By Kirsten Robbins in San Luis, Argentina
Three-time Canadian Olympian Eric Wohlberg made the jump from twelve years of professional bike racing to directing of the Bissell Pro Cycling Team in 2009. He is set to lead the US-based continental squad at the Tour of San Luis starting on January 19. According to Wohlberg, he is looking forward to the challenge of directing the team for the first time in Argentina.
"I've been on some smaller teams in the past where the riders had to step up and do some organizing and logistics, so it is not brand new for me," Wohlberg said. "I had some opportunities to continue racing but this came up, an opportunity to become a part of the Bissell staff. I'm looking forward to the challenge. We're down here for the opportunity to get an early season race in. I think it's a really good way to get the team to gel before the Tour of California."
Like the other teams invited from the Northern Hemisphere, Wohlberg could not pass up an opportunity to send his team south to the warm temperatures. "Some of the guys haven't had the best winter opportunities living in the North American winter," Wohlberg said. "We have gotten some financial support from the organization to come down here so it was an easy decision." The organization offered flights, lodging and meals to most teams as an incentive to compete in their event.
The six-man team competing in San Luis includes brothers Ben and Andy Jacques-Maynes, Tom Zirbel, Joao Correira, Kirk O'Bee and Burke Swindlehurst. Wohlberg noted there is minimal pressure on the team to perform and a great opportunity for the riders to improve their fitness before the Tour of California in February. "They're here to do some hard race miles in warm weather," Wohlberg said. "If our time trialists, Ben Jacques-Maynes and Tom Zirbel, sit in the bunch for the first two stages and stay fresh for the time trial, we'll see what they can do. I think that will be great."
Both time trialists have placed inside the top ten at the Tour of California and are regarded as two of the nation's best. Zirbel went on to take second place at the US Pro time trial championships last year, behind Dave Zabriskie racing for Garmin. According to Zirbel stage three's 20 kilometre time trial will be a good test of fitness and a chance to dial in his position.
"I can't say that I've been putting too much focus on my time trial this winter," said Zirbel who resides in Boulder, Colorado during the winter months. "But, I think doing the time trial here will give me a chance to see where I'm at. I also have a few equipment changes so I have an opportunity to make some adjustments if needed."