From Tim Farnham:
We just did the Grattan Speedway race Wednesday evening. Sheldon and I spent the whole time in breaks and attacking hard. Close to the end of the race, Sheldon, myself, and a Priority Health guy were in a break but when the PH guy decided not to roll through, Sheldon attacked. Myself and the PH guy were then reabsorbed into the back and Sheldon stayed away for the remainder of the race for the win. I did a suicide at 2 laps to go while the PH team chased. At about 1k to go, Birdman (GH) started out the lead out train but ended up catching me. Fortunately, Jason (Elite Bissell) won the sprint for second and we also got 3rd, 4th, 5th, and I got 7th.
So another good training day for me and good results for the Elite team.
Kirk O’Bee Stings the Field in Baltimore
The BISSELL Pro Cycling Team had a phenomenal race on Sunday to take the win despite being short handed. The Jacques-Maynes brothers were unable to compete in the Kelly Cup as was planned, placing the BISSELL Team of 6 riders at a disadvantage as they raced against the other top continental teams who fielded 8 riders. The relatively flat course, high speeds, and aggressive racing made it impossible to make a break stick. BISSELL spent the day successfully covering the moves and was able to hold good position going into the finish. On the final lap, Frank Pipp went down in a crash leaving only 4 riders to set up Kirk O’Bee for the finish. Kirk was the sixth man back going into the final corner and by sheer strength took the lead with 200 meters to go. O’Bee was able to hold his lead and fended off the charging peloton as he triumphantly crossed the line for the win.
On Saturday the BISSELL Pro Cycling Team raced the 35 mile crit in downtown Wilmington, Delaware. The course was relatively flat with a slight uphill finish, a bit of a downhill on the back stretch, and blustery winds as an added challenge. The race stayed together for the initial 30 minutes, and eventually a group of 14 broke away. Morgan Schmitt and Graham Howard were BISSELL’s riders in the break. The group consisted of strong sprinters from Team Type 1, Kelly Benefits, and Colavita, so Graham and Morgan chilled in the group and let the others duke it out. The group stayed away until 6 laps to go when BISSELL’s Peter Latham came to the front of the peloton and brought back the break. BISSELL’s priority was to put Kirk O’Bee into position going into the finish; however, Colavita and Kelly Benefits were in the optimal position going into the final corner. Kirk came through in 6th place. The BISSELL Team looks forward to tomorrow’s Kelly Cup.
The final stage of Joe Martin was held on a very atypical criterium course comprised of 100 ft of climbing per lap with a start and finish line on a steep uphill section. The race which was held under threatening skies was more about attrition and less about speed. The early minutes of the race saw a flurry of attacks and some great solo moves by Andy Jacques-Maynes, Morgan Schmitt, and Kirk O’Bee. At 45 minutes into the 90 minute crit, a successful breakaway of 10 riders split from the field. Frank Pipp was BISSELL’s man in the group and did an outstanding job to kill the break’s momentum. Potentially dangerous elements in the break included high placed GC riders, Darren Lill (Team Type 1) and Jacob Erker (Kelly Benefits), as well as, the threat of Team Type 1 to the team classification. With 8 laps to go, Luis Amaran (Colavita) attacked the lead group and Chris Jones (Team Type 1) followed. The remaining riders from the break were reabsorbed into the field. The two riders went into the final corner together and Jones took the win with Amaran crossing one second back. The field was close on their heels, and Sebastian Haedo (Colavita) took the field sprint for third place with Ben Jacques-Maynes and Jeremy Vennell getting top ten stage finishes. BJM finished the Joe Martin Stage Race in second overall and Jeremy maintained his third place in the GC. The BISSELL Pro Cycling Team won the team classification for the second weekend in a row and solidified their place in the NRC as the best team in USA Cycling.
BISSELL threw out move after move in search of the seconds to regain the race lead; however in the end, the chasing teams came together to bring back the break. The first significant move of the day came at the base of the climb on the first of three laps when a 6 man break including BISSELL’s Morgan Schmitt got away. The group gained two minutes on the field, and Team OUCH was unable to organize a working chase. As the field approached the climb on the second lap, BISSELL threw out its next barrage of attacks. A group of four led by BISSELL’s Jeremy Vennell flew off the front. The two lead groups joined forces to form a very powerful and threatening 10 man force. The leaders gained a minute and a half and the threat was critical as they approached the climb on the final lap. OUCH was eventually assisted by Fly V, Land-Rover Orbea, and Planet Energy to organize the chase. The lead group was caught on the 8 mile descent into the finish and the field was together all the way to the line. Haedo (Colavita) again took the win. Although BISSELL’s attempts to take the lead were thwarted, the race that resulted was the ultimate racer’s dream. Great day to the BISSELL Team!
