Zabriskie Interview on TTs, rumors, and bike safety
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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Zabriskie Interview on TTs, rumors, and bike safety

by Steve Jones at 8:30 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews

Over a career that spans a decade, Garmin-Slipstream rider David Zabriskie has made his mark as one of cycling's top riders when it comes to racing against the clock. In that time Zabriskie has had many successes in stage racing, including the rare accomplishment of stage wins in all three Grand Tours, successively no less, but it wasn't until his win at the Tour of Missouri last month that the American could add overall stage race victory to his name.

Early this year Zabriskie came in second place overall at the Tour of California for the second time, and followed it up with third overall at the Vuelta a Castilla y León behind Tour of California winner Levi Leipheimer and his Astana teammate and eventual Tour de France winner Alberto Contador. He also won his fourth consecutive national time trial championship, his fifth in total, on his way to winning in Missouri.

VeloNation sat down with Zabriskie at CycleLife USA in Washington DC where he was speaking to cyclists about his non-profit Yield to Life foundation. We asked him what it was like to finally take an overall victory after so many close calls, what he thought about the transfer noise circulating about his Garmin team, and what it is that makes him fare so well in the "Race of Truth."

VeloNation: What was it like to crack open your first overall victory in a stage race at the Tour of Missouri last month?

David Zabriskie: I guess its been a long time coming. It surprised a lot of people I'd never done that before. I've had successes in stage races, but just not the overall win. It was a good feeling to pull that one off.

VN: Will that win have any impact on your racing program for next season?

DZ: All the races I did this year were stage races. I rarely do a one-day race so I don't think things will change very much. I would like to do better at the Tour of California, it's always a really exciting race for me and I get really pumped up for it. I've been second there two times, and a win there would be really cool for me.

VN: When you got back from the Tour of California this year you had an unpleasant surprise waiting for you at home with your house being robbed. What happened with all of your stuff, did you get most of it back?

DZ: They [the police] didn't get very much back. They got a few things here and there, but when the case hit the media over there [Salt Lake City] supposedly the perpetrators ended up throwing a lot of the property in the dumpsters because they didn't want to get caught with it.

VN: Have you thought about trying to go for the hour record at some point?

DZ: Yeah, it's crossed my mind. I haven't spent that much time on a track, but I don't think it's that difficult to make a turn. It's not something I'm targeting in the near future, but you never know.

VN: There's been a lot of talk in the news about Bradley Wiggins possibly moving over to the new British Team Sky. He also compared the Garmin team to the Wigan football club, which isn't unlike comparing you guys to the Detroit Lions here in the US. What are your feelings on that?

DZ: He has to do what's best for him, but all I know is that he has a contract and I'd love to see him stay with us. I think he's obligated to. A lot of the times in sports you can see the media manipulate things and nothing is really happening - I don't really know the severity of these rumors. Yes, Sky has made some offers, but they haven't gone through the proper channels to make anything concrete happen.

VN: If Contador comes to Garmin does that open things up for Wiggins to move over to Sky?

DZ: That's another rumor, and as far as rumors go, my wife came to me mid-season before the Tour and said 'do you know your team is going to get Contador?' I was like, honey you're crazy, he's with Astana under contract, it's the middle of the season...I don't know where you heard that honey but that's crazy. She's actually more up on things than me. I basically ride bikes and do what I'm told to do and try to have a good time at it. If Contador comes to the team, that's cool man.

VN: So you started a non-profit called Yield to Life. Could you tell me a little bit about what you have going on there?

DZ: I started it because I was hit by a car in 2003. I still have some screws in my leg, and it still effects me when I race - a lot of imbalances in my body and biomechanically...I'm 'biomechanically challenged' sometimes [laughs]. The left side of my body gives out sometimes. That along with two other people getting run over and a woman in Salt Lake City getting killed brought my awareness level up, and I felt that I wanted to do something to try to prevent this from happening to others.

Yield-to-Life is what I came up with. I also had a moment when I imagined a ball bouncing across the street, and the feeling that I had was that anybody that sees a ball bouncing across the street immediately hits the brakes assuming that the kid is going to be chasing after it. It's like there is an imaginary life that's hooked to the ball. If I could make people realize that there is life also hooked to the bike, or life is hooked to anything. I think people see these metal boxes with wheels now, there's life everywhere on the street...the pedestrians, the cars, the bikes. Those three words Yield to Life are just trying to get people to respect life. It's not a disease, it's not like AIDS or cancer that needs a cure, it's something that could happen tomorrow if you paid attention and not run anybody over.

VN: So basically be a good citizen and respect everybody else?

DZ: Yeah, everybody knows this, it's just about drilling the message into people's heads. It happens quite frequently. I don't know what we did before, cell phones haven't been around that long, just go back in time a little bit and pretend it's not there when you're driving.

VN: You've been called the most 'aero' rider in the peloton, how did you dial in your position on the bike? Was it all done in the wind tunnel or is it just from experience and trial and error?

DZ: A lot of it is just me feeling what is fast. I've only been in the wind tunnel once, and that was just to try to mimic a position from one bike to another. I just kind of have a feel for it.

VN: Is there anything that you do in your preparations for a time-trial that you could share with an amateur cyclist that might help make them a little better at the discipline?

DZ: The goal is to go as fast as you can in the particular distance, but it's something you have to gauge which is why it's kind of artistic in a way. If you go out too hard you're gonna blow up and not finish off strong. You just have to learn how to gauge your effort to be the fastest guy at the given distance and it's just something I'm good at. Rarely do I blow up [laughs], I mean I can just feel that threshold and I just don't go over it. I don't use a heart rate monitor or anything like that, it's just a feeling.

VN: Is there anything that you can convey to someone else that might help them do better?

DZ: Yeah, something I've said is to go fast not hard. I said it to Lance [Armstrong] and Floyd [Landis] once and they thought I was crazy. But if you're going really fast, like on a downhill you can kind of coast it and stop pedalling to recover and use that energy when the course goes on the flats or the uphills. That's all part of gauging your effort. If you can get a rest, take it.


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