By Andrew Hood
It was oh-so-close for Tom Zirbel in the elite men’s world time trial championship Thursday, who rode to an impressive fourth place against the best chrono-men in the world.
The 30-year-old had a front-row seat in his first European race of his career to grab the “hot seat” in the 49.8km time trial after posting a time of 1:00:42.86 (49.214kph). That blazing pace stood for nearly three hours as rider after rider failed to knock him down.
It was only after the final medalists trailed across the line that Zirbel could assess what was arguably the best time trial of his career. VeloNews’ Andrew Hood spoke with Zirbel just moments after he stepped off the podium.
VN: A great ride, were you thinking your time would stand for a medal?
TZ: I just let myself to start dreaming about a medal there, that’s a hard way to watch it. I am psyched for fourth. I didn’t know what to expect. I would have been content with top 10 and really happy with a top 5, that’s how I looked at it. I am not going to hang my head over a fourth place, but it’s difficult to swallow.
VN: Cancellara was at a higher level, but were you surprised were close to the podium?
TZ: It was also a big time gap to Larsson, so I thought it would come down to Martin and Wiggins for third. I thought Martin went out too hard in the second lap, but he really dug deep and put some time back into me. I heard Wiggins had an unfortunate bike issue, I’m not sure what that was. It was on the climb and something wasn’t right.
VN: What was your strategy for the race?
TZ: I tried to be aggressive at the beginning. This is the longest time trial I’ve ever done by 10km. I had nothing to lose. I just wanted to go hard and have a good first lap. That second lap crushed me. I fell off the pace a little bit in that third lap, and that made the difference. I just wanted to see how hard I could go and survive. That’s just how it played out. I got stung by a bee in lap 2. I was trying to get it out.
VN: What was going through your mind sitting for so long in the ‘hot seat’?
TZ: I am pretty hungry! It was fun, it was a good experience. It’s just a hard race to watch a bike race when you’re in that step, watching people riding through, watching the splits. I was trying to keep the nerves at bay. When I saw Tony Martin lose a lot of time on the second, I was thinking, ohhhh, this could happen. I tried to tell myself, no matter what, a top 5 is great.
VN: This is your first worlds and your first race in Europe, do you take satisfaction at performing at this level?
TZ: I’ve been psyched. The support from the staff has been top-notch. It’s been great. The grandstands at the finish, this is all just erected for this event. This is my first time racing in Europe. I’m excited; it’s fun to be around. I’m excited, I always want more. I’m just taking what it comes and doing what I can to improve every year, so I’m hoping to get even better next year. In about two hours, I will be happy. Right now I just have a bitter taste.
VN: You’re not doing the road race on Sunday, so your season is finished?
TZ: I am flying out tomorrow. I am so done, so done. It’s been a long season; I’ve been racing since January. I didn’t do much to prepare. I did Missouri and crossed my fingers that it would get me through the worlds. I recovered and traveled last week. I started to come around finally yesterday. I had no expectations, just go hard. I had good legs.
VN: So next year you’re racing with Garmin?
TZ: All new races. I don’t really know what to expect next year. I just want to keep at it, put your head down, try to help the team and try to get some TT results.