Friday’s 110 mile road race came down to a field sprint and the time bonuses reshuffled the leader board giving Rory Sutherland (OUCH) the lead in the GC nine seconds ahead of Ben Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL). The early morning heavy rains created a menacing air going into the day’s race. In protection of their spots in the GC, BISSELL kept control of the race. The action of the day came at 50 when Alejandro Borrajo (Colavita) and Andrew Talansky (Amore & Vitta) successfully broke away from the group and built up 8 minute time gap. Pete Latham and Morgan Schmitt led BISSELL’s capture of the duo and brought them back just following the Mount Gaylor climb. The narrowing streets of downtown Fayeteville fouled up BISSELL’s plan for a lead out going into the uphill finish. “I came through the corner first with the intent of dropping off Kirk Obee,” said BISSELL’s Ben Jacques-Maynes. “Unfortunately he got bumped off my wheel on the way to the line. Lucas Haedo (Colavita) took the win with Rory Sutherland crossing in 2nd. Sutherland’s ten second time bonus gives him the race lead going into Saturday’s 92 mile circuit race. OUCH will have a tough day defending their lead with a charging BISSELL squad owning 3 riders in the top 10.
By Kirsten Robbins in Fayetteville, Arkansas
Delighted to have found his time trial form, Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) broke the four-kilometre course record en route to winning the Joe Martin Stage Race opening stage. Jacques-Maynes' record time of 8:04 bettered the defending champion Rory Sutherland (OUCH p/b Maxxis) by one-second. His teammate Jeremy Vennell , New Zealand national time trial champion rounded out the podium in third.
"I felt good coming down from altitude at the Tour of the Gila last week and put together a good race today," Said Jacques-Maynes who chose to ride a non conventional time trial bike for the up hill time trial. "I took a gamble doing that because there were only about four other guys I saw using their time trial bikes too. I think it helped on the initial flat section, I had the advantage there. Sometimes it just works out."
The uphill individual time trial was held in the notorious Devil's Den State Park, on a climb that averaged out at 6.8%. Bissell once again brought their best game to the time trial placing four riders inside the top ten. Jacques-Maynes took the early lead in the overall classification ahead of Sutherland and Vennell.
According to the race leader having a time trial focussed team gives them a strong platform to play off. "We have options and different cards to play," he said. "It is what we are known for and we did not disappoint today."
The eve of the time trial, Sutherland commented on his goals for the overall classification. "I think it's always difficult, said Sutherland, a two-time overall winner of the Joe Martin Stage race. "I've won the overall and the time trial in the last two years. Every year you keep doing that, it makes it more stressful and difficult and a lot of pressure."
US Champ Powers to opening victory
Alison Powers (Team Type 1) showed why she is the US national time trial champion by winning the opening four-kilometre stage in a time of 9:37. She narrowly beat Webcor-Builder duo, runner up Katheryn Mattis and third placed Erinne Willock.
"I didn't know what to expect," said Powers, who last competed in the event three years ago. "I didn't look at the time when I was on course and I just rode as fast as I could."
Powers currently leads the overall ahead of Mattis and Willock. She arrived to the Joe Martin Stage Race fresh off a second place at the Tour of the Gila, despite not having teammates. She is looking forward to having the strength of her seven-women team to back up her goal of attaining the overall title.
"My team is amazing we have lot of different strengths, talents and knowledge," she said. "They all want to be here to race hard and defend a jersey.
The Joe Martin Stage Race marks the round two of the Women's Prestige Cycling Series. Powers is currently leading the series ahead of Mattis. Team TIBCO leads the way in the team competition along with the series' most talented young rider, Julie Beveridge. Powers' teammate Kori Seehafer holds the top spot in the best sprinter category.
"I think it's neat they put on a series special just for the women," she said. "I think it's very important to win that title and I would love to do that. I want to show our sport and our sponsors that this is an important series."
