Zirbel Wins 2013 USA Pro Individual Time Trial National Championship
After coming close to the national championship podium the last two years in the time trial discipline, including a second place in 2011 and a fourth place last year, Tom Zirbel (Boulder, Colorado/Optum p/b Kelly Benefits Strategies) finally donned the National Stars-and-Stripes jersey on Saturday.
Starting second-to-last in the 19-mile (31 kilometer) race against the clock, Zirbel stopped the clock with the fastest time of 00:38:16.04, and then waited to see if the final rider, last year's bronze medalist Brent Bookwalter (Asheville, North Carolina/BMC Racing Team), could top it. When Bookwalter eventually crossed the finish line in 38:33.32, Zirbel had secured the coveted title.
"It's been on my list since 2006, my first year as a pro," Zirbel explained after being celebrated on the podium. "I got close a lot of times and now I'm really excited to be able to wear the Stars-and-Stripes for a full year. This is definitely a career highlight. Getting this jersey pays off all the hard work from the team. It's their victory as well."
A former Chattanooga resident, Bookwalter was energized by the numerous family and friends lining the course to cheer him on.
"No matter what the event is or what the discipline, the national championships are special," Bookwalter commented. "I had more than a national championship-worthy spectator crew and cheering section. I was inspired by that and motivated."
"I went out aggressively like I had planned and was a little bit down after the first lap, but I was feeling good," Bookwalter said. "So I was confident I could pull it back. I really emptied the tank and gave it everything I had on the second lap, but obviously Tom did too," Bookwalter added.
Nathan Brown (Covington, Tennessee/Bontrager Cycling Team), another rider from the region, nipped teammate Lawson Craddock (Austin, Texas) by just .77 to earn the bronze medal.
"It's bittersweet," said Brown of beating Craddock. "I love that guy and he's a great rider. I knew these two guys (Zirbel and Bookwalter) had set faster first splits so I was just holding on hoping one of them messed up, but they both had great rides. I'm just happy to be up there with them. Third place is an honor."
The time trial course contested by the men and women comprised two laps around the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee and featured rolling terrain with few turns. Riders completed two out-and-back runs of 9.5 miles each for a total of 19 miles.
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