BISSELL’s Tom Zirbel didn’t let the weather conditions and low visibility impact his performance as he continues to show his TT prowess at races this year. He smashed the 14.3-km opener of the 50th Annual Fitchburg Longsjo Classic clocking a time of 17:15.16 on the out and back course. Tour de Beauce winner Scott Zwizanski, the first of three Kelly Benefit Strategies rider in the top 10, was second at 22 seconds back, followed by his teammates, four time and current Canadian U23 TT Champion David Veilleux at 32 and Zach Bell at 34 seconds.
The BISSELL team continued to use the same model of splitting up their time trialists to take advantage of any changing weather conditions. Zirbel was the eleventh rider out of the gate and then had to wait until all the rest of the 171 rider field, including Zwizanski the tenth-to-last rider out of the gate, before claiming his victory.
Also in the top 10 are two BMC riders Ian McKissick and Jackson Stewart, defending champion Jonathan Chodroff and his OUCH-Maxxis teammate Rory Sutherland, Mike Creed (Team Type 1) and Ben Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL). Bad weather and a closed airport runaway made travel to the race extremely difficult for many teams and riders including Creed and Jacques-Maynes. The Jacques-Maynes brothers made it to the race with less than one hour to spare after traveling all day & night from Northern California and Jeremy Vennell never made it to the race with his flight canceled leaving the BISSELL team one man short in its defense of the jersey.
Of note, junior Adam Leibovitz riding for the Kenda team set a time to get 12th place finish but was relegated to last place + 30 seconds for ‘Failure to Show to Roll Out’ (rule 1M6 – as a junior, his gears must be checked to make sure that they follow very strict regulations. The team protested but the result stands.
The CRCA/Empire Cycling has 4 of the 5 best placed amateurs after the TT with Clayton Barrows in 24th, Michael Mathis in 32nd, Matthew Johnson in 33rd and Daniel Zmolik in 35th.
Will Zirbelicious be able to hold off the attacks to win his first NRC stage race? He had the lead until the last day at Nature Valley Grand Prix where he lost the jersey by a few seconds in the final stage. His strongest challenge should come from the KBS team but can count out BMC, Team Type 1 or OUCH-Maxxis.
Racing Fitchburg for the first time as a team, KBS is coming off a string of victories, overall at the Tour de Beauce, stage two of the Tour of America’s Dairyland, the Tour of Winghaven (NRC) and seeing Veilleux take his third consecutive Canadian U23 National Time Trial title.
“The Fitchburg Longsjo Classic should really suit our team well,” said performance director Jonas Carney before the race started. “The courses aren’t as challenging as what we faced in Beauce and we have several very strong time trialists and a lot of sprint power on the roster. Coming right off a series of big wins, we feel confident going into Fitchburg.”
Finally, the BMC team is racing again in an NRC race and it is also the first stage race of the season where BMC has had the opportunity to field all three of their U23 racers Cole House, Austin Carroll and Chris Barton. The team comes ready to battle counting on both Stewart and McKissick for the overall.
“I think with the three Kelly Benefits riders in 2nd through 4th, we can look to take advantage of Kelly’s efforts to unseat Zirbel.” said Team Manager Gavin Chilcott. ‘“The race will be very aggressive and Kelly will try hard to knock Zirbel out of 1st which puts us in a good position since Ian and Jackson are two of our strongest guys.”
No mountains to climb but lots of rolling terrain await the riders for the next three stages. The race continues Friday Fitchburg State College circuit race, 75-miles on yet another hilly circuit which the peloton will cover 24 times. The July 4th fireworks will come on the Wachusett Mountain Road Race, covering 10 laps of a hilly 11-mile circuit.. The race finishes Sunday with the 50-minute Worker’s Credit Union Criterium in downtown Fitchburg.
Current US Time Trial Champion Alison Powers (Team Type 1) stopped the clock at 17:15.16 to win the first stage. The Lip Smacker team took second & third respectively with Evelyn Stevens at 4 seconds & Anne Samplonius at 8 seconds back.
Team Type 1 women’s Team Director Jack Seehafer said he was unsure of how Powers would perform on a course that didn’t necessarily favor her and after a layoff since her third place finish at the Nature Valley Grand Prix nearly two weeks ago. “This was her first hard effort as she rebuilds toward the national championships later this month,” Seehafer said.
The ageless Jeannie Longo (Vital Plus), a 57-time national champion, five-time world champion, four-time Olympic medalist and winner of more than 1,000 races, was fourth at 13 seconds from the leader.
Rounding off the top 10 are Kirstin McGrath (ValueAct), Olivia Dillon (Touchstone), Carla Swart makes it three Lip Smacker in the top 10, Anna Milkowski and the Colavita/Sutter Home duo of Stacy Marple and Heather Logan.
Even though it was a new course, the biggest challenge of the day for most riders was the weather. After a steady morning downpour, the rain stopped, but the fog rolled in, creating visibility problems. “It was really foggy out there,” commented McGrath. “There were times when I couldn’t see two feet in front of me! Fortunately, the course wasn’t too technical, so I didn’t have to worry about turns in the road.”
Get ready for some aggressive racing as this year’s race features one of the largest field’s in the history of the race with over 100 women entered. “It’s great to see such a big field here,” commented ValueAct Team Director, Lisa Hunt. “It makes for aggressive and exciting racing.”
The Lip Smacker team is coming off a strong Tour of America’s Dairyland and will use its numbers to unseat Powers from the top, ValueAct will continue to race aggressively, and without any serious climbs, the fast women will come out play such as Tina Pic (Colavita/Sutter Home), and of course there’s always Longo.
Keeping Powers in the race leader’s jersey for the reminder of the four-day, four-stage event will mean racing aggressively during Friday’s Fitchburg State College Circuit Race, Seehafer said. The women will tackle 11 laps of a 1.2-mile (2.0 km) circuit that includes 100 feet of climbing on each lap of the 33-mile (54 km) race.
“What will work better for us is to be a little aggressive because of the time bonuses (of 10, five, and three seconds for the top three finishers),” Seehafer said. “Stevens had a good ride at Nature Valley so she’ll be one to watch and Samplonius is someone we have to keep our eye on, too. We also know Colavita-Sutter Home will be looking for stage wins and ValueAct Capital will be looking to be aggressive, too.”
Complete results here