The Joe Martin Stage race marks the 6th race in the NRC calendar, and the BISSELL Pro Cycling Team kicked it off in perfect form. The current NRC standings were just released and confirmed that the BISSELL Team is ranked first in the team standings and BISSELL’s Tom Zirbel is 2nd in the individual standings. To make a good day even better, Ben Jacques-Maynes won the opening Joe Martin time trial and BISSELL had 4 riders in the top ten. Thursday’s opening time trial was a short but very tough course. The 2.5 mile stretch out of Devil’s Den had an average grade of 6.8% with 680ft gain in elevation. Also having a tremendous stage were BISSELL’s New Zealand Time Trail Champion, Jeremy Vennell, who had the 3rd fastest time, along with Tom Zirbel in 7th and Morgan Schmitt in 10th. Rounding out the Joe Martin roster for BISSELL are Andy Jacques-Maynes, Peter Latham, Frank Pipp, and Kirk O’Bee. Tomorrow’s stage is 110 miles with 5400 ft of climbing. The course includes a 9.2 mile steady climb with an average grade of 2.7 % and an uphill finish that kicks up to a 6% grade for the last 350 meters.
We started off the Gila coverage with a conversation with 3-time overall winner Burke Swindlehurst of the BISSELL team and who better to give us the final word on the race than the gentleman (in the truest sense of the word) from Utah.
Four-time winner of the Gila Monster, Swindlehurst gave it his all in the final stage to get on the podium. He held on to the very select lead group driven by the power engine of Chris Horner (Astana) until the final kilometers.
“I was cramping like mad. I think my teeth even cramped today,” laughed Swindlehurst. “if I had a muscle, it cramped. Unfortunately, I came out of that group with about 2 k left and just had to ride myself in at my own tempo but it was an epic stage today for sure. Definitely, the hardest edition I ever remember. ”
It didn’t work out perfectly for him as he finished sixth on the stage and fourth overall and while a bit disappointed, he was pleased with his effort, his team’s effort and with the winners, Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) for the stage and Levi Leipheimer (Astana) for the overall classification.
“I’m very satisfied.” said Swindlehurst. “Having Phil win this stage today, we’ve been friends for a long time, that was very satisfying to me to know that he took it. And also Levi, he might not realize it, the guy has stood in Grand Tour podiums, but I think he was really happy to win this race, I could see it in his face, he looked like he was genuinely excited.”
Swindlehurst agreed that Leipheimer seems to be enjoying racing a lot more in the last few years, and he should know as the two raced together on the same team as amateurs in 1996 when Swindlehurst won his first Tour of the Gila.
“I think so and I think it’s showing in his results. I think that happens for all of us when you start to take yourself a little less seriously as you get older, things have a way of working themselves out, you find you put too much energy into stressing about things and when you finally come to the point when you relax a little bit, the results finally come around. ”
In the end, Swindlehurst did get to stand on the podium with his squad BISSELL who won the overall team classification by placing three riders in the top 20.
“I did get to stand on the podium today with all my teammates. It doesn’t get much better than that actually. That was really fun, they slayed themselves this week for me, it really satisfying for me to see those guys work so hard and I turned myself inside out more times that I can remember today knowing that they did the same for me.”
Tough start to the final stage when Scott Nydam (BMC) crashed violently in the first 20 kilometers of the stage. Nydam was part of the early break and the field slowed down and rode by him as he was still laying on the ground. Nydam was airlifted to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a haematoma after hitting his head very hard and a broken collarbone into a million piece.
“We had to slow down as we went past him, I honestly had a really hard time, I thought about getting into the car after I saw that. It didn’t look good so I’m really happy to hear he’s doing alright. I didn’t see him moving and he didn’t look good on the ground, I know I wasn’t the only one, Levi was really broken up over it, so was Tom Zirbel and I’m sure everybody else. You can’t ride past something like that and no let your mind get the better of you. It was really hard to get back into race mode after that.”
The riders went back to their jobs and raced their bikes to the finish.
Sandbagging? The presence of the trio from Astana was felt in the race, with higher speeds throughout the race. The overall time was almost 38 minutes faster than last year over the same course.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if every single stage was the fastest ever on record by a long shot. Today was just over the top, obviously you have the three huge engines which are the Astana boys and then you have everybody else which is just raising their level to try and get anywhere near theirs so it makes for some pretty exciting racing.”
