What’s a former yellow jersey wearer to do after he’s unpinned his road racing numbers? Race the Leadville Trail 100.
On Saturday, Dave Zabriskie will line up in Leadville like other roadies before him to test his mettle over the daunting 103 miles high in the Colorado Sky.
When Zabriskie walked away from pro cycling last year, he did so quietly. Zabriskie was one of the riders who provided testimony to the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s Lance Armstrong investigation and also admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs, and when his time was up with Garmin-Sharp, he exited stage right. He just completed the Race Across America (RAAM), and will race in Colorado this weekend. VeloNews caught up with Zabriskie, 35, on Thursday.
VeloNews: How are you?
Dave Zabriskie: I’m fine. I’m just up in Leadville getting ready to have a race here. … I’ve been wanting to do it for a little while. At the same time I was kind of planning that RAAM thing, and I started planning this as well. This local team (Pedalers Fork, 10 Speed Coffee) that I kinda joined up with, they were coming up, so I came up with them.
VN: What do you make of the Colorado scene?
DZ: Pretty cool. We’ve been here since Tuesday, basically. The town’s getting more and more crowded. And then this morning we went and stood in line and did the registration. It’s kind of like standing in the line at Disneyland. I was getting butterflies.
VN: Are you looking to win or what?
DZ: I really don’t think there’s a good chance of that. I’m not quite sure what to expect. Essentially it’s my first mountain bike event ever.
VN: Really? How’d you pick this one?
DZ: Everyone told me it was, like, not very technical. … [But] I just did that Power Line downhill, and I think they’re full of. … But it’s a beautiful town. Pretty exiting.
VN: Were you able to get some good training in?
DZ: No. So, I did that RAAM thing, and I actually got a pretty bad parasite after that. Like I was laid out pretty much for two weeks. So I hit the bottom pretty hard, and I’ve just been slowly crawling outta this hole. So I’m just hoping for the best up here. We came up a little early for the altitude. I got a few decent rides in, in LA. And I did go to Mammoth for like five or six days.
VN: You’ve been mostly quiet since you left the sport. How’s post-pro life been treating you?
DZ: I mean I’m not complaining. I don’t miss the road racing really that much at all. I watch a little bit of the Tour, and seeing all those guys falling down, I didn’t really have any — I didn’t wanna be there, really. And then, it’s still a bit transitional. I’ve been home with the family. That’s nice.
VN: Do you feel OK with how things ended?
DZ: I don’t know. I’m not sure still. It’s still something I go over every day, to myself. There’s so many ways to look at it. Every day I think you can look at this way, look at it that way. … I don’t know.
VN: You still like riding your bike though? Is it still fun?
DZ: Yeah. I still like riding bikes. It was really fun doing RAAM. Going across the country, there were times when I had a little tear in my eye … going through so many areas of the country I’d raced previously. It was kind of like my own personal goodbye to America that nobody knew about but me.
VN: Can you compare RAAM to the Tour?
DZ: It’s a lot less stressful as far as, you’re not fighting a group of 200 guys. Which, that was always a pain for me. You’re by yourself a lot, so it’s kind of you versus the elements, really. Versus sleep deprivation. But you gotta get in the rhythm of it, and next thing I know we were done. We finished just under six days. … The group I was with was super cool guys.
VN: When you show up somewhere, how are you received?
DZ: I’m not sure. I really don’t know.
VN: I guess you’d know though, if it wasn’t good.
DZ: Yeah. I hope so. I’m sorry for everything.
VN: Anything else?
DZ: Just biking. Family. I’ve got the non-profit I’ve been working on. It’s called Yield to Life. Because I got hit pretty bad in ’03. It’s a non-profit I started, and there’s quite a few issues down there in LA with distracted driving. There’s a case going on in L.A. right now that the sheriff actually killed a guy while he was texting. … L.A.’s an interesting place to try to get a road safety campaign going. … It’s scary. You’ve got to be so careful.
VN: One more thing. Don’t be pulling across that Leadville course in the wind. Although everyone’s going to be saying, ‘you’re the guy.’
DZ: Unfortunately, they’d probably be wrong. I just don’t have the time to train like I used to. Either way if I fall off the pace or whatever I should be able to finish. I think that’s what it’s about for a lot of people there — finishing. Having a good time.