Dave Zabriskie has competed in the Tour de France, the World Time Trial Championships and is a five-time National Time Trial Champion. He came out of his recent retirement in order to join Dave Mirra, Ben Bostrom and Micky Dymond on The Legends of the Road team for the Race Across America. We were thrilled to get his perspective on this race as a professional cyclist and find out about his on-profit organization called Yield To Life.
MLAS: I didn’t hear about this race until last year’s Riding The Line. Cycling across the country is such a huge challenge. Even though you have vast experience in the sport, what made you want to do this race?
DZ: I always knew about it and it was always kind of in the back of my head like it’s something I would like to do, and then the opportunity arose kinda out of nowhere. I didn’t have much else going on and I kinda said yes and then bonus to that was a way to spread the message of road safety for myself, for my foundation Yield To Life. So it’s all kind of perfect for me and then the group of guys that are going along. Had it been another group of guys I don’t think I would say yes but I think it’s an interesting cast of characters and cool guys that I couldn’t pass up the chance to experience this.
MLAS: If you ask most people what their greatest challenges would be in doing a cross-country race like this, they might say, “Everything.” What are the greatest challenges you will be facing during this race?
DZ: Probably be the sleep deprivation ‘cause it’s a non-stop race. You don’t get a full night’s rest so that’ll be the big challenge, trying to battle that, all the elements on the road with not a lot of sleep.
MLAS: Has your preparation for this race been more strenuous because of the demands?
DZ: Not really. I was still in form from when I was in the pro tour so I just kind of did a lot of miles in the last month and then taking an easy week. Just hoping my muscle memory will kick in. I was also pretty excited that most of the race is done on time trial bikes and that’s my favorite bike, and I just wanted to do a really long, extended effort on a time trial bike and that sounded appealing as well.
MLAS: How was the group training you guys had together?
DZ: That was pretty fun actually. It all came together really close to my house so I knew all the roads and showed these guys around. We got to know each other and I think it got us a lot more comfortable for what we’re about to tackle.
MLAS: Do you have a plan for how long each stint is going to be?
DZ: I think we’ll be doing 4-6 hour shifts. We’ll split the four-man into a two-man, so essentially we should get four hours on, four hours off; but within the four hours we’ll do half-hour turns. It’s interesting. There is like rest built it but yeah.
MLAS: How do you usually recover after a race and how do you plan to do that during this event?
DZ: Usually for the racing that I did it was so aerobic and so deep that you would need more recovery. For this it’s so long that I don’t think it’s a good idea to go so deep into the rest that even on the bike, I think you need to be easing your efforts and thinking about recovery. I mean if there’s a fast section on the road, I mean I will try to recover on the bike and not even pedal. If there’s a good wind or something like you know, if there’s no reason to pedal, then I won’t have to pedal. It’s a completely different race from what I’m used to. I think it’ll be interesting. It will be fun.
MLAS: Do you have any plan at all as to what you’re going to do when you’re not riding?
DZ: I’ll try to eat as much as I can and then try to get some rest, like sleep, but it won’t be easy to fall asleep in that kind of environment so, I think it might take until like the third day that you’re really just so tired that your body will just actually, could pass out anywhere. Like even when you’re sitting in the car for that half-hour and then someone pokes you and tells you, “Your turn!” I think that could happen.
MLAS: What do you guys eat when you’re doing something like this?
DZ: I need to go to the store today and get a bunch of supplies just so I’m covered, but I think it’ll be a lot of rice, sweet potatoes, coffee, like slow-burning carbohydrates and protein, fat. Pretty much anything you want to eat, I think you’ll be eating.
DZ: Yeah rice, sweet potatoes, stuff like that, a lot of energy bars probably and a lot of shakes.
MLAS: Since The Race Across America is so long and non-stop for nine days maximum, is there anything you’re really looking forward to doing on this ride that doesn’t happen during typical races like racing at night?
