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By Andrew Hood
Dave Zabriskie stepped out of the Team CSC bus to find reporters waiting for him yet again, but this time he wasn’t sporting the yellow jersey.
The morning after his painful crash in the closing kilometers of Tuesday’s dramatic team time trial, Zabriskie thankfully was able to push on.
“It’s stiff. It’s a little hard to breathe, my knee is painful,” Zabriskie said before the start. “That’s what happens when you fall off.”
Much to the relief of his teammates, the smile was back on Zabriskie’s face. He was devastated after costing Team CSC the jersey with his unlucky crash.
The team is still mystified at the cause of the spill.
“We don’t know what caused Dave to fall,” said Team CSC manager Bjarne Riis. “He didn’t hit the wheel of another rider, he didn’t hit the barriers, and he didn’t have a problem with his bike.”
At the moment of the spill, Zabriskie had glanced over his right shoulder and stood out of the saddle, pushing hard down on his pedals to close a short gap to five riders up ahead. Behind him were Luke Roberts, Ivan Basso and Bobby Julich.
Zabriskie’s front wheel slipped out from underneath and the yellow jersey went spilling to the ground.
“I don’t know how it happened,” Zabriskie said. “The last part of the race is the most stressful. It’s noisy, you’re on the edge. One second and you’re on the ground. I can’t explain it.”
Zabriskie crossed the line 1:28 slower with the yellow jersey bloodied and cuts to his hip, elbow, shoulder and knee. He disappeared into the team bus, where a team doctor gave him two stitches to his left hand. Later, a trip to the hospital for X-ray found no broken bones.
“Immediately after the race, it was a big downer,” said Zabriskie, who held the yellow jersey for three days. “But it came back up again quickly. We had a team meeting on the bus, everyone supported me 100 percent. We’ll stick together.”
Team CSC officials rallied around their young disciple, boosting his spirits and encouraging him to remain positive about the Tour. He’ll be needed in the mountains to help Basso.
“We had a team meeting on the bus. Everyone backed me 100 percent. We’ll stick together,” Zabriskie said. “I want to finish the Tour. It started great for me and I want to get better and help the team. I want to help Ivan reach the podium.”
Zabriskie has had trouble staying in the peloton after two bad crashes (one in 2003 and another in 2004) left him spooked. Riis said Zabriskie shouldn’t let the crash get to him.
“This shouldn’t traumatize Dave,” Riis said. “The team is there to protect him. This shouldn’t become a setback for Dave, but it’s up to him to face it and overcome it. We don’t see this as an error. We’re not blaming Dave for anything.”
Levi’s curse of the clock
Levi Leipheimer still has a smile on his face (before the stages, at least), but you can’t help but imagining he’s getting a little frustrated with some recent bad luck he’s had with the ticking of the second hand.
In April, he missed winning the Tour de Georgia by four seconds, a close margin considering the difficulty of the decisive climbs and length of the time trial.
Then in June, he was nudged out of a victory in the opening prologue of the Dauphiné Libéré by just 0.70 seconds. Prologues are always tight on short distances, so besides a little sting, he probably wasn’t losing any sleep over that one.
His loss to Santiago Botero in the 47km time trial by a slender 0.17 second hurt a little more. After such a hard effort, second place by such a narrow margin is painful by any measure.
Leipheimer rolled out of the Dauphiné content with third place overall, however, knowing that his form was on target for the Tour.
Tuesday’s team time trial delivered one more poke in the ribs, however. His Gerolsteiner team tied Illes Balears at 2:05 off Discovery Channel’s winning time.
Based on the new rules introduced last year, teams were ranked based on placement rather than the real time. When the team’s two times were taken down to the tenths of a second, the Spanish team was just faster.
That meant on the official GC, Illes Balears was listed as seventh at 1:10 slower while Gerolsteiner was listed as eighth – 10 seconds further back.
Still, after so much salt in the wound, there was something to celebrate. The new rules saved them 45 seconds overall.
Riis wants jersey back
Bjarne Riis isn’t one to dwell on the past. Just 18 hours after losing the yellow jersey in Tuesday’s team time trial, he was already plotting on how to get it back.
“We still have some guys in the GC who can get the jersey,” Riis said. “We’re going to try to get it again before we go into the mountains.”
Team CSC has three riders in the top 10 – Jens Voigt in third at 1:04 back, Bobby Julich in fourth at 1:07 back, Dave Zabriskie in ninth at 1:26 back and Ivan Basso in 10th at 1:26 back – and four more in the top 25.
“Maybe we can work one the other guys into a breakaway,” Riis said. “They might not let Julich get away in a long break, but guys like Jens, Nicki Sorensen or Kurt-Asle Arvesen might have a chance to stay away.”
With a stage into Germany set for Friday, you can be sure Voigt will be on the move.
How fast was that?
Discovery Channel’s winning ride in Tuesday’s team time trial set a new Tour record for the fastest average speed for a stage with 57.32kph.
The previous record was 55.152kph by Briton Chris Boardman in the 1994 prologue, but over the much shorter distance of 7.2km.
Armstrong’s teammates also smashed the highest previous average speed for a Tour de France team time trial of 54.93 kph, clocked by Italian crew Gewiss-Ballan over the same distance in 1995.
The fastest Tour road stage, excluding time trials, also ended in Blois and was won by Italian Mario Cipollini in 1999 at an average of 50.355kph.