his team on the opening stage work up the gumption to go out and do it again the very next day?
"It's my job, sir," the rider known for his Captain America time trial skinsuit said before chuckling and walking off to recover at the team's hotel.