Mention the name of David Zabriskie of the Garmin-Slipstream team and most cycling fans think of two things: expert time trialist and goofball interviews (yes I said goofball). But in my opinion we can now add a third item to that list, and that is leader.
After nine years as a professional cyclist, four times and reigning US Pro Time Trial Champion, Zabriskie claimed his first overall win in a stage race at the Tour of Missouri.
“It’s not easy.” said a deadpan Zabriskie when a journalist expressed their surprise that this was his first overall stage race victory.
“I’ve had some very good victories, and some good success but never an overall win so this is the first, that’s nice. It feels very gratifying, a time trial is nice, those have been the majority of my wins but that’s something that – I don’t know how to explain what that feels like – it’s like a physical attribute that I have and I know that I can do and this was something that’s always been out there, ‘maybe I can do it, maybe I can do it’. “ said the 30-year old Zabriskie. “Now that it has happened, it’s pretty cool.”
Zabriskie stayed out of trouble in the first four stages to grab the yellow leader’s jersey in stage 5 where he blitzed the flat 30.6 km (19 mi) time trial, winning with a time 30 seconds faster than his closest competitor. All he had to do was defend for the next two stages.
“I have the capabilities, it’s never really panned out but this one looks good so far.” said Zabriskie who was confident that his team could defend the yellow jersey with two stages to go. “I think that the guys are really motivated, I don’t have to tell them anything, they know what they need to do.”
Attacks flew in the final two stages, with the fastest speed on record for any stage of the Tour of Missouri set on the rolling terrain of the 177.5km (110.3-mile) stage 6 where the peloton averaged 48 km/hr (29.85 mphr). That brought us to the final stage, the 114.9 km ( 71.4 miles) circuit race in Kansas City, where the Saxo Bank team stacked the break to try to weaken the Garmin-Slipstream team and isolate Zabriskie.
But Zabriskie took notes during his years as a professional. “What I’ve learned in the past from watching others was not to freak out, so I just tried to stay calm and rely on the team and they pulled through.”
And his team did exactly that. Teammate Jason Donald, who dug deep to work for his team at the front of the field, never doubted Zabriskie’s leadership.
“Dave in the public eye, around everybody, may not come across as a good leader but when we’re all amongst each other, he’s a great leader.” said Donald. “We all follow everything he says, he’s motivating even if he’s not the most talkative about it, he’ll tell us what we need to do, how we need to do it and he’s really calm and relaxed about it.”
Will we see other leader’s jersey on Zabriskie shoulders in the future? I think so, and so does he. “Don’t see why not, I hope so.”