Monday, September 26, 2011

Steamboat Holiday

So, I'm officially in my Offseason, though this is the freshest I've felt going into this season in the 5 years I've been a pro cyclist. Hmmm, maybe the key to feeling good in September is starting your season in May? Too bad I don't think that would fly with most team managers. The season ended up well for me. Too few 'W's for my liking but considering this whole year is a bonus for me, I'm very pleased with how things went. Riding with the Jamis/Sutter Home Team for this year was a great experience and so much fun!
Rebecca had a conference in Steamboat Springs, CO last week and so I tagged along to do some mountain biking and spend some time in this beautiful resort town that I've only been to once previously. I had an amazing time on the mountain biking trails there. I don't know if it was the weather (60-70 degrees), the fact that it is their slow season (I encountered only a handful of other bikers/hikers the entire time I was out there), or just because I hadn't been on my mountain bike for ages - but I really enjoyed myself out there! I found the single track challenging but doable for my skill level, meaning I only fell off my bike a couple of times.
Just a taste of the cool Singletrack in the area. Sometimes I wasn't sure if the trail was wide enough for my handlebars!

A nice overlook of Steamboat. We were staying near the base of the ski resort seen in the distance and it was about an hour ride to the overlook.

Things are looking good for 2012. I will be employed to race my bike, which I'm very excited about. And I'm already plotting to take over the (cycling) world. However, I have to remember that offseasons serve a rather important purpose and I need to pump the brakes for a bit. In the meantime, I will sit on my bum more than usual and maybe revisit the hiking trails in our backyard and eventually drop in on my old friend Bear Peak.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ouch, it stings!

No, not my 2nd bout of road rash from a crash at the Tour of Utah - I'm referring to staying at home during this big race in my home state. Watching the USPCC Prologue on T.V. Monday while sitting on some pretty decent form (I set my 5' best power at altitude 3 days prior to the race) was difficult to put it mildly. I was sick to stomach for most of the coverage. I mean, a 195 lb TT specialist who lives at altitude is forced to skip a mostly downhill 5 mi TT 2 hrs from his house? Ouch. Why did I even watch it then, you ask? That's something I can't quite explain other than I wanted the bitter disappointment to burn so that it would be something I would remember for the future. I hope the race promoters are happy with the domestic teams whom they chose in place of the Jamis/Sutter Home Cycling Team. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scrutinizing the performances of those teams this week.
On the bright side of things, I'm taking part in some very cool events in place of this OTHER race. I did the Rapha Gentlemen's Race in Portland last weekend. Such a cool event! 6-person teams tackle a brutally challenging course mostly unsupported and must finish all team members in order to get an official time. This year, the course was 130 miles with over 9000ft of climbing...oh, and probably 75% on gravel roads in rough shape. I was recruited for a team of tall guys (average height of 6'4" or so) which also meant we were heavier than the average Jose. I'm not sure but I'm guessing that this contributed to our 8 flat tires throughout the event. That was about the only bummer from the day. Otherwise, we had a great time riding amazing roads in the hilly countryside just west of Portland. I brought a Garmin Edge 500 along for the day so you can see the course profile, speeds, and temp throughout the day. Other highlights included trying to stay in contact with Ryan "Treefarm" Trebon on gravel descents when he was going maybe 80%, and eating chips, candy bars, soda or whatever else I could shove into my mouth at the numerous food stops that we made along the way. 10 hrs of chamois time and 8 hrs of pedal time for the day! Both personal records, I believe.
Next up is an event that's been on my radar for several years now. I'm heading up to Vermont to race in the Green Mountain Stage Race over Labor Day weekend. I've heard great things about this race and am excited to finally be able to take part in it. It is the home turf of teammate Jamey Driscoll so hopefully we can race together and have some fun...if I can convince him that we're still in road season and it will surely help his CX fitness. It should be a fun time and tough racing!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lesson Learned