The presence of Lance Armstrong, Leipheimer and Horner at an NRC race has brought up talk of sandbagging in online communities. Swindlehurst’s answer to the sandbagging question was an emphatic “No, I totally disagree with that.”
For Swindlehurst, the Astana presence at the race is fantastic.
“This race has been one of the toughest races for years and it’s never gotten the attention that it’s deserved. I’ve always felt that this was the hardest stage race in the country outside of Tour of California or something like that when it comes to the terrain and just the kind of racing that you get. For them to come to bring that level even higher. I think that’s kind of lame if people are going to complain about getting the opportunity to race against the best in the world. I was really excited when Levi told me a month out that he thought they were going to come and that made my day. Contrary to what other people think, I’ve had people say ‘oh you must be bummed out’, not even close mad, I’m really excited to get the opportunity to race with these guys. ” said Swindlehurst.
Break time. Swindlehurst is now taking a break from racing as the BISSELL team continues on to the Joe Martin Stage Race this week.
“We have a pretty large team and I really got myself keyed up for this race and wanted to do something special, and I feel that I did do that in a way. I don’t mind stepping back and letting some of the younger guys in the team that don’t get to race so much and give them an opportunity to race. We have guys like Morgan Schmitt on the team who has shown himself a real rider of the future, and it’s good to see him get the opportunity to get to race too.”
Schmitt who’s style brings to mind a younger Swindlehurst.
“Yes he does. I think he has a lot of potential, he’s done with school now and he’s able to focus a little but more on cycling and it’s showing in his results.”
The next race for Swindlehurst is scheduled to be Mt Hood Cycling Classic in June, another climbing stage race, just as he likes them.
The BISSELL Pro Cycling Team wins Team Classification: 4 BISSELL in top 25
The BISSELL Pro Cycling Team continued their outstanding effort on the final and most demanding stage, the Gila Monster. Bissell had two of their strongest riders, Ben Jacques-Maynes and Paul Mach, in the early break of 11. The lead group was riding well together and held a 3:30 gap on the chasers until Astana used its connection with the Livestrong Team to form an alliance to pull them back. Shortly after Astana launched their pursuit of the lead group which included Scott Nydam (BMC), there was horrific crash that required Nydam to be airlifted to the hospital. The group was visibly shaken by the accident but continued on. The lead group was gradually splintered due to the blistering pace set by Ben and Paul. As anticipated, hard tempo from a relatively fresh Chris Horner (Astana/Mellow Johnny’s) in the chase group ripped the field apart on the last climb. The remnants of the break were caught, and other GC threats came off the group as Tom, Ben, and Paul did a great job of neutralizing Baldwin (Rock Racing) and Stetina (Felt-Garmin). As the pace quickened only the 6 strongest climbing specialists remained including Burke Swindlehurst (BISSELL), Phil Zajicek (Fly V), Levi Leipheimer(Astana/Mellow Johnny’s), Lance Armstrong (Astana/Mellow Johnny’s), Chris Horner(Astana/Mellow Johnny’s), and Chad Beyer (BMC). As the climb neared the top, the group of six was reduced leaving only Zajicek, Leipheimer, and Armstrong. Phil used his years of experience riding the Gila Monster to perfectly plan his escape and crossed the finish 12 seconds ahead of Levi and Lance who crossed together. Beyer, Horner, and Swindlehurst rolled across seconds behind them.
The BISSELL Pro Cycling Team unequivocally won the team classification for the five day race. Burke Swindlehurst again demonstrated his strength in this event with a 6th place finish in the final stage and 4th for the overall general classification. Tom Zirbel brought the team its highest stage result with his 2nd place finish in the individual time trial and had a great final result of 7th in the GC. Paul Mach rode an amazing race of support and finished with an outstanding result of 16th in the GC. Ben Jacques-Maynes demonstrated his commitment as team leader and frequently sacrificed himself for the overall results of the teammates. Ben finished 25th in the GC. Omer Kem, Sheldon Deeny, Graham Howard and Jeremy Vennell were consistently in moves and contributed to the exceptional team tactics which delivered these great results.
