Tom Zirbel put on the yellow leader’s jersey at the Cascade Cycling Classic on Tuesday after speeding to victory in the race’s prologue time trial. It was the first time Zirbel claimed the leader’s jersey at America’s longest running stage race, a 5-stage affair centered around Bend, Oregon. Zirbel averaged over 34 miles per hour on the 2.5 mile loop to deliver a time of 4:23, beating out podium companions Ruben Zepuntke (Bissel Development Team) and Ignazio Moser (BMC Development Team) by less than three seconds.
“This course suited me well and on the first half I used my weight to pull me downhill and help me conserve energy,” said Zirbel. “This allowed me to push it on the uphill sections on the second half of the course, which made the difference today. I love this race – it was the first NRC event of my career and I have always wanted to take home yellow here. We race as a team and we have a great roster here, so I wouldn’t be surprised if one of my teammates is the leader at the end of the week. Whatever the case, we will try to maximize our opportunities as a team.”
The short prologue serves as a warm up forThursday’s full-length time trial. This 16 mile test against the clock will be decisive if Zirbel hopes to take home the overall title at the end of the week. Zirbel identified defending champion and skilled time trialist Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly-Maxxis) as the man to beat in Bend.
“Serghei and I have been battling in the time trial all year long, and as the defending champion, he is the guy to beat,” said Zirbel. “I can’t go uphill quite as fast as some of the talented climbers here, so we may have to get creative as a team if we’re going to win the race, at least with me on the top step.”
The team should have an array of tactical options during the week of racing, including team captain Alex Candelario in his final season of racing. Candelario calls Bend, OR home, and will be hunting for opportunities on some familiar stretches of pavement.
2014 Cascade Cycling Classic Roster