Interview: Dave Zabriskie

Catching up with Garmin-Chipotle's time trial ace

American pro cyclist Dave Zabriskie, who raced for US Postal and Team CSC, now races for the Garmin-Chipotle team. His light shined a bit brighter in the pro peloton after winning a long breakaway stage of the 2004 Vuelta and a time trial in the 2005 Giro d'Italia before beating Lance Armstrong in the 2005 Tour de France prologue time trial. The 29-year-old is currently recuperating and training in his native Salt Lake City, Utah after crashing out of the Giro d'Italia May 11. 

Zabriskie's team-mate, Christian Vande Velde, had been in the Giro’s famous pink leader's jersey after winning the opening team time trial in Palermo the day before. When he crashed, Zabriskie injured his L1 vertebrae after flipping over his handlebars, and subsequently returned to the States to begin the long road to full recovery. The month ended on a high, however, as he and wife Randi welcomed son Waylon into the world May 31.

Zabriskie wore the Tour de France's fabled yellow jersey after beating Lance Armstrong in the 2005 prologue, but if he is considered by some to be publicly outlandish he is also known to be fairly guarded and succinct in his interviews. However,  we managed to learn more a little more about the fun-loving American who is a former roommate of Floyd Landis.

Zabriskie in yellow, while a seemingly indifferent Armstrong looks for his Belgian bodyguard in 2005

Congratulations to you and Randi on the birth of Waylon. Being home with them and able to help out must be some compensation for being injured.  

Thank you. You could say that, I would've missed his first little smile if I was healthy and at the Tour. I try to do as much as I can to help but it is not much as I'm training full gas for China now.

The 2008 season started off so well for you before the Giro crash. How had you felt fitness-wise leading up to the accident?

I felt really good and healthy, it felt like the fitness was getting better every month.

Frowning and clowning during the 2005 Giro d'Italia

How has your recovery been since May?

It's just a matter of me being careful so the bone doesn't compress anymore. It was 50 percent compression of the L1 [vertebrae]. Basically I just had to sit there and wait for the bone to heal.

Zabriskie on his way into yellow on July 2, 2005. Can he regain that same fitness for Beijing?

Where are you at, power-wise, today?

I've been motor-pacing a lot and I feel like I'm really coming back into some good form.

You're on the US Olympic team for Beijing. Do you feel ready?

If it was tomorrow, no, but I'm on a great training regimen and doing everything I can do to be at the top of my game. When the time comes I feel I will be ready.

Have you been watching the Tour on TV? What are your thoughts?

I'm training early in the mornings but I watch the recaps in the evenings on Versus. It's been really cool watching Christian [Vande Velde] the way he has been riding.

How often are you in contact with (team director Jonathan) Vaughters and Allen Lim? How did you come to grips that your 2008 Tour was over in early May?

It depends on the time of the season, sometimes it's a lot and other times not so much, right now not so much. I know they are super busy, and so am I actually. I just looked forward to the next most important thing to me and that is the Olympics.

We note that you are endorsing a saddle-sore prevention cream known as  DZNuts.

Yes indeed. Many years ago I wrote an article called 'MainTAINTanance about saddle-sores' and how to maintain the old undercarriage. It's been something I've wanted to do for a long time and now I'm doing it, living the American dream. [Linguistic note for speakers of British English – ‘taint’ in US English = perineum]

But $22 for 4 ounces seems a bit steep!

I don't think you can put a price on happiness. And that's what DZ-Nuts is all about. Just the other day I got an email from somebody in Scottsdale, Arizona who put an engagement ring in the cap of a tube of DZ-Nuts and offered some to his girlfriend before their ride. She said yes and now they're getting married in December.  

Tell us about Yield to Life, the non-profit organization you're involved with. How long has it been in existence, and what do you hope to accomplish?

Yield to Life was just started this year. I want to create a safer environment for cyclists and, in so doing encourage more people to ride for their own health and the health of the planet. I want to raise awareness and educate motorists and cyclists alike - young and old - to create an atmosphere of mutual respect for and appreciation of all life on the road.

What was it like growing up in Salt Lake City? Did you feel something of an outsider for not being a Mormon and not playing team sports?

It was just growing up. I like SLC, it's nice to see the seasons change and there is plenty of parking [laughs]. I wish we could work harder on our air pollution problem. I tried some team sports; I actually kind of liked baseball for a time. Not being Mormon was difficult at times but that's all in the past. There are good people and bad in all walks of life.  

Do you chat with Floyd much these days? When's the last time you two rode together?

We talk a little bit. We rode together some over the winter in California.

Who's your favourite to win the Tour this year?

I would like to see Christian win of course.  

How many more race years are left in the legs?

Not sure on that one. I just take it year by year.

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