Speaking just a few minutes before setting off from the start in Bergamo, the Garmin-Sharp rider confirmed the rumours circulating on Twitter that he has decided to retire. He had tried to avoid any extra attention, preferring a quiet exit but was clearly emotional as he looked back at his career and doping confession to USADA.
"The time for me to stop has come. I'm at peace with that," he told Cyclingnews.
"I unfortunately had a bad season with the injuries and hardly raced at all. That gave me a lot of time away from the sport this year and that helped me reach my decision to not pursue it anymore."
"My body feels it's the right moment too. My left leg is all crappy. I still feel the effects of the car hitting me in 2003."
A 13-year professional career
Zabriskie turned professional in 1999 with the 7-UP/Colorado Cyclist team in the USA. He joined the US Postal Service team in 2001 and won a stage of the 2004 Vuelta a Espana. He moved to Team CSC in 2005 and won the prologue at the Tour de France, beating Lance Armstrong by two seconds. However that result and others between May 13, 2003, and July 31, 2006, were cancelled from his palmares after he confessed to doping as part of the USADA investigation into doping at the US Postal Service team. He was also banned for six months as part of his agreement with USADA, returning to racing in March this year.
In his affidavit to USADA, Zabriskie detailed how team manager Johan Bruyneel and team doctor Luis del Moral pressured him to take EPO in 2003, with his teammates at the time offering little support or resistance. He said he stopped doping in 2006 after seeing the downfall of close friend Floyd Landis, who won the 2006 Tour de France but then tested positive.
Zabriskie finished second overall in the 2009, 2010 and 2012 editions of the Tour of California and won five US national time trial titles and was part of Garmin-Cervelo's victory in the team time trial at the 2011 Tour de France.
He confessed to USADA after the 2010 Tour of California, giving full details of his own doping and of doping at the US Postal Service team. His testimony helped lead to Armstrong's lifetime ban and subsequent confession.
"It's been an interesting 13 years. But there's a time for everybody, nothing lasts for ever, even cold November rain…," he said with his usual dry sense of humour.
Zabriskie could have stayed quiet about his past but insists he wanted to do his bit, to make up for his past and that of his generation.
"I feel I contributed something," he told Cyclingnews.
"Nothing good comes from staying silent, so I came out with everything I had to say. Hopefully people can learn from all that stuff."
Excited about being a dad
Zabriskie intends to spend time at home with his family. He will continue to ride and has some ideas for a future that involves cycling.
"I've got two kids at home. That's really my priority now, putting all my energy into those guys and trying to give them the best possible upbringing that I can. I'm excited about being a dad," he said.
"Cycling is what I know so I'll pursue something along those avenues. I've got a few ideas. I'm still going to ride bikes."