This is Tom Zirbel, 2001 Wartburg College Alum. If any of you know me, you probably associate me with running. I lived and breathed Wartburg Cross Country and Track & Field for 4 years...with maybe a little chemistry thrown in there for good measure. Upon graduating, I moved out to Boulder, CO and continued running competitively until sustaining a moderate knee injury in the fall of 2002. Frustrated that I couldn't run 100 mi/wk without a lot of pain, I bought a road bike in Feb. '03 to cross train. I entered a few races that summer and really enjoyed it. Fast forward 6 years and I'm now a 4th year pro with the Bissell Pro Cycling Team (yes, the vacuum cleaners). :) I owe a lot of my quick ascension in the pro cycling ranks to the hard training and 'daily toil' we experienced at Wartburg College under the tutelage of Coaches Steve Johnson and Marcus Newsom. Those days of working hard and dreaming big aren't much different in principle to my life as a pro cyclist now. That's the short, short version of how I got to this point.
This week, I'm competing in the Cascade Cycling Classic. It's a 6 day stage race and happens to be my favorite race of the year! It is based out of Bend, Oregon and has beautiful road races (2 of which finish atop the Cascade mountains) and friendly people. It has been a big objective of our team to win this race since the beginning of the year. As I write this in the Denver airport, traveling to the race, I am both nervous and excited to get under way with tomorrow's 80 mile first stage. So, I promise to find the time and energy (and internet access) to take you with me on this week long adventure (or work trip, if you prefer).
I'd also like to answer a couple of questions that some of you not familiar with cycling are wondering right now:
Yes, I've raced against Lance Armstrong
No, I've never chatted with him
Yes, this is my J-O-B
Yes, I'd like to race in the Tour de France someday, but they only invite the 20 best teams in the world and those team bring their 9 best riders. So, for reference, there are 7 Americans in the Tour this year and that's a lot for us! My point is that it's very difficult to get a start in the biggest race in the world.
Also yes, my butt sometimes hurts when racing or training 5 hours/day. :-)
Any other questions you may have can be asked through the comment section on this blog, and I'll do my best to answer them.
Oh, and yes I still have an affinity for orange that is scarcely understood to the average Joe. Go Knights!
And thank you to Mark Adkins, the Wartburg Sports Info Director, who contacted me and set up this blog for the race reports.
Thanks for reading!