Scott Zwizanski is one of the new faces pulling on the UnitedHealthcare skinsuit after the team expanded to join the Pro Continental ranks in 2011. After just one hour in the saddle of his new prototype Boardman time trial bike, the 2009 runner-up to David Zabriskie at the U.S. national time trial championship proved his place amongst his new teammates Thursday with a podium ride against the clock at the Tour de San Luis.
Zwizanski sat nearly 15 minutes down on GC Thursday morning and was the 14th rider to roll down the ramp for the 19.5 km test. Twenty-three minutes later, Zwizanski, who nearly retired following a difficult 2008 season, earned himself a spot in the hot seat for over an hour. The new leader pushed through strong, variable winds along the winding parcours, passing six riders en route to a time of 23:38.
“You really had to gauge your effort well,” he told VeloNews. “It was a lot more headwind going out and it was just finding that balance of going real hard in the headwind but having enough left with all the changes in the direction in the end. It ended with a good 4k of headwind, which really sucked it out of your legs at the end. I was just trying to put in a good solid effort and I’m really happy with what I did for mid-January.”
The new guy
It is only mid-January, but Zwizanski had a lot to prove in the TT in Argentina. UnitedHealthcare is attacking a European racing schedule in anticipation of competing for the top of the general classification at the Amgen Tour of California in May and he is hoping for a place in the ATOC squad. Manager Mike Tamayo gave his newest TT threat a free day on Wednesday to protect his prospects in the time trial and it paid dividends.
“Yesterday I tried to chill as much as I could in the pack — as much as you can when you’re going 50k an hour,” said Zwizanski. “The team let me off the hook for responsibilities for the most part yesterday with the purpose of trying to put in a good result today.”
Giro d’Italia champion Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) clocked in 30 seconds slower than Zwizanski, who sat on the lead until the fifth-to-last rider crossed the line. Former Argentina road and time trial champion Jorge Giacinti (Argentina) stopped the clock seven seconds faster than the tall UHC specialist. Minutes later, new overall leader Xavier Tondo (Movistar) clocked in at 23:23 for the stage win.
Zwizanski’s result pulled him 22 places up the GC, but he still sits 14:59 behind Tondo. “I was focusing on trying to get a good result in the time trial here,” he said. “I was just doing my work for the team up to this point and focusing on today. Now I’ll be back to helping the team try to get some results over the next couple days.”
With Rory Sutherland the top-placed UHC rider on GC in 21st at 5:07, that work will likely be aimed at setting up one of his team’s four climbing threats for a stage win in the mountains.
Fresh on the TT rig
Zwizanski’s result was all the more impressive knowing that he’d only ridden his Boardman prototype time trial bike once before race day. “I rode it on Sunday before the race started, did about an hour ride on it,” he told VeloNews. “For being so fresh on it, it was great to get the result I did today. Everything’s still being tweaked by our staff. I’m pleased with the third place and it’ll just get better the more time I get to put on the bike, the more comfortable I feel on it when I get the handling down.”
VeloNews was at the A2 wind tunnel in North Carolina, last week when Sutherland, Zwizanski and Adrian Hegyvary worked with Chris Boardman and Mike Giraud to hone their positions on the new machines. Zwizanski worked with Giraud through his previous Kelly Benefit Strategies team and a little tweaking — and an hour in the saddle — delivered a race-ready system for San Luis.
Zwizanski joked after the stage: “Obviously it was pretty fast.”
The Tour de San Luis continues Friday with stage 5, a 160 km affair that concludes with a summit finish at Mirador del Sol.