By Kirsten Robbins in Silver City, New Mexico
Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) captured the biggest victory in his cycling career, breaking away from seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong (Mellow Johnny's) and his teammate Levi Leipheimer at top the infamous Gila Monster ascent. The Boulder native received a congratulatory hand shake from Astana team director Johan Bruyneel after beating his riders in their specialty: climbing. Zajicek won the final stage with his proud parents and wife amongst the spectators - a podium photo that will no doubt hang on the wall for life.
"This is unbelievable," said Zajicek, whose wife watched the stage from SRAM follow car and witnessed the race unravel. "This is the best day on the bike ever, the best. It was so fast from the start and then [Chris] Horner was absolutely lighting it up, just flying.
"I've been working so hard on my climbing and everything just came together," he added. "I knew Levi wanted to give Lance the win and he went so fast into the last kilometre. I just had to follow and give it everything I had with 200 metres to go."
Leipheimer's commanding victory in the SRAM Tour of the Gila's general classification is a good indication that he will arrive to the upcoming Giro d'Italia in top condition. Armstrong moved into a well-deserved second place after a weeks worth of endless domestique duties. Zajicek's stage win, combined with a stellar fourth place in the stage three time trial, earned him the third spot on the overall podium.
"Its always nice to win no matter what race it is," Leipheimer said. "There is no easy race. I won the overall, two stages and I set the course record and I think that is something to be proud of. I think of all the great time triallist who won it over the years. This is one of the more prestigious races in American history."
Team Bissell won the best overall team general classification based on the times of the three highest placed riders from each stage. "As long as we had good climbs on the first day and today we were good," said Bissell rider Ben Jacques-Maynes. "Obviously the time trial shakes out real nicely for us. We have a good time trial team. It wasn't a goal coming in, but it stuck out as a goal after the first couple of stages. We had five guys with really good rides today so we are happy."
Domestique underdog beat Grand Tour contenders
A group of six riders made it to the base of the final and most notorious climb of the Tour of the Gila. After pulling the break away for nearly the entire last half of the professional men's 168-kilometre road race Chris Horner (Mellow Johnny's) started to show signs of distress mid-way up the final climb. But he kept coming back for more.
He kept the pressure on while Leipheimer, Armstrong, Zajicek and Chad Beyer (Team B) planed their individual bids for victory. Two-time event winner Burke Swindlehurst hung on to the front group for as long as possible, but began to show signs of weakness over the last few rollers.
"I felt like I didn't have too much acceleration in my legs today," Swindlehurst said. "I focused on trying to diesel it all day and on the last climb my legs just locked up on me."
Horner put forth one last effort toward setting up Armstrong for victory and Leipheimer took over the driving. Several coy attacks came from Beyer but no move was strong enough to hold off Leiphiemer's consistent speed up the climb.
Zajicek sandwiched himself between Leipheimer and Armstrong and patiently waited for one of his two competitors to make the first move. The pair attacked and Zajicek responded, pouncing on the pair and pulling out a 12 second margin at the line. The defeated team-mates shook hands to the end of a successful week and crossed the finish line together. Beyer, Horner and Swindlehurst rolled through several seconds apart respectively.
"This is one of the hardest road races in North America," Zajicek said. "It also comes at the end of five days of really hard racing."
The chase group included two riders Baldwin and White who dangled between the leaders and a second five-man chase group, Zirbel, Stalder, Darren Lill (Team Type 1), Davide Frattini and Anthony Colby (Colavita-Sutter Home).
Horner dies a thousand deaths…but keeps on pushing
The tired men's field lined up in the early morning to start what is arguably known as the toughest stage. Three significant climbs played a big role in the outcome of the stage, where tactics were key but attrition was everything. An early move of 16 riders set sail on the long winding descent out of SIlver City.
The men included Scott Nydam (Team B), who was the highest placed general classification rider in eighth, Francois Parisien (Planet Energy), Elkan Evan and Mike Northey (Land Rover Orbea), Sam Johnson (Hagens Berman), Jacob Erker, Neil Shirley and Dan Bauman (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Ben King and Michael Grabinger (Fly V Australia), Nick Fey (Ciclismo), Ben Jacques-Maynes and Paul Mach (Bissell), Ian Holt (RMCEF), Chris Jones (Team Type 1) and Bradley White (OUCH-MAXXIS).
