PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
Twenty-six-year-old David Zabriskie is known as a time trial specialist, but admitted that he "never ever, ever" thought he could have won Saturday's opening time trial stage of the Tour de France, and in doing so take the yellow jersey.
Zabriskie won two stages at the Tour of Spain last season - the team time trial and a road stage after a long, lone breakaway - while riding for Lance Armstrong's US Postal squad, and has tasted success this year while riding for CSC at this year's Giro d'Italia, where he won the stage eight individual time trial. It means he has now won stages in all three of the major tours.
Zabriskie set the fastest time after setting off as the 19th man of the 189-rider field, but then had to wait almost three hours before eventual second-place Lance Armstrong - the last man to start - posted his time. "When I saw his intermediate times, it was very stressful, and I'm glad it worked out in my favour," Zabriskie said with a grin. "But I never thought this would happen - never ever, ever."
He admitted the waiting had been quite difficult. "It's becoming a common thing for me to wait around after time trials," he said referring to the Vuelta and Giro victories, "but it wasn't as hard as the race itself."
After four seasons at US Postal, Zabriskie seems to have flourished under the direction of Bjarne Riis at CSC. But with his former team leader Armstrong about to retire, the American, from Utah, doesn't feel under any kind of pressure to take up his mantle. "I don't feel any kind of expectation at all. I'm Dave Zabriskie, and I just do what I do," he said.
"Those years at Postal were good for me - developmental years, and I gained a lot of experience," Zabriskie continued. "I just decided to try something new last year and it's working out for me."
He admitted that not that many people might have heard of him after he was kept out of action for much of 2003 after a training ride accident that May. "It was in my home town of Utah, and I was hit by an SUV. I broke my left arm and my left leg and still have screws in my knee. It took me a long time to get over that," Zabriskie said.
There was another serious crash at the Redlands Classic in March 2004, but, with no broken bones, he was soon back in action. His Vuelta road stage win later that season came after a long breakaway during which time he put his time trial skills to good use, and although Zabriskie admits that most of his victories have been in time trials, he thinks he has more to offer.
"Yeah, I think I have other possibilities. I do well at time trials, but I can progress and improve and it will be possible for me to win other styles of races," he said.
For now, Zabriskie can be glad of those time trial skills, and will start Sunday's second stage between Challans and Les Essarts in yellow.
"The feeling of wearing yellow is amazing! Unbelievable!" smiled Zabriskie. "But it might be difficult to sleep tonight, and I don't know how long I can keep it."
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM