Sunday, July 26, 2009

1 to go...

As I stated before, criteriums are not my favorite. In fact, most times I downright hate them. But this crit was a little different. I was free to have fun with it and not stress about losing time because I'm already out of the running for the GC win. So that's what I did. When I felt like it, I would attack off the front and try to get away. When I felt like sitting in, I would just relax and hold position. Anyway, I felt like I turned a corner (ha, I made a funny) in this crit because it was a lot safer and easier to move around the more I relaxed. Bumping and taking corners at 25 mph with 140 other guys who are desperate for a result is not something I generall enjoy but I have to make the best of the situation and relaxing and having fun with it seems to work the best for me. Stress just gives you grey hair and knocks years off your life, right? In the end, we made it through the crit okay. Ben lost the sprint jersey but has a chance to get it back if he get's in today's breakaway. Here is a picture from taken by Jon Devich that I thought was hilarious. Can you pick me out? I'll give you a hint: I look like Yao Ming compared to everyone else. :)
Today's circuit race should be an exciting one. We do 5 circuits of 17 miles with a lot of climbing and technical descents each lap. Add in the heat and elevation, and it makes for a hard and dynamic race. Stage victory and sprint jersey are on the agenda today. We'll have to dig deep because everyone is tired at this point in the week and often it comes down to who wants it most.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

All done with the mountains

We finished off another hard stage here at the Cascade Cycling Classic. It was the signature Mt. Bachelor stage, starting with a 10 mile climb and ending with a 5 mile climb, finishing at an elevation of 6,400 ft. We tried to make that first climb as hard as possible for Rock Racing (the leading team) and animate the race. I got into a couple of moves near the top of the climb but the race favorites closed down the gap and a move of 7 guys including our own Ben Jacques-Maynes got a gap just after we crested the climb. Ben was the high man on GC so it was a good move for us to apply pressure to Rock. took some good photos of the action. Ben's group was caught about 8k from the finish but he was able to grab enough points along the way to become the leader in the Sprint Jersey competition. After Ben's move went, my job was to help Jeremy on that last climb as much as possible. He did a great job, especially considering that he lives at sea level so this is some thin air around here! He battled all the way and he, Burke, and myself all finished in the front group for the stage.
Tonight, we race in a downtown criterium. It consists of a roughly one mile rectangular course in downtown Bend that we will be racing around for a full 90 min. These crit thingees aren't exactly my favorites but we have a guy by the name of Kirk O'bee is one of the fastest men in the country so Bissell has a good shot at another stage victory!
Here are a few examples as to why I love coming to Bend for this race every year:

We stay at the Sheasby's home when we come to Bend to race. They (and some of their neighbors) are kind enough to house us, feed us, give us good company, and make us tasty coffee for the whole week. It is my 4th year staying with them and we've become quite close over the years, so it's like visiting friends when I come here to race! This picture was taken last night at the BBQ that they hosted for the team. We are treated to beautiful sunsets and views everyday from their deck.

And here is my Oregon girlfriend Kayla showing off for the visitors by climbing up this column in the living room and touching the ceiling with her head. I was impressed! I remember her big brother Rober' doing this the day I first met them 3 years ago!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

2 out of 3 ain't bad...