Oooh...2 posts in one week! Exciting times. I was originally going to entitle this post "When It Rains, It Pours" but I decided on "Lesson Learned" because there was a lesson from today and I think upon reflection that I may have grasped it.
Today was the first day since my CL RR that I wasn't feeling crummy about my race performance. This morning, I officially let it go and moved on from my poor showing in my hometown. Today I had short prologue-esque TT intervals scheduled in the morning and a mid-week crit in the evening. As I rolled down the hill from my house this morning and stopped at the first stoplight, there was a person holding a sign on the corner (as there is everyday at that corner). I'm sure you've seen this scene: a person writes some sort of message that is supposed to illicit pity, guilt, or a laugh with the ultimate goal of scoring a few bucks from people stopped at the corner. Today's person had a sign that read "Appreciate what you have and don't take it for granted." I immediately thought, "Ya dude, you should appreciate that you're healthy enough to be out here enjoying this beautiful day and by the looks of it you're not starving or anything." Little to zero empathy or sympathy from this guy (thumbs pointed inward) when I saw this person this morning. And certainly no inward reflection about the message on his sign.
So, I continued on my ride and I could tell right away that it was going to be good day. I wondered not if, but by how much I would smash my 5' TT power records today. I was engulfed in this train of thought when I noticed my turn was coming up and so took a quick glance over my shoulder and then started to make the left turn going a little faster than usual. Well, there was about a foot wide strip of deep gravel on the edge of the left turn lane that I failed to notice in my daydreaming and my tire slid out immediately when I hit it. I slid to a stop in the middle of the road, cursing before I was even finished sliding. I untangled myself from my bike and my next action was to hurl my bottle at the nearest inanimate object. I just kept saying "I can't believe this" in between expletives. I thought I had wrecked my chances at doing well at Cascade. A nice older gentleman named Ken came to my aid and brought me a first aid kit and water from his car, because by this time I was dripping blood from several different locations. I knew I hadn't broken my collarbone so my attention immediately went to my ribs and hips, two of the initial contact points along with my elbow/forearm. I took a deep breath with no shooting pain so I was pretty certain that I hadn't broken ribs again. I was walking around so the hip couldn't be too bad. But I chose not to appreciate this relative good fortune. All that I could think about was the missed workouts and the possibly hindered state that I would be starting in next week. I changed my tube (sliding along the pavement wore through the sidewall and blew the tube as I was coming to a halt), thanked Ken for caring enough to spring into action to help me, and gingerly climbed aboard my wounded TT bike. As I was limping home, trying to avoid touching the handlebars with the open wounds on my hands, I thought again of the message on the sign at the corner "Appreciate what you have..." I thought about how foolish it was for me to be so upset about not winning my hometown race. After having so many friends and family come to support me and see what I love to do, I chose to focus on my failures rather than how blessed I am to have so many great people in my life. In this, the year of racing that wasn't even supposed to exist for me due to a suspension, I chose to feel angry and wronged somehow by the tactics that were played out 'against' me. Really? This whole friggin season is a gift! I have no right to pout about some lack of result when I was never even planning on pinning a number on this year. Yes, I can be disappointed about not winning and about crashing stupidly on a training ride but I better recognize and acknowledge the good fortune with the bad, otherwise I cross the line and enter into "whiny, self-pity" territory. And there's far too much good going on in my life right now to be hanging out over there.
Oh, and just analyzed my power file: 44.7 kph when I hit the deck. Boy, I forgot how much I missed cleaning wounds in the shower! Where's a bottle of percocet (or scotch) when you need it??

