April 25, 2006 (Dayton, Virginia) — Sunny skies and warm temperatures created perfect racing conditions for the first stage at the Tour of Shenandoah, and Team Priority Health’s performance was nearly perfect too, as their rider easily won the stage and claimed third spot on the podium.
Tom Zirbel earned top honors, winning the 2.6 mile point-to-point time trial in 6.15.04. The signature of the morning’s time trial was Mole Hill, a half-mile slog that got increasingly steeper and offered riders little reprieve until the finish line. “It’s a sadistic way to end a prologue,” Zirbel enthused about the climb. “We pre-rode the course and knew it was tough,” he added. Zirbel complimented the race directors for designing a hilly and technical course, a course that well suited to him and his teammates.
Ryan Roth of Canada-based Team R.A.C.E. finished second in 6.26.75. Pre-race excitement got the best of Roth and he jumped the gun a bit, costing him a time penalty of +1 second. “I felt decent,” Roth shook off the penalty. “You never know one-hundred percent going into it, but I was hoping for a top five [finish]. I’m pleased,” added Roth. “The hill was tough,” he grimaced and said he doesn’t consider himself a particularly strong climber.
Brent Brookwalter of Priority Health earned the third podium spot with a time of 6.29.01. “It’s a great course,” grinned Brookwater who said he was glad the race directors “threw in a hill for good measure.”
The competition is close at the top. Less than 25 seconds separate the first and tenth-placed riders.
The roughly 90 pro and top amateur cyclists representing an impressive field of fifteen teams started racing at 10:30 a.m. Following standard individual time trial procedure, each racer started the race at one-minute intervals. The last rider finished just after noon.
“This morning’s TT was a great start to our race,” Race Director Matt Butterman said, enthusiastic that the fourth Tour of Shenandoah — several months in the planning — is finally under way. “We had a nice fan turn out considering it’s the middle of the work-day,” he added. “It’s starting to get hot out, but fortunately Water Works is providing the race with 10,000 water bottles of the finest h2o available,” said Butterman. Of the winner’s steaming ride, Butterman, himself a former Cat One cyclist paid a compliment: “Zirbal’s 6:15 would be an impressive time on a flat course, fantastic considering the hill.”
Local favorite, favorite Jeremiah Bishop of Trek/VW presented by Byvik Financial Services, was chipper before the start and was looking forward to it. “It’s the beginning of a big week. We’re going for the GC and the U-23 jersey,” he said of his team’s goals. The Harrisonburg resident landed in 30th place with 6.56.08. Bishop is an accomplished pro mountain biker and Tour of Shenandoah is one of the few road races he enters each year.
The riders will have little time to recover from their tough sprint up Mole Hill; the day did not finish with the time trial. The Stage 2 criterium follows at 6:00 p.m. in Harrisonburg’s historic downtown Court Square.
“My team will protect me and keep me out of trouble tonight,” said Zirbal as he described his team’s strategy to support his bid for to win the General Classification (individual overall category) at the end of the Tour. “We’ll be as conservative as we can tonight, criteriums aren’t really our thing,” said Roth. “We still have six days of hard riding, but we’ll be OK,”added, Roth who continued feeling sure he and his team were well-positioned for the rest of the week.
Priority Health and Team R.A.C.E. have established themselves early as the ones to beat. Of course, with six more stages there’s plenty of time for riders to catch up. As Brent Brookwalter said after he stepped down from the podium: “It’s a long race.”
Results Stage One — Time Trial — Dayton, Virginia
1. Tom Zirbel Priority Health 6:15.04
2. Ryan Roth Team R.A.C.E. 6.26.75
3. Brent Bookwalter Priority Health 6.29.01
4. Dan Timmerman Fiordifrutta 6.34.45
5. Greg Wolf AEG-Toshiba-JetNetwork 6.35.03
6. Dan Cassidy CCB/Volkswagen 6.37.34
7. Justin Spinelli Nerac/Outdoorlights.com 6.37.80
8. Bruno Langlois AEG-Toshiba-Jet Network 6.38.92
9. Zach Bell Right-Aid 6.39.62
10. Hugh Moran AEG-Toshiba-JetNetwork 6.39.68