An unfortunate crash on the descent out of town saw Nydam air lifted to the Thompson Hospital in El Paso. Nydam's accident was one of many that included Cameron Evans (OUCH-MAXXIS), Matt Cooke (Ride Clean) and World Pursuit Champion Taylor Phinney (Trek-Livestrong). The break away reluctantly continued on to gain more than a three minute lead, 50 kilometres into the race.
"He reached down to grab his water bottle and his foot unclipped," said Jacques-Maynes, who was descending behind Nydam at 70 km/h when he crashed. "I really didn't want to race after I saw that. I wanted to pull over and call it a day. I never want to see something like that happen in a bike race, especially such a good guy like Scott."
The large front group reached the first of three climbs where pain on some of their faces began to show through. Stronger climbers in the bunch set a fast tempo and several riders fell off pace before they reached the top. The first sign that super domestique Horner was on the hunt to catch the break was seen when the break away made its way through the turnaround and back out toward the Copperas Vista climb of the Gila Cliff Dwellings.
The chasing peloton started the demanding 11-kilometre climb in tact but when Horner was through setting tempo, there were only six survivors left. The original members of the chase group include Horner with Leipheimer and Armstrong in tow, Zajicek, Beyer and Swindlehurst along with Tom Zirbel (Bissell), Florian Stalder (Team B), Peter Stetina (Garmin-Holowekso Partners-Felt), Chris Baldwin (Rock Racing). As the pace quickened Baldwin, Zirbel and Statina fell off pace and never recovered back to the lead group.
The six climbing specialists caught remnants of the initial 16-man break away before cresting the top. White managed to hang on the longest but he too fell off the leading pace shortly after. "That climb out of the Cliff Dwellings was so painful and Horner would not let up," Zajicek said. "I was hurting so bad there. I just knew I had to make it to the top of that one because that was the most important climb of the stage."
Horner continued to drive the pace on the front down the descent and up the next climb. The most dedicated domestique rider in America.
Armstrong conquers the Gila Monster and the overall
Kristin Armstrong (Cervelo) proved she is in a class of her own when it comes to climbing. The Boise, Idaho native set a tempo on the final ascent into Pinos Altos until she was alone and headed for victory. Catherine Cheatley (Colavita-Sutter Home) won the small sprint for second place and Alison Powers (Team Type 1) took third.
"At the base of the climb we were two and half minutes back from the break and I just set my own pace up the climb," Armstrong said. "I didn't have to work today at all."
Armstrong won the overall title by nearly five minutes ahead of second placed Powers and third placed Katheryn Mattis (Webcor-Builders). "This was a successful Tour of the Gila for me," said Armstrong. "I'm preparing for the Tour de l' Aude and now I get to go there and have a whole team with me. I'm so excited."
The front group behind Armstrong re-shuffled as riders began to settle into their own rhythm. Mattis set a strong tempo on the uphills and Powers, a former downhill skier, blazed through the short winding descents. A group of 15 sprinted to the finish line at the top.
The break almost made it to the top of the Gila Monster
A break formed early into the women's 115-kilometre road race. Rebecca Much (Webcor-Builders), Rachel Heal (Colavita-Sutter Home, Nicole Evans (Value Act Capital) and Hillary Billington (Lip Smackers) worked well together gaining a maximum of six minutes making Much the virtual leader on the road.
"I was okay with the break because I was up by three and a half minutes," Armstrong said. "I was happy that I could be a little bit more defensive today. I sat back because I knew I was going to go hard up that climb. There were only seconds that separated second place through sixth place in the overall. That is where the race was on."
Armstrong's mellow presence back in the field sent a signal to the other teams that she was not interested in bringing the break back. Chances were that Armstrong would reduce the time to Much on the last climb but riders wanting to hold their GC positions needed to start working together to reduce the hefty time margin.
" I was definitely nervous when the break got up to six minutes," said Powers. "But after that everyone started to help out and work at the front to try and get that down."
Colavita-Sutter Home, Value Act Capital and Alison did the majority of the work to reduce the time to just over two minutes at the base of the climb. The break splintered on the climb and Armstrong caught the last rider, Evans mid-way up the climb. Evans rode in second place for the majority of the climb before being caught by the bunch sprint within the final kilometre.