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bicycle, Blues, and BBQ Festival

I had a great time at the Bicycle, Blues & BBQ Festival in Clear Lake, IA this past weekend. Tim Putnam put on two excellent races and the crowd at the criterium on Saturday night was exceptional. The crit had a very professional feel to it and I think the racers really appreciated all of the hard work and effort that was put in to create the event. I had quite a few racers say to me "Wow, you're from here? This is a cool little town!"
I had me some tasty BBQ brisket and listened to a really talented Blues band, Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys, on Friday night. I got to see tons of friends and family who live in the area and came out to Clear Lake to watch the races.
The Saturday crit went well, we narrowed the field of 50 down to 7 riders containing teammate Nick Frey and myself with a few early attacks. With 10-12 laps to go, I attacked hard and the other 5 riders responded but then Nick counter-attacked and went solo for the win. It was a good day and everything worked well...though I should have worked harder to get on the podium.
In the road race, I was feeling good and very motivated to win. It was a frustrating race because there were a lot of talented, strong riders in the field but they all seemed to be waiting and reacting rather than racing. That's fine, I can totally understand their reasoning but I let myself get frustrated (and a little bored) and so attacked solo with about 45 miles remaining in an 82 mile RR. I really thought that as good as I was feeling that day they would never see me again. First mistake: pride/ego. The field worked well together and kept me within 30" for about an hour. I finally gave up the fight with 15 miles remaining since my back was tightening up badly and I was completely out of water. As soon as the field caught me, there were numerous counter-attacks but the majority of the field was still happy to sit in rather than race for the win. And then I started to feel sorry for myself thinking about how thirsty I was and how I was starting to cramp up and blah, blah, blah. I took it upon myself to keep the breakaways close to give Nick a chance at the sprint but I really didn't fight for the win. In a way, I just gave in to the whiny voices in my head. I'm really not proud of the way that I raced the last 10 miles of that RR. Looking back, I think that if I would have continued to fight and attack, I may have changed the outcome. As it was, Nick sprinted for 3rd and I didn't even contest the sprint due to being boxed in and then having someone pull out of his pedal right next to me. Congratulations to FasCat athlete Gregg Brandt who placed 2nd in the crit and won the road race in an exciting sprint! I'm disappointed in the race but mostly due to the mistakes I made. If I am fortunate enough to come back next year (which I really hope my schedule allows) I will just hope and pray for 30 mph winds in that road race!
Anyway, it was a great weekend of racing and I had a blast. Plus, I was reminded of how hard this sport is at this level and that you have to keep fighting no matter what. A big thank you to Tim Putnam, Monson and Sons and all of the other great sponsors who helped create the event.
Now it's on to the Boise Twilight and the Cascade Cycling Classic. I've never done the Boise Twilight but I've heard it's a fun race with a good atmosphere as well. And of course, I love going back to Cascade for the beautiful courses and to see how big the Sheasby kids have gotten. ;-)

Friday, June 17, 2011


Hanging in the Twin Cities for the Nature Valley Grand Prix this week. Having a lot of fun seeing friends and family in the area who have come out to support Jamis/Sutter Home for the race.

Look at these die hard racing fans braving the rain after the TT on Wednesday! I think they're tougher than me...

We'll keep doing our best to make it an exciting and interesting race but so far it's been pretty one-sided. Gotta keep fighting though!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Okay, now breathe

Wow, that was quite the ride. I feel like I finally have an opportunity to breathe a little after about a month of craziness. I went from the Tour of the Gila to "Hurry up and get ready for ToC!" mode, to the biggest race on North American soil, to our National Championships to the biggest one-day bike race in the States. All the while trying to be an effective cycling coach to my athletes who I'm already emotionally invested in.
Now that I'm home and able to relax and reflect, it's a bit overwhelming. It's just nuts how much change has occurred in my life over the past 2 months. I'm so, so thankful that Jamis/Sutter Home believed in me and worked so hard to get me on the start line of these races. What a great bunch of people! It really is quite astonishing how much this team accomplishes for how few are working behind the scenes.
So up next for me is Nature Valley Grand Prix and then potentially, probably my hometown race in Clear Lake with my teammate and fellow Iowan Nick Frey. And though I'm really excited and hungry to win a lot of races this year with my new team, I have to believe that everything from this point on will be lower stress than these past 40 days or so. It'll be a cinch! (note: that's entirely false because if there's one thing I've been reminded of since my comeback began, it's that this sport is so friggin hard!)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Jamis - Sutter Home!

