Tom Zirbel to return to European racing in 2012
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Monday, September 26, 2011

Tom Zirbel to return to European racing in 2012

by Shane Stokes at 9:55 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Announcement due soon on which team he will join

Tom ZirbelAfter several months of solid racing in the US, time trial specialist Tom Zirbel has confirmed that he will return to European racing in 2012. The 32 year old will compete with an as-yet to be announced squad next season, and will step things up compared to this year.

“I don't feel comfortable naming the team, I'll leave that to them, but I will say that I'm really excited about next season,” he told VeloNation today. “I plan to have a mixed schedule of U.S. and international racing.”

Zirbel has been with the Jamis-Sutter Home team since signing for it at the end of April. Prior to that he served a 18 month suspension after testing positive for Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) at the US Pro Championships on August 29, 2009. He maintains that he did not intentionally ingest the banned product, and has indicated that he believes a tainted supplement was the most likely source.

The Iowan made his return to competition earlier this year and rode with the Hotel San Jose-ACME team in the SRAM Tour of the Gila, where he was sixth in the stage three time trial. After switching to Jamis-Sutter Home, he participated in the Amgen Tour of California, then scorched to a strong silver medal in the National time trial championships at the end of May.

In the months since he took his places on a number of stages, include third at the Nature Valley Grand Prix, second at the Cascade Classic, second on stage of the Tour of Elk Grove, first and second on stages of the Green Mountain stage race plus first overall in the latter classical event. He was also third in the recent Univest Grand Prix.

“The most emotional moment for me was standing on the podium of the US National Championship TT,” he told VeloNation. “It was the place where my career was wrecked in 2009...or temporarily derailed anyway (though I didn't know it at the time), and this year it marked my return to the top end of the peloton.

“In terms of results, I got a lot of satisfaction out of helping team-mate Luis Amaran win the GC at the Tour of Elk Grove. To me, there's no better feeling than having everyone on the team united for a common goal and then stepping up their performances to see it through. That was a lot of fun.”

Most of all, Zirbel says that he enjoyed being back racing. When he was suspended, he initially said that he was retiring from the sport, but gradually began training again and working towards the moment when he could return. He missed the bike and has enjoyed coming back to it. “The whole season was a lot of fun for me,” he enthused. “I had my ups and downs but the bad moments were mostly because of undue pressure that I put on myself. Looking back, the season was a great success for me. I view it all as a gift.”

Zirbel’s destination for 2012 should become known soon. He was due to race with Garmin-Transitions in 2010 but missed out due to his suspension. And while things are complicated because of that ban, general manager Jonathan Vaughters has sounded relatively supportive at times. If Zirbel were to join, he would undoubtedly boost the squad in team time trials, including next year’s world championship in that discipline.

Details are scarce now, though, and it remains to be seen if he has earned a WorldTour or Pro Continental contract for next season. If it’s the former, logic suggests that it would be Garmin-Cervélo or the BMC Racing Team, which will be the sole US squads with WorldTour status next year after HTC Highroad and RadioShack stop.

If it’s a pro Continental team, the blend of European and American racing suggests it could be a squad like UnitedHealthare or Team Type 1, or possibly, Steve Bauer’s Canadian Team Spidertech.

Wherever he ends up racing, he said that he has clear goals. “I want to win more races, of course! Specifically, I have some work to do in the time trials,” he told VeloNation. “I have to get better if I'm going to scorch every TT course, like I plan to do next year.

“I really did not enjoy sitting at home during the US Pro Cycling Challenge Prologue and the recent Copenhagen Worlds TT. Watching those two races and feeling that burn of rejection really motivated me to step it up for next year. I guess my goal is to push my limits further than I ever have before. I prefer process goals to performance goals. Beyond that, my goal is to grow as a racer and have a lot of fun along the way.”

Zirbel’s now reached the end of his season plans to take a break. He and his girlfriend Rebecca will head to India for a fortnight in mid October. After that, it’s all systems go for 2012.
 

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