Time trial specialist Tom Zirbel of Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies powered to victory today at the USPRO National Championship Time Trial in Chattanooga, Tennessee, claiming his first national title in the discipline he has devoted much of his career as a professional cyclist to mastering.
“I’m really psyched about finally getting on the top step here. It’s been a goal of mine since finishing 4th way back in 2005 as an amateur, ,” said Zirbel after his championship run. “It’s also so gratifying that I am able to pay back the team for all of their hard work and investments in my performance. I feel like we have the best staff on the planet and this result is a small vindication of their talents and sacrifices they make for the team on a daily basis. And hopefully this result will increase our momentum for the USPRO road race and beyond.”
Zirbel, who conquered some of the country’s top men against the clock on the 31 kilometer out-and-back course, became the team’s fifth national champion.
“This is a very exciting day for Tom, I don’t think anyone works harder or focuses more on the time trial discipline than he does, and he put together an amazing ride today,” said Performance Director Jonas Carney. “He has come close many times, and he was really upset after he had to drop out of California last week, due to dehydration from the extreme heat we saw on the opening stages. He didn’t let it get him down, and used it as further motivation to prepare for this race.”
Zirbel’s time of 38:16.03 topped runner-up Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing) by 17.28 seconds, and third place finisher Nathan Brown (Bontrager Cycling Team) by 41.10. The six foot, five inch powerhouse known as the “Flying Z” averaged 29.8 miles per hour on the new Chattanooga course, which featured few major turns and rolling hills throughtout, perfectly suited for a big, powerful rider of Zirbel’s caliber.
The friendly intra-team TT competition continues, with Zirbel’s teammate Chad Haga, continuing to show his ability in the discipline, finished five seconds from the podium, in fifth place, and Scott Zwizanski finished ninth, 1:38.60 off Zirbel’s pace.
“This is also a huge day for our program,” added Carney. “We are an all-North American team, and have been coming to this race trying to win a jersey for seven years. We have finished second numerous times, so it is not only a monkey off the back of Tom, it is a massive victory for our team.”
The women’s team had a strong showing as well in the time trial, with Jade Wilcoxson bookending her performance at the Tour of California women’s time trial with another strong ride, finishing fifth, 44.53 off of the lead. Teammates Janel Holcomb and Brianna Walle rounded out the top ten in seventh and tenth, respectively.
Orange and Black Add More Red White and Blue to Arsenal
A new stars and stripes themed speedsuit will be on short order for Zirbel, as he heads into crucial time trial events at the upcoming Nature Valley Grand Prix, title sponsor Optum’s hometown race, where Zirbel claimed the yellow jersey in 2012. Also in the queue, returning from 2011, is the USA Pro Challenge’s challenging Vail time trial, a chance for Zirbel to show of his power at altitude, in the state where he currently resides and trains.
Zirbel joins Optum p/b KBS’ Ken Hanson, current USPRO Criterium champion, and Ian Moir, a USPRO national champion on the track (scratch race). Sunday’s road race national championship will be a chance for the orange and black men to sweep the USPRO road titles, something unprecedented for a continental racing program. Zirbel’s result brings the grand total of national champions on the team to five (Courteney Lowe is the New Zealand Road Race National Champion, and Denise Ramsden is the Canadian champion in the same discipline).
Carney brings 11 riders to compete in the road race, including 2010 runner-up Alex Candelario. Rachel Heal’s women’s team will have a strong lineup to contest the starts and stripes in the road race as well, including 2012 runner-up Lauren Hall.
1 Tom Zirbel (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) 0:38:16.03
2 Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing Team) 0:00:17.28
3 Nathan Brown (Bontrager Cycling Team) 0:00:41.10
4 Lawson Craddock (Bontrager Cycling Team) 0:00:41.88
5 Chad Haga (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) 0:00:46.07
6 David Williams (5-Hour Energy p/b Kenda) 0:00:48.89
7 Matthew Busche (RadioShack Leopard) 0:00:53.92
8 Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (Jamis-Hagens Berman) 0:01:24.16
9 Scott Zwizanski (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) 0:01:38.60
10 Joseph Rosskopf (Hincapie Sportswear Development Team) 0:01:40.64
1 Carmen Small (Specialized-lululemon) 0:42:37.70
2 Kristin McGrath (Exergy TWENTY16) 0:00:01.25
3 Alison Powers (NOW and Novartis for MS) 0:00:12.42
4 Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) 0:00:41.14
5 Jade Wilcoxson (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) 0:00:44.53
6 Jacquelyn Crowell (Exergy TWENTY16) 0:00:45.64
7 Janel Holcomb (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) 0:01:01.33
8 Tayler Wiles (Specialized-lululemon) 0:01:10.81
9 Jessica Cutler (Vanderkitten) 0:01:26.33
10 Brianna Walle (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) 0:01:37.34