I'm proud to announce that I've signed with the Jamis - Sutter Home Cycling Team for the 2011 season. Yeah, it's not exactly breaking news but as you can imagine, I've been a bit busy these last few weeks. This is very exciting for me. To go from a suspension to racing with one of the best domestic racing teams in the U.S. in a matter of weeks has been a bit of a shock....but a good shock. At least I get to eeeeaaase into things and get my legs under me before I head to any big races. (This is called denial due to the truth being a bit too scary and overwhelming). I will, in fact, be heading to Tahoe tomorrow to line up with some of the best in the world starting on Sunday.
Gila was great for the fitness (and I just love that race) and my training in the past week has gone better than I could have hoped, so I'm actually in a good place both mentally and physically.
Thanks for all of the support I've received regarding my recent fortune in finding a great team to ride with. I'll be writing a daily blog for during the Amgen Tour of Califoria, so please follow along as the Jamis / Sutter Home team tries to make waves racing against those stinky Euros! (just kidding Euros, I'm sure you shower regularly...and use a healthy amount of hair gel and cologne to boot!)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Racing Update

It's been awhile since my last race update! ;-)
I've gotten some emails and such about posting a race schedule, etc. Not really sure what kind of racing schedule I'm going to have but I list what I've got so far:
Apr. 2, Louisville Crit - 1st place I'll spare you the race report only to say that it wasn't a bunch sprint like the results timing suggests.
Apr. 10, Mead Roubaix
Apr. 16, Haystack ITT & TTT
Apr. 17, Air Force RR
Apr. 23, Deer Trail?
Apr. 27-May 1, Tour of the Gila??

That's what is on the docket for now. I'll try to update the blog as things progress. Thanks for the support!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

3 things...

on the agenda today:
A) Please check out this ESPN interview by Bonnie Ford. She's bright and knowledgeable about cycling and thus asks good questions.

B) Taken directly from the letter from USADA, citing the reasons for my reduction (first 3 reasons are related to the people that I put them in contact with):
"Fourth, the fact that the substance likely at issue in Mr. Zirbel's positive test, DHEA, likely does not continue to provide a performance enhancing benefit and the fact that Mr. Zirbel undertook substantial efforts to identify the source of his positive which may have been caused by a contaminated nutritional supplement."
Holy shit! They really said that I MAY not be a cheater. Yippee!

C) Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of the positive and encouraging emails, texts, and phone calls this past week. It means sooo much to me.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Um I guess I have some good news. Turns out I can race this year due to a string of random events that played out starting last October. Remember when I lamented on this blog a few months back about Di Luca because he got a reduction in sanction for providing details of his doping practices? And then I said something to the effect of "if only I had actually doped or had knowledge of dopers, I too could get a reduction". Well, at some point after that rant I met with a person who had incriminating knowledge of a suspected doper and I eventually helped convince that person to approach USADA with that information. USADA found that information so useful that they decided to reduce my sanction because of it.
The other crucial part to this puzzle is the onset of a new program started at the CU - Boulder Law School by USOC ombudsman John Ruger. It's a program where law students can take on real cases of athletes battling doping violations but who don't have the money to hire legal representation. I was their first case, and under the tutelage of Professor Andy Hartman, they helped me use the information that I could provide USADA for my benefit. Without their help, I'm sure I would have still tried to convince that person to help USADA but my situation would be unchanged. I'm convinced of this because this is the 2nd time that I've done this for USADA since my sanction began and the first time I simply put them in touch with the person who had the information with no discussions about how it should benefit me. This time, my CU team helped convince me to 'play the game'.
Yes, I agree that this has absolutely nothing to do with me and I'm don't really think it merits a reduction in sanction. But I'd like to think that USADA is beginning to realize that I'm not a dirty cheat. I think that they've talked to a lot of people both clean and dirty who all think that mine is a case of unintentional ingestion. I'd like to think that this was their way of getting me a reduction on a technicality. However, I'm probably full of shit. I think that I ultimately just saved them some money and potentially losses and they want to encourage others to do what I've done.
In citing the reasons for my reduction, they said that coming forth with information took 'courage'. I was a little offended by that. Every clean rider that I know of wants nothing more than for all of the cheaters to get caught and the punishment that they deserve. There is nothing courageous about wanting a clean sport. It's actually a selfish endeavor. I don't want anyone who is taking shortcuts to beat me or any of my friends. The reality is that I would have given them the information regardless of whether it directly benefited me or not - the same as any other athlete out there who is doing things the right way would do.
It's a crazy world. I'm going to make the most of this opportunity. The 2011 season was previously taken away from me so now anything positive that happens from this moment on is a gift.

