Riccardo Zoidl is making his WorldTour team debut for Trek Factory Racing at the Tour Méditerranéen and the 25-year-old Austrian has already confirmed his talent on Saturday afternoon with a second place finish in the penultimate stage time trial. The reigning Austrian road champion finished just four seconds behind stage winner Stephen Cummings (BMC) on the hilly, 18.2km parcours and sits in second overall behind the Briton by an equal deficit with one stage remaining.
"I am very happy," said Zoidl. "I was surprised with my result. I was hoping to do a top 10, maybe. The goal was just to do a good time trial, but to fight for the win? Luca [Guercilena] was behind me, saying 'keep going, keep going' and that it's possible.
"The first climb was three kilometers long, and I had a good rhythm there," said Zoidl. "The downhill was also hard because of the wind. On the second climb Luca [Guercilena] told me I needed to go full gas because it would make the difference. So I went full gas. After that it was downhill to the finish, and at the end, it just worked out for me."
After spending seven years on Continental teams in his native Austria, Zoidl make the jump to the WorldTour this season for Trek Factory Racing. His 2013 season was the best of his career, highlighted by overall victory in his home Tour of Austria stage race, a UCI 2.HC-rated event with plenty of WorldTour talent. Second through eighth overall were all claimed by WorldTour riders, with Astana teammates Alexandr Dyachenko and Kevin Seeldraeyers rounding out the podium in second and third overall respectively.
Zoidl won three other stage races in 2013, France's Circuit des Ardennes and Tour de Bretagne-Trophée des Granitiers plus Austria's Oberösterreichrundfahrt, and also won his national road race championship.
The Austrian now enters Sunday's final stage at Tour Méditerranéen just four seconds down on the race leader with the finishing climb to Mont Faron expected to decide the overall winner. In addition to Zoidl, Trek Factory Racing also has Luxembourg road and time trial champion Bob Jungels in the overall mix as he starts the day 37 seconds down on Cummings in seventh overall.
There's plenty of talented riders also in contention for the overall Tour Méditerranéen title, however, with Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling) in third overall at 10 seconds, Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R La Mondiale) in fourth at 15 seconds and Tobias Ludvigsson (Giant-Shimano) in sixth at 35 seconds.
"Our goals were to go for the overall with Riccardo and Bob," said Trek Factory Racing director Alain Gallopin. "This morning we had a small result, this afternoon we had a better result, and maybe tomorrow we will have a very good result."