DZ: Yeah, that’ll be interesting – the night time factor. It’s cool that they’ve built it around the moon cycle so we’ll have moonlight as well. I’ve done a few night rides here and there but nothing of this magnitude. I think the night rides, we’ll be a little more cautious because we won’t be able to see certain things so that’s where the crew comes into play, and to knowing what’s on the road. They’ll have a book with every single thing that’ll pop up and they’ll be on the radio telling you to watch out for railroad tracks, things like that.
MLAS: You guys will have spotters like race car drivers. We saw a photo Dave Mirra posted on social media of his one-way ticket to California, saying that he was riding back home.
DZ: (chuckles) Yeah I live in California so I’m riding there and flying back. I heard that some guy did the race and actually turned around and rode back by himself.
MLAS: Yeah I heard that too!
DZ: It’s interesting people who do this kind of stuff! That’s the other thing like meeting this whole different crowd of people who love bike and do bike stuff. I mean we have that in common but they just do like a completely different event from what I’m used to, but they super-nice people and it’s cool to meet them and share what we have in common.
MLAS: When we spoke to Micky (first), he said that some people do it for the challenge but there are also unforeseen and unexpected benefits of the experience that makes them want to come back and do it again and again. You’re all certainly not doing it for the money and you’re not doing it for the fame because you’re all famous already. What do you feel you’ll get out of it for yourself?
DZ: As far as the experience itself I think it’ll be a very meditative experience. The things that happen to your mind in general are amazing like endorphins that are released, the thoughts you have. I mean you never know. You could be riding through the desert in the middle of the night and just have some connection to the universe that your mind opens up to that you never had before – an epiphany. Just an expansion of everything, it probably doesn’t make sense. (laughing)
MLAS: Oh no, it makes perfect sense! Can you tell us about your foundation, Yield to Life?
DZ: I was run over by a car in 2003. I’d been hit prior to that a few times but in 2003 it really (brief pause) did a lot of damage to my body, and it was basically because the driver just didn’t want to wait a couple seconds and yeah when she saw me and like, I can’t really go to a cycling event and not talk to anybody that hasn’t been hit by a car or read the news about hit-and-runs. It’s really like a senseless problem. It’s not a disease. It’s not something that we’re looking for a cure. It’s something that’s completely unavoidable that people just expect to see cyclists in the road. It’s something that I feel is so fixable that I’m trying to change the mindsets of motorists and cyclists on some levels to respect each other and yield to life. I mean I think that we’re all life forms. I expect that it would be just basic human nature. You’re trying to remind people that the bike isn’t a nuisance in the road that they need to hurry and get around, and holding them up from whatever they’re doing you know? If they could just yield to life maybe some kid will have his father and mother and brother and all that. Nobody has to die.
MLAS: It’s so important and simple to just leave the cyclists be. Did anything happen to the person who hit you?
DZ: She was issued a citation but nothing really significant.
MLAS: Good grief. Please tell us how people can contribute towards Yield To Life?
DZ: Spreading the message and going to the website: www.yieldtolife.org they can learn more about it, and if they feel so inclined to donate, they can do that as well.
MLAS: How did your friends and family react when you told them that you were going to ride 3,000 miles across the continental US?
DZ: (laughs) I mean at first my wife couldn’t understand it because I had just retired from cycling professionally but I told her it’s something I kind of always wanted to do. Slowly but surely she came around to the idea and then as soon as she heard that Pippa Middleton was going to be here, she got really excited.
MLAS: One more thing, I saw on your website’s bio and photos of the disc you had on your bike, you are known as Captain America – but Ben Bostrom is also known as Captain America, so (cheekily) who’s going to hold the title? Are you guys going to share it, flip a coin? Are you going to fight? (laughing)
DZ: I’m not sure about that. Yeah, I don’t know. I have no idea. (cheerfully) We’ll share it.
A Final Word
The team started on Saturday June 14th at the Oceanside Pier and arrived in downtown Annapolis, Maryland in the early hours on Friday June 20th. They not only completed the race in good health but won their class. Although the race is done, you can be still part of their effort by making a donation at http://www.gofundme.com/legendsoftheroad. You can connect with Dave via the following social media channels:
Here are The Legends of the Road official social media channels:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Legends-of-the-Road/369354739869088
Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/LegendsofRoad
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/RidingTheLineTV