Monday, February 28, 2011


I thought this Washington Post piece that was linked from the Velonews site was nice to see. The fact that people are starting to raise questions about the anti-doping system in place is encouraging. Without inadvertent ingestion due to contamination or use of non-performance enhancing recreational drugs, USADA doesn't have much to point to.
I understand the importance of having a deterrent, but Tygart and co. see no need to make the distinction between intentional cheaters and the other 50% of athletes who they sanction.
The reality (and pessimistic view) that I'm beginning to hold is that if you want to cheat, you are going to be able to stay one step ahead of the anti-doping authorities and get away with it unless you screw up or really screw up.
It's not all gloom and doom, I guess. Paper trails seem to be an effective way to catch cheaters after the fact (Operation Puerto, Papp List, etc.). And then there's the cutting edge tests that some of the cheaters may not know about until it's too late (Cera in 2008 and plasticizer test in 2011?).
I guess this is my question: is WADA really an effective deterrent to cheating if the dopers know that they can get away with it if they're careful enough? And how effective of a deterrent does USADA and WADA need to be in order to justify the roughly 50% (if you believe that statistic) sanction rate of inadvertent 'cheaters' that test positive for something that in all likelihood had no effect on their performance?
Maybe we should spend more time and energy into changing the culture of doping in sports being as the current drug testing is seemingly so ineffective. Of course there are always going to be cheaters and D-bags in every profession but if we could minimize that from within, build trust that the guy or gal next to you is clean, we might be able to effectively clean up sport. Maybe I'm naive, but I still believe in people and I think that many athletes who choose the dirty road do so because they think the person next to them is doing the same thing, and they justify it to themselves accordingly.
How could we possibly change the culture and build trust? Start with strong leadership to get the message out. Team leaders sitting down to talk with the young guys/gals on the team. Leaders of the sport saying 'enough is enough' and abolishing the omerta. Communication between athletes, management, and anti-doping authorities. I think that we're starting to see this in cycling, but I hope that it's taken up a notch.
I don't know if this is the answer or even the right path or not. Just seems like we can do better.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Poor Fella

I couldn't resist posting this story brought to my attention by Betts. Ouch! 10 whole games!?! Granted, he probably will lose more money in 10 games than I will have lost in 2 years...
I could be wrong here but basketball is an Olympic sport and should be held to the WADA Code, right? Let me know your thoughts on the matter.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Rebecca and I spent a weekend in Ouray, CO recently and there was a lot of "ooooh"ing and "aaaaahh"ing going on. The oohs were for the up close and personal mountains surrounding the tiny town and the aahs were for the time we spent in the natural hot springs in the area.
Really, pictures don't do it justice so if you haven't been and you find yourself in the same timezone, it's worth experiencing. Ouray is primarily known as an ice climber's paradise in the winter but we're not quite that hard core (and don't have the gear) so we just gawked at them for a bit. However, we did experience first hand how much snow the area has received by trudging upward through trails that hadn't been traversed in weeks. Even with snowshoes, it was typically knee deep or greater. It took us over 2 hours of huffing and puffing