While the temperature did not climb into the 3 digits as predicted by many, it was still a scorcher at stage 3 of the Larry H Miller Tour of Utah where last year’s winner Tom Zirbel of the BISSELL team, clocked the fastest time of seventeen minutes even on the 14.5 km (9.2 mi) course held at the Miller Motorsports Park.
Zirbel had a tough start to the race on Tuesday when he finished tenth the prologue, which for the time trial ace was disappointing. “It was pretty surprising actually, I felt like crap all week but I sat up yesterday for the climb and obviously that saved my legs a little bit for today.” said Zirbel who set an average speed of 51 km/h (31 mph) on the course. “Those GC guys, they didn’t have that luxury so I think that was the difference.”
The BMC team continued to show their strengths in the race against the clock by placing two riders on the podium, Ian McKissick in second at fourteen seconds down and Brent Bookwalter in third at nineteen seconds.
“I had a terrible day yesterday, I’ve been struggling with a stomach issue so I didn’t know how I would feel today but when I was riding I felt fine, I thought I was putting in a good time but it turns out that Zirbel crushed it again.” said McKissick.
“Not the top step, there’s a few of us up there today.” said Bookwalter who finished second in last year’s time trial.
“It was super fast, there is really not much to it, it’s twisty but pretty much driving in a straight line the whole time, that’s not exactly my forte, I tend to do a little bit better when I can get out of the cramped aero position, so I was definitely fading a little bit like in the last 5 K, but I felt good.” said Bookwalter who caught his 30-second and one-minute man. “I had Burke at 30 seconds, and Tyler Wren at one minute so I figured if I could catch both of them I could do a decent time. I pulled back a lot on Burke in the first 5 K even and then the last fifteen seconds to get out of him were a little bit harder.”
An extra two kilometers were added to the course this year which still meandered through the Park with its wide banked turns, and both McKissick and Zirbel commented that the course was less technical than last year, or that they remembered.
“It’s even more straight forwards than I remembered it, there are long straights where you just go, put your head down and go.” said Zirbel who caught and passed quite a few riders on his way to the win. “The only thing I was really worried about were the thirty seconds intervals, passing guys at inopportune times but it wasn’t am issue, I always passed the guys, they all happened on straightaways, it wasn’t a big deal.”
The heat was not that much a factor as most riders used ice socks to keep cool. “Normally, I hate the heat, absolutely hate it but our soigneurs were great, they gave us a bunch of ice, so I started with ice everywhere I could put it, it didn’t feel too hot.” said McKissick.
As the fifty-fourth rider out of the gate, Zirbel stayed on the hot seat until the end, waiting to see if his time would be bested, especially with riders such as current US TT Champion David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) still to come. But in the end, his time stood and the result is a good sign for the upcoming TT Championships next weekend. “The training up to this week was good, I was expecting to go a lot better and it just wasn’t there, this was encouraging.” said Zirbel who will focus on helping his teammates in tomorrow’s difficult stage. “I’ll rest up, try to help Burke as much as I can, Ben and Burke are still top 20, we’ll scrap for some points and rest up and refocus for US Pro.”
Zabriskie finished fifth at twenty-three seconds down. “He went a little bit faster up the climb yesterday so there are not three stages before the US Pro Time Trial.” commented Zirbel. “It doesn’t change my approach, I still have to prepare myself the best as possible and scrap for every seconds next Saturday.”
No major changes in the GC battle going into the Queen stage on Saturday. Team Type 1’s Darren Lill, with a time of seventeen minutes and thirty-seven seconds, gained 5 seconds on yellow jersey Francisco Mancebo of the Rock Racing team and increased his lead by twenty seconds over third place Jeff Louder of the BMC Racing Team. Chris Baldwin (OUCH-Maxxis) moved up to fourth spot on GC at one minute and two seconds down and Matt Busche (Kelly Benefit) is now in fifth one second further down.
In the other battle, the Best Young Rider classification, Alex Howes (Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin) increased his lead to 28 seconds on Bjorn Selander (Trek-Livestrong).
“I wouldn’t say surprised but I’m happy about it. ” smiled Howes who yesterday commented that he thought he would lose the blue jersey after the time trial.
“I’m not a time trial specialist by any means and Bjorn is fast as hell. He started in front of me so I had a carrot out there, I tried to bring back as much time as I could as fast as I could and then just hold it.” said Howes who added with a chuckle. “It messed me up quite a bit.”
What’s next? The beast of a stage, the 155 km (96 mi) monster stage from Park City to the top of Snowbird with three categorized climbs including Alpine Loop and the finish at the top of Snowbird after a relentless climb. This is the last chance for the GC contenders to hit each other and get their hands on the yellow jersey and it’s going to be brutal out there and breathtakingly beautiful too.
“Priority one is to win the GC, I think it’s still within reach. We are all very motivated, and we’re still confident and optimistic.” said Bookwalter. “Tomorrow is Jeff’s stage, he showed it last year, he did a really inspired ride last year and we’re all one hundred percent confident that he can do it again and that we can do it again, we’re really excited, we’re going to go to bed hungry and come out fighting tomorrow. ”
The battle in the Best Young Rider competition is still very much alive. “It’s nice to have more than two seconds and everyone can have a bad day. That kid if really strong, he’s going really well right now. It’s a tough race tomorrow, it will be a real man’s race, he’s a real man,” laughed Howes, “so we’ll see. ”
Complete results here
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