Salt Lake City's Dave Zabriskie capped one of his most frustrating seasons as a professional cyclist with one of his best races.
Thursday morning in Italy, Zabriskie put the hammer down in his specialty and captured third place in the individual time trial at the world cycling championships. His time of 52 minutes, 53 seconds over the 43.7 kilometer course was 52 seconds off the pace set by Germany's Bert Grabsch. Canada's Svein Tuft was second, 42 seconds back.
Levi Leipheimer, a Rowland Hall graduate who still comes to Utah for training, finished fourth at 1:05 behind the winner.
Zabriskie, a 29-year-old Olympus High graduate has battled back from a career-threatening injury during the Giro d'Italia in which he suffered a compression fracture of a vertebra. He sat out much of the season and is finally returning to the form that has made him among the best time trial racers in the world.
During the past few weeks he won the U.S. championship for the third year in a row and was part of a successful Tour of Missouri with his Garmin-Chipotle team.
Thursday's result was a nice way to end his difficult season.
"I'm satisfied. It's always nice to do better, but for the season I've had, it's good for me to have something," Zabriskie told VeloNews after the race. "It's been a difficult year for me, so I'm happy."
The rolling course in Italy, unlike the mountainous Olympic time trial course he finished 12th on, played to his strengths, Zabriskie said.
"Today the course suited me better than China, not only because it didn't have a big climb, but it was not as humid. I've also had a few more races in my legs, which helps with my fitness," Zabriskie said. "I was hoping to do well, third is pretty good. I will be satisfied with that."
Leipheimer, fresh off a brutal campaign at the Spanish Vuelta where he finished second overall, didn't have the legs he hoped to have.
"I'm disappointed. I felt strong. I felt like I was going fast, just not fast enough," Leipheimer told VeloNews. "Maybe (the course was better for him than Beijing), maybe not, it was flat, fast, maybe it was a little bit better for the bigger guys. I felt fine after the Vuelta, I just wasn't as fast I wanted to be."
Leipheimer and Zabriskie will race again Sunday in the road race world championships where Leipheimer will again be one of the favorites.