Gila’s stage 4 criterium was screaming fast and the biggest concern for the day was staying upright and safe. The 40 lap day was further complicated with high winds and several high speed crashes on the final laps; however, BISSELL stayed intact for the day and was involved in much of the action. There were several early breaks and BISSELL was instrumental in equalizing them all. First, Paul Mach (BISSELL) shut down a break by Phil Zajicek (Fly V), and BISSELL’s Graham Howard worked diligently to close the most threatening gap of the day created by Ben Day’s solo breakaway. In the final 6 laps, there was constant attacking. At one point, Jeremy Vennell got away with 3 others, but Taylor Phinney (Trek Livestrong) and Lance Armstrong (Astana/Mellow Johnny’s) led the group to shut it down. Next, Tom Zirbel (BISSELL) gave the record crowds in Silver City some action when he exploded out of the group. Following that move, Jeremy Vennell (BISSELL) again blasted off and was out in front for a lap. After some chaotic moments created from late race crashes, the group charged the finish for a field sprint. Roman Van Uden (Land Rover- ORBEA) took the win with Lucas Haedo in 2nd and Alex Howe (Felt-Garmin) in third. All riders had the same finish time. BISSELL was not involved in the field sprint, but more importantly kept BISSELL’s highest GC contenders, Burke Swindlehurst and Tom Zirbel, safe heading into Sunday’s final stage. The Gila Monster is 105.7 miles with 9,131 feet of climbing 8,252 feet of descending. The day will be filled with brutal climbing, dangerous descents, and blind corners. Burke currently sits in 6th place and Tom is in 7th. Barring unexpected complications, Levi Leipheimer seems to have firm hold of the leader’s jersey; however, Burke and Tom are within a minute of the podium.
The Tour of the Gila's stage three time trial is quickly becoming one of the most anticipated on American soil. Bissell's time trial specialist Tom Zirbel is hoping to give a good performance. He arrived prepared with a 58-tooth big ring, special order from the UK, to help make up some valuable seconds needed to beat current race leader Levi Leipheimer and his teammate Lance Armstrong.
The trio will face other strong contenders including New Zealand time trial champion Jeremy Vennell and Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) as well as Floyd Landis and Rory Sutherland (both OUCH p/b Maxxis), Chris Baldwin (Rock Racing), Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Darren Lill (Team Type 1) among others.
The 25-kilometre time trial contains brutally long rollers and strong cross winds. According to Zirbel, there are few time trials of that nature in the US and he looks forward to the opportunity to practice his speciality.
"I didn't feel so great the first day, but today [yesterday - ed.] I felt really good," said Zirbel after stage two. "I seemed to have recovered well. I absolutely had an easy ride in stage two and a free ride in stage one. So I feel fresh, no excuses – I should be up there."
Zirbel made the top of Leipheimer's list of rivals the win. "I think Tom Zirbel could definitely beat me tomorrow," Leipheimer said. "That would not be that big of a surprise. Maybe Lance could do a good time trial too even though he did a lot of work today."
Zirbel appreciated the vote of confidence, but felt that Leipheimer was on a different level. "If I limit my losses to 30 seconds to him than I would be pleased with that," Zirbel said. "I'll lose time on the uphills but I will be good on the downhills."
The Boulder native turned heads when he placed second in the 2008 national time trial championships, just a slim margin behind Dave Zabriskie (Garmin).
Astana's Leipheimer and Armstrong race under the Mellow Johnny's team name for this event due to USA cycling rules.
Tom Zirbel (BISSELL) takes 2nd in one of the most watched time trials in North America this year, the Tour of Gila's Tyrone Time Trial. The high altitude race staged an equally backbreaking time trial course which required incredible strength and power. The 16.15 mile course clocked a record time of 32:50 by Levi Leipheimer (Astana/Mellow Johnny's). Tom came in with a second place time of 33:52, and Lance Armstrong (Astana/Mellow Johnny's) rounded out third with a time of 34:24. The course which consisted of two significant climbs is considered a very difficlut TT course, and the historical high winds and altitude make the course even tougher. The BISSELL Pro Cycling Team made significant adjustments to their gearing for this course and used a 58x11. Tom praised the team mechanics, Ben Oliver and Jim O'Brien, "Ben and Jim worked together and bounced ideas off eachother. They were able to make the ride as smooth as possible and adjusted the equipment accordingly." Tom said that after a tentative start on Wednesday, he felt great going in to today's stage. Tom and the BISSELL Team hope to continue their form on the next two stages.
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