Thursday, August 23, 2012

At This Point I Don't Know What My Limits Are. I'll Just Assume There Aren't Any

If you have been watching the US Pro Challenge, the local consensus is that Joe has been the highlight, our homeboy taking the best young rider blue, and breaking it down for the press, MABRA-style, stating, "At this point I don't know what my limits are.  I'll just assume there aren't any."  Then he goes and enjoys a podium threesome (see below).  

While nothing beats a kid believing in possibilities, the highlight for me thus far has been an impressive bit of regurgitation by Dave Zabriskie (full vid below).

I'm only slightly joking about Zabriskie's hurling being so awesome.  Although it was Tom Danielson who benefited from Zabriskie's work, it was Zabriskie who powered the break away from the field, giving Danielson a chance at victory.

Zabriskie's sacrificial ride on stage 1 would have been notable for reasons beyond its wattage (and vomitage), but Zabriskie followed that up with another break in stage 2, and another long day of setting up his teammate, Alex Howes.  The field caught Howes with 500 meters to go, but Vandevelde was there, following Van Garderen, and should have taken the stage.  

Yesterday Zabriskie took what had been an impressive feat--two days in a row of power a breakaway--and turned it into something legendary:  three days in a row of powering breaks and setting up teammates.  The third stage from Gunnison to Aspen is arguably the highest stage of racing in the world, with two climbs topping out over 12,000 feet, with 9,623 feet of climbing.  Almost the entire stage took place above 9,000 feet, where the oxygen is thinner than it is almost anywhere in Europe.  It was, in fact, the thinness of the air that caused Zabriskie's nausea, witnessed in the above linked upchuck episode on stage 1.

On stage 3, Zabriskie launched a break with a dozen other riders up the first climb, Cottonwood Pass.  Said breakaway companion Jeff Louder of United Healthcare, "Zabriskie was the hero of the day.  I don't know where he gets all the energy.  I knew he'd been in the break the last two days and I figured he'd be a bit less than 100 percent but he was super-strong and he basically rode full gas all the way up Cottonwood.  I just stayed focused on the wheel and tried not to get dropped."

Zabriskie then drove the break, which was only three wheelsuckers, including Danielson, to the base of the next climb, before once again chucking in the towel.  He left Danielson with a 3-minute gap to the chase, a gap that, by the end, Danielson spent--save 2 seconds.

Zabriskie's efforts are the kind that won't show up in any stats, except those of his team--and they only show up there because, in the words of BMC's DS Michael Sayers, other teams--particularly Radio Shack--have been playing possum.  They allowed Danielson his win.  Sayers, clearly of the Rep. Todd Akin school of gender studies, stated, "I think they forgot that the women's race is later in the week."

Sayers may be right in blaming others for not chasing Danielson, but his fury and the frustration of the riders left in Danielson's wake just adds to the joy of watching aggressive tactics, like Garmin's, powered by the sublime, stomach-churning magnificence of a madman like Dave Zabriskie.  The race may not always be to the swift, just as the Good Book says, but it sure is beautiful when it's to the ballsy.

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