David Zabriskie

Los Angeles - The american cyclist David Zabriskie will begin the Tour de France with the intention of becoming the first competitor to complete the gruelling 2,200-mile, three-week race on a vegan diet.

Zabriskie, who is six foot tall and weighs just over 10 stone (about 63kg), will eat no meat, eggs or dairy products, despite cyclists usually needing to consume 8,000 calories a day during the race - in part by scoffing large portions of meat in order to replace lost protein.

But the 32-year-old believes he has had his most successful season since adopting his new diet last year.

“I think a lot of people see food in terms of whether it's going to make them fat or make them skinny,” he told yesterday's Wall Street Journal.

“I'm seeing food in terms of how it's going to make me think and will it give me clarity.”

He added that his overall health has improved, and that minor ailments, including the saddle rash he suffered from persistently, have all begun to clear up.

His employers, the Garmin-Cervelo team, admit they were initially concerned by Zabriskie's vegan diet. Team director, Jonathan Vaughters, insisted the cyclist ate extra portions of leafy greens, such as spinach. Their fears dissipated when he hit a run of good form, winning the time trial during this year's Tour of California and then coming first in the US time-trial championships. Vaughters added the next three weeks would be “the ultimate test of the vegan diet”.

On paper, Zabriskie still does not have much chance of winning the Tour, which he has entered five times and completed three times. But he did win the time trial in 2005 and he hopes to replicate that feat. - The Independent