California PEZ: Chasing Tom
As in Zirbel – the big powerhouse on Team Bissell. The weather was up to it’s old tricks again today, as rain rolled through and threatened another wet one, but the skies brightened in time for the race, and I hitched a ride with the SRAM support car for one fast lap – good enough for 8th place in today’s TT. Here’s how it looked from shotgun…
By noon the Kalyra Women’s Team sponsored amateur TT had finished up – after the course had been officially tested by riders a lot more like us than pros, and the sun was out as the first rider rolled out of the start house.
Solvang is a wacky place, but it’s growing on me… the riding here is great, there’s lots of wine, and anyone who liked the film Sideways will appreciate a drink at the Hitching Post. The people are pretty nice too…
The Lifestyles expo was in full swing, and the • LOOK CYCLES-USA booth was showing off a custom painted 586 – complete in retro La Vie Claire colors – very cool. This bike’s a one off, but if you want one for your self, call your local LOOK dealer and let him know… I’m already lobbying hard to see this offered for limited sale.
LOOK also showed off a super light 586 build up that weighed in at under 14 pounds – complete with SRAM RED, ZIPP SL bars and a few other goodies.
My main mission for the day would be chasing Team Bissell’s Tom Zirbel. Last year I followed his team mate Ben Jacques-Maynes as he set a Top 10 pace, I wondered if Tom would go better today.
The course had changed slightly from 2007, to include a testy little climb right after turn 1, and a few seconds after his 12:58 start time, Bissell’s Tom Zirbel flew past and our SRAM Volvo and driver Mark Olsen gunned it onto the course, and Specialized’s new Angel blew us a kiss…
That first climb is a guaranteed winner to open up the lungs. Tom stayed in the saddle all the way up – not ready to give up any aero-advantage just yet.
Over the hill top it’s short order to the first descent through a residential area. The hill drops off steeply and it’s roller coaster time. The sharp right hander at the bottom was a real obstacle, but Tom nailed the line like a downhill skier.
Not long after the course turns left and it’s onto the flats… even with blustery winds Tom was flying…
Only a few minutes in and Tom was already passing his 1 minute man – Mollema of Rabobank.
The back side of the course is a bunch of long straights connected by some sharp turns – making for some great viewing.
Then it’s onto the climb – a twisting affair that gains around 300 feet – and plays home to some pretty nice real estate, especially if you’re a horse.
Not a bad spot either to shoot yourself in the… mirror.
Over the top is almost a religious experience, at least it was in our car the way we were screaming at Tom to spread his wings…
The descent back to Slovang is super fast – with speeds going over 80kph. But road is rough and the string wind caught Tom off guard a couple times.
And then it happened again – Tom caught another ride – this time his two minute man- yesterday’s hero Domonique Rollin, who rightly earned his sore legs for today.
The last few kms are rollers through some gorgeous countryside… and very fast.
Flying into the last 300 meters, we knew Tom was on a good ride… we were directed off course by the marshalls. Then we learned he was fastest so far with a time of 32:10, and that stood solid for 8th on the day. Impressive- and one place higher than his team mate Ben Jacques-Maynes… looks like we’ll be back next year for a rematch. A super ride for sure, and one I was darn happy to be along for.
Thanks to SRAM and Team Bissell for the invite, and to Tom for the kickin’ ride.
Saturday’s plan is to ride the final kms of the course over Balcom Canyon into Santa Clarita – should be a nice capper to the week, and given the forecasted storms headed this way for Sunday… might be my last chance for a good pedal.