JUYONGGUAN, China — A 12th-place finish was not what Salt Lake City's David Zabriskie was hoping for in the men's cycling time trials Wednesday at the Beijing Olympics.

"You always want more," he said after cycling the route of two 24-kilometer laps in the mountainous Ming Tombs area. "Even when you win, you want something more."

But given where Zabriskie was just three months ago — laid up and in a frustrated funk after suffering a fractured first vertebrae in a May 11 crash during the Giro d'Italia — he'll take the finish as well as the whole Olympics experience.

"This is something I've always wanted to do," he said. "It's been a goal of mine for 14 years."

Zabriskie joined bronze medalist Levi Leipheimer as the only two Americans in the men's competition, with the 39 Olympic cyclists divided into three waves.

Starting in 90-second intervals, the riders raced the clock from the Juyongguan entrance to the Great Wall of China up to the Badaling entrance and then back down on a near-parallel return road.

A strong time-trials rider throughout his career, Zabriskie started Wednesday's event in the middle of the second wave. By the time he hit the first lap, he was in second place; at the midpoint of the second lap, he was in third.

But by the end of the two complete circuits, Zabriskie was already out of medal contention with the third and final riders still yet to start. He finished with a time of 1 hour, 5 minutes and 17.82 seconds — good for fourth overall when he finished, with other cyclists still to come.

"I don't think I ever bogged down," he said. "It's like any time trial. You just give it your all. When I crossed the line, I was totally exhausted. ... I can't go any harder than that."

E-mail: [email protected]