Destiny… Defined in a Nanosecond
By Dave Shields
It’s amazing to think back on key moments in our lives and
consider how they altered our future. It’s enlightening when we can see those
moments in the lives of others. Maybe that’s one of the things that rivets us to
the Tour de France, and to sports in general.
Dave Zabriskie invested incredible preparation into
Saturday’s stage one time trial. Anybody could plainly see that two seconds
redefined his world. In less time than it takes to draw a full breath, he
changed from another young hopeful into a name we’ll never forget.
Would this moment have happened if Lance Armstrong’s foot had been more securely
clipped to his pedal in the start house? If Zabriskie had fallen short by even a
single second it would have still been a great performance, but not nearly as
many people would have cared, and Dave wouldn’t have learned what it feels like
to wear yellow.
I got to sit down in the home where Zabriskie grew up the
day after the biggest race of his life. His mother, Sheree Hamok, related
talking to him by phone while he waited for his competiton to finish. “Did I do
good?” he asked. “Yeah, you did real good, Dave.” She’d talked with her son as
he waited near the finish line, worrying that Armstrong might relegate him to
We all know what happened. The kid from Salt Lake City who
grew up wanting to be a Super Hero had just turned himself into one. Through
relentless effort he’d blurred the border between dream and reality. Even his
widest grin couldn’t contain the joy, and aren’t we fortunate for it. I
practically drowned in the emotion.
Two days after my visit to Zabriskie’s home I watched the
Team Time Trial while doing an interview on KNBR in San Francisco, Dave’s
current off-season home. His performance was clearly a big part of the reason
CSC was surprising everybody on this stage. His team set the best times all the
way along course, despite being a heavy underdog to Discovery.
Then, only 1200 meters from the finish line, another of
those epic moments occurred; only this time it was the bad sort. Zabriskie
slammed into the pavement. He skittered along the blacktop, still attached to
his bicycle, narrowly avoided by his teammates. Could he yet comprehend that
catastrophe had stolen his dream. The radio hosts, men who admitted having
little interest in cycling when our interview began, were riveted. The race had
delivered more than they ever expected.
Dave quickly got onto a new bicycle, but by now reality
must have been hitting hard. I spoke to his mother not long after she heard from
him. They were both devastated. She, because she wanted to hold her boy in her
arms. He, because such incredible possibilities had disappeared so suddenly.
Zabriskie must have dreamed of winning the Tour de France
from time to time, but his mom says his primary commitment has always been to
supporting Ivan Basso, his team leader. Now, despite bruised ribs, a stitched
elbow, several patches of road rash, and a tremendous mental jolt, Dave’s focus
must turn entirely to that objective. He’s going to have to overcome a lot to
I, for one, will be watching closely. Given that Dave has a
history of performing at every level, of reaching every objective, of overcoming
every obstacle, I’m looking forward to a special performance. For those of you
aren’t convinced yet, we’re all about to see how this kid responds to adversity.
I think he’s about to prove that he’s the real deal. I can’t wait to tune in,
and then hang on tight!
Dave Shields is the author of Amazon’s #1 Selling Sports
Novel, The Race. In June the book became the first sports themed novel ever to
win the Ben Franklin Award for Best New Voice in Fiction. See more at http://www.ReadTheRace.com.