BAKERSFIELD, California (VN) — Dave Zabriskie has been here before.
In 2010, Zabriskie (Garmin-Barracuda) took the lead at the Amgen Tour of California after winning stage 3, finishing in Santa Cruz with the Australian Michael Rogers and Levi Leipheimer, 17 seconds ahead of the peloton.
At this year’s stage 5 time trial in Bakersfield, he took the lead again, all by himself.
“My house is two hours from here. I came out in the winter to ride the course. There’s a nice petting zoo on the course, so the kids went there while I pre-rode. I knew how I wanted to ride it: soccer field, petting zoo, take it easy, go hard.”
Go hard he did, to secure a 34-second advantage over Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing).
In 2010, Zabriskie and Rogers were separated by just four ticks going into the final time trial in Los Angeles, when Rogers put five seconds into Zabriskie and secured the overall win. With three stages to go in this year’s race, can Zabriskie hold on to the leader’s yellow jersey all the way to L.A.?
“I’m not gonna lay down and give it away,” said the reigning U.S. time trial champion. “I mean, Dave Zabriskie is gonna fight.”
That means sticking around until the final pitches of the Mount Baldy climb on stage 7, arguably the crux of the entire week of racing. With last year’s winner Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan) losing substantial time today, he will need to attack as soon as the road turns up if he is to take back lost time to GC rivals van Garderen, Robert Gesink (Rabobank), Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Garmin riders Tom Danielson and Andrew Talansky. Each of those riders had far better performances than Horner under the strong Central Valley sun, and are now stacked in the top 10 overall.
Zabriskie isn’t a pure climber like many on that list. But Dave Zabriskie is gonna fight. He has finished second in California on three separate occasions (2006, 2009, 2010), including that loss by nine seconds to Rogers.
“It would be the biggest win of my life, of my career, if I won the overall,” he said. “But it’s definitely not easy.”