Tom Zirbel fought his way into a powerful breakaway in stage six of the USA Pro Challenge that stayed clear of the peloton into downtown Fort Collins, presenting its riders with the rare opportunity to fight for the stage win alone. Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) dashed away from his companions over the closing kilometers, and Zirbel finished off of the podium in the dash to the line behind him. It was an impressive ride for the Colorado native on a characteristically punishing stage in Colorado. Zirbel’s breakaway escaped in the heavy crosswinds that opened the stage, and stayed clear over the day’s mountain pass in Rist Canyon.
“The chase was coming hard over Rist, and we thought it was a long shot to make it to the line,” said Zirbel. “But as soon as we got together on the descent, all six of us, we worked together really well. I knew that would surprise whoever was chasing, because on the climb we weren’t going hard, and on the descent we started going gung ho.”
After clearing Rist and a comparable bump in the road at Horsetooth Reservoir, it was all downhill to the finish for the riders left in the move, and the chess game began.
“The last 5 k is when it all went down. I know my strengths, I knew I needed to get a gap early if I wanted to win the stage,” said Zirbel. “I knew the other guys in the break knew my strengths as well. Kreuziger beat me to it. We worked to bring him and Brown back after they jumped, and I did the majority of the work – I still thought I had a shot, but once it hits 1 k to go, everyone in that group is can go really hard for thirty seconds. That wasn’t the position I wanted to be in.”
Performance Jonas Carney was happy to see Zirbel contest the win in another rare opportunity for the breakaway in Colorado.
“It was a tricky finish as there weren’t really any features to set up a winning attack in the last 15 k of the race. Attacking too early could doom the breakaway, and waiting too long would suit the punchier riders in a sprint, so a lot of tactics were at play in the finish. I know Tom isn’t happy with the result, but it was still a very impressive ride against some really tough World Tour competition.”
Women’s Peloton Blows Apart in Opening Road Race
the race quickly fell apart in the crosswind laden flats on a similar course for the Women’s USA Pro Challenge’s road race opener, again centered around the Rist Canyon climb. The Optum p/b KBS women, still shaking off travel and fatigue from their extended European campaign, suffered on the challenging course, and were unable to contest a four rider sprint in Fort Collins. They look to the fast, flat criterium course in Golden for the final stage to make a rebound.