So after 3 stages here at Cascade, Bissell has come away with 2 stage victories! In yesterday's 80 mile road race finishing on a 10 mile climb, the team did a great job of covering attacks and chasing down dangerous breakaways (sorry to use the cycling lingo here) for the first 50 miles of the race. Finally, after 1:45 of all-out racing, a break that we were happy with slipped off the front and we were able to set tempo into the base of the climb. Unfortunately, because the race was soooo hard the first 2 hours, Ben and Jeremy had little help from us once the climb started. However, they did an excellent job of zipping up that mountain to remain in the running for the GC win. To give everyone an idea as to how hard the race was, we averaged 27.5 mph for the 80 mile stage that ended on a big climb! Check the average speed of a Tour de France stage if you'd like to compare it to something - I can all but guarantee it will be less than 44 kph! So, Ben may have lost the lead, but he kept himself within striking distance with 4 stages to go.
So for today's time trial, I didn't know what to expect from myself. I really felt crummy during and after yesterday's hard road race. At 7p last night (6 hours after the end of the race), my legs were still throbbing and extremely sore. At that point, I decided to have my super secret, ultra-recovery food: ICE CREAM!! The effects were almost immediate and I went to bed that night feeling a little more confident.
After a good night's sleep, I felt strong this morning and I was able to give the TT a good effort. The actual race felt like all other TTs: it hurt a lot!!! The last 5 minutes of the race, I really felt like I was going to vomit (too much info?) but I successfully held it down and was able to post a time that held up till the end. I'm not sure how Ben and Jeremy went today, but being as Jeremy is the current New Zealand TT Champion and Ben has won a ton of TTs in the last 3 years, my guess is that they're sitting pretty good on GC after today. My teammate Morgan's dad took this photo of the TT podium earlier today. If you look closely, you can see the 6 pack of Deschuttes Brewery beer (based out of Bend, OR) at my feet. What a great 1st place prize!
Our team goals for the Cascade Cycling Classic now will be to help Ben get on the podium of the final GC and maybe even win another stage...why not? :-)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Leader's Jersey!

Teammate Ben Jacques-Maynes won the first stage of the Cascade Cycling Classic yesterday out of a 22 man breakaway! Ben went solo from 1k to go and held of 5 charging chasers. That means Bissell has the leader's jersey going into today's 2nd stage. Today's stage ends with a 10 mile climb, so our job will be to get Ben and Jeremy (who was also in the breakaway yesterday) to the base of the climb as fresh as possible. Being as I missed the breakaway, my hopes of winning the overall are essentially over, so I will be looking to help Ben and Jeremy at every opportunity. I will also be going for the stage victory in tomorrow's time trial. Wish us luck - there are a lot of talented climbers here so we will have to work together to get Ben and Jeremy up that mountain as fast as possible!

Monday, July 20, 2009


This is Tom Zirbel, 2001 Wartburg College Alum. If any of you know me, you probably associate me with running. I lived and breathed Wartburg Cross Country and Track & Field for 4 years...with maybe a little chemistry thrown in there for good measure. Upon graduating, I moved out to Boulder, CO and continued running competitively until sustaining a moderate knee injury in the fall of 2002. Frustrated that I couldn't run 100 mi/wk without a lot of pain, I bought a road bike in Feb. '03 to cross train. I entered a few races that summer and really enjoyed it. Fast forward 6 years and I'm now a 4th year pro with the Bissell Pro Cycling Team (yes, the vacuum cleaners). :) I owe a lot of my quick ascension in the pro cycling ranks to the hard training and 'daily toil' we experienced at Wartburg College under the tutelage of Coaches Steve Johnson and Marcus Newsom. Those days of working hard and dreaming big aren't much different in principle to my life as a pro cyclist now. That's the short, short version of how I got to this point.
This week, I'm competing in the Cascade Cycling Classic. It's a 6 day stage race and happens to be my favorite race of the year! It is based out of Bend, Oregon and has beautiful road races (2 of which finish atop the Cascade mountains) and friendly people. It has been a big objective of our team to win this race since the beginning of the year. As I write this in the Denver airport, traveling to the race, I am both nervous and excited to get under way with tomorrow's 80 mile first stage. So, I promise to find the time and energy (and internet access) to take you with me on this week long adventure (or work trip, if you prefer).
I'd also like to answer a couple of questions that some of you not familiar with cycling are wondering right now:
Yes, I've raced against Lance Armstrong
No, I've never chatted with him
Yes, this is my J-O-B
Yes, I'd like to race in the Tour de France someday, but they only invite the 20 best teams in the world and those team bring their 9 best riders. So, for reference, there are 7 Americans in the Tour this year and that's a lot for us! My point is that it's very difficult to get a start in the biggest race in the world.
Also yes, my butt sometimes hurts when racing or training 5 hours/day. :-)
Any other questions you may have can be asked through the comment section on this blog, and I'll do my best to answer them.
Oh, and yes I still have an affinity for orange that is scarcely understood to the average Joe. Go Knights!
And thank you to Mark Adkins, the Wartburg Sports Info Director, who contacted me and set up this blog for the race reports.
Thanks for reading!