Tour of California: Zabriskie to fight to keep yellow ‘until he’s almost dying’
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Friday, May 18, 2012

Tour of California: Zabriskie to fight to keep yellow ‘until he’s almost dying’

by Shane Stokes at 11:13 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour of California
Time trial winner ready to fight on upcoming climbs

Dave ZabriskieGrabbing the yellow jersey after his dominant win in yesterday’s time trial and heading into the race’s two mountain stages with a buffer over the other GC riders, Dave Zabriskie has vowed to give it everything to try to win the Amgen Tour of California.

The Garmin Barracuda rider finished second overall in both 2009 and 2010, losing out to Levi Leipheimer three years ago by 36 seconds and then finishing just nine seconds off Michael Rogers the follow year.

He’s aiming for third time lucky, and said that he’s ready to really fight to keep yellow. “I’m not going to lie down and give it away. David Zabriskie is going to fight until he’s lying on the ground almost dying,” he said, speaking with typical exaggeration.

“It would be the biggest win in my life, my career. It would be amazing; definitely not an easy thing to come by. It would be a beautiful thing.”

Zabriskie will start today’s stage to Big Bear stalked by good climbers. He has a 34 second lead over Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing Team) and a further five seconds ahead of Robert Gesink (Rabobank), while each of the riders in the top ten are within striking distance. He’s ridden well on climbs in the past but also lost races there; his uphill ability seems to hinge on his form but, fortunately, he’s feeling good about where he is now.

“The race I did prior to this was the Tour of Romandie, and prior to that it was Circuit de la Sarthe,” he said. “All year I think I’ve been racing decent and I’ve had a really great build up until now. I’m in good shape.”

When the race last visited Big Bear in 2010, there was a large group sprint to the line, won by Peter Sagan. The Liquigas Cannondale rider won the first four stages of this year’s race and while he finished far back yesterday, his legs not coping with the time trial demands, he is tipped to try to win again today.

Whether or not he does that, the 2010 result suggests that there could be a large group finishing together, and that the stage might not have a big effect on the general classification. Tomorrow’s stage to Mt. Baldy will be different, though, with the steep slopes certain to shatter the bunch.

“I’ve done it previous years in the race. Mt. Baldy is a difficult hill,” Zabriskie acknowledged. “It’s going to be hot and those pitches get really steep. It’s short but takes a while.”

He’ll be nervous about it, but also knows he has a decent buffer plus a very strong team backing him. “Being in the jersey is a good position to be in. Having those guys [his team-mates] within striking distance and being the type of riders they are, we’re in a really good position to do good things here.”

One rider he now appears to rule out as a contender is last year’s winner Chris Horner. The RadioShack Nissan rider had a disastrous time trial, losing almost three minutes, and is now a long way back. Zabriskie believes that his threat has been minimised, that that he needs to instead concentrate on others.

“That’s too big [for Horner], but what the gap is from the other climbers, I don’t know. I’m not a climber. He’s a really good climber. Tom Danielson – really good climber, Talansky, those are the really good climbers,” he said. “Those are the gaps you should look at, not the Zabriskie to Horner gap.”

Garmin Barracuda has made no effort to conceal the fact that it wants to win this race. It’s never done so, but the team is on the up and its riders have worked hard to get ready. It has three riders in the top seven overall, namely Zabriskie, Andrew Talansky (4th) and Tom Danielson (7th), and therefore has several options for the win.

The new leader will be protected, as you might expect. He knew prior to the time trial that if he was to make the most of his abilities, that he had to try to open a big a lead as is possible. He succeeded in that goal, has a decent buffer, and will now lead from the front as he aims to win the biggest stage race of his career.


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