Bissell’s Tom Zirbel is hoping to do one better than second place this year at the US Pro time trial Championships, to be held in Greenville, South Carolina next Saturday. The specialist recently won the Tour of Utah’s stage three time trial, passing the test before what he deems the most important race of the year.
"My goal is to improve upon my second place," said Zirbel. "My approach hasn’t changed. I just prepare myself the best I can, just like I did last year and go as hard as I can. I doesn’t matter how [Dave] Zabriskie is feeling or if Levi Leipheimer shows up or how he’s feeling. There are a lot of ifs. All I can ask for is to just put out my best race of the year. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time and I’m confident."
Last year’s 33.4km championship course saw Zirbel place second to Zabriskie by a mere five seconds. According to Zirbel, the lost time may have come from Zabriskie’s more experienced technical ability, however such small details are nearly impossible to quantify.
"I’ve visualized it and I know that I have to fight for every second," Zirbel said. "I have to prepare myself in every possible way because it always comes down to those little details. I’m going to focus on my cornering. It’s such a technical course that I may have lost the race last year because of that. I know I have room for improvement on the corners. But, the most important thing is getting myself to the start line in the best possible position and I think I’ll be good."
Zirbel outstanding time trial performances have brought with them ample attention from the domestic and international cycling community. He has won nearly every time trial he has entered in this season, most of them followed by an overall race leader’s jersey.
"Yeah, I get a lot of attention from the time trial," Zirbel said. "It’s added pressure for sure, but I appreciate it. I feel like I have a lot of people in my corner. I think that the people within my support system want to see me succeed. That helps me, it empowers me and gives me confidence. I try to channel that into better performances."
Zirbel won the Miller Motorsport Park’s 14km time trial in a time of 17:00 ahead of BMC teammates Ian McKissick and Brent Bookwalter. The current US professional champion, Zabriskie, rode in with a respectable time of 17:23, good enough for fifth place. "It’s a good gauge to see how Zabriskie does," Zirbel said.
"But I’m not going to have three days of racing before Saturday’s race," he continued. "We are both going to be fresh and it’s going to be even keeled, a bit of a longer course and probably better for both of us. It’s not just between Zabriskie and myself, I think Ben Jacques-Maynes is going to have a great time trial. He’s really fit here and I think he’s going to be a contender there."