Eight days after his session in a North Carolina wind tunnel on a prototype Boardman time trial bike, Scott Zwizanski powered to a third place stage finish in the stage four time trial of the Tour de San Luis, the first podium appearance of the season for both Zwizanski and his new team, UnitedHealthcare.
The 33-year-old Zwizanski started early in the day due to his general classification position of 116th and the time trial powerhouse blazed through the 19.5km out-and-back course in 23:38, passing six riders along the way and putting himself in the hot seat for what would be nearly the entire day.
Only Xavier Tondo (Movistar), an experienced ProTeam rider who capped off his 2010 season with a 6th place overall at the Vuelta a Espana, and Jorge Giacinti (Argentina), the Tour de San Luis time trial stage winner in 2009 and overall winner in 2007, would eclipse Zwizanski's effort.
"I was happy for this performance because it is January and I did the best I could for this time of year," Zwizanski said. "There was a lot of head wind on the way out and I think I was about two minutes faster on the way back because of that tail wind. It was a good course."
The Pennsylvania native is now in his eighth year as a professional, and after spending the previous two seasons with Kelly Benefit Strategies he decided to move to UnitedHealthcare, making its Professional Continental debut in 2011. Zwizanski had spent his entire career thus far on Continental levels squads and relished the opportunity the newly upgraded Professional Continental squad would provide.
"UnitedHealthcare pursued me and they were talking about moving up to Pro Continental level," Zwizanski told Cyclingnews. "It became an opportunity for me to do bigger races in Europe. Kelly Benefit Strategies was great, and they've raced in Europe too, but the Pro Continental status was pretty enticing."
Time trialing has become a strength for Zwizanski, highlighted by his 2009 stage race wins in both the Vuelta del Uruguay and Canada's Tour de Beauce in which he won the time trial stages in each en route to overall victory. Later that year Zwizanski finished on the podium at the US professional time trial championships in Greenville, SC.
Zwizanski returned to the Vuelta del Uruguay in 2010 and finished second in the time trial stage, and later that spring finished 11th in the Amgen Tour of California's time trial stage against ProTour competition, 1:25 down on Michael Rogers. A return to the podium at the US professional time trial championships, however, didn't take place.
"Last year was a bit of a struggle for me," said Zwizanski. "I got a bit fatigued and never really came out of it the whole second half of the season. I didn't achieve my goals that I had hoped to in September [at the time trial championships]. Normally I'm pretty good in September, but last year just didn't work out."
UnitedHealthcare's primary goal for the 2011 season is overall victory at the Amgen Tour of California, and Zwizanski is looking forward to helping the team at the biggest event on the US calendar. On a personal level, Zwizanski is focused on the time trial stage and will carry his fitness through to the US professional time trial championships, held six days after the Amgen Tour of California's conclusion in its new, springtime time slot.
"With time trial nationals being one week after the Tour of California, it's a great place for it to be for me. I'm usually racing really well in May."
Upon completion of the Tour de San Luis, Zwizanski will not compete again for two months. "I'm probably not going to race again until mid-March. My European block is going to be a bit later. I'm doing this Argentina race and then it's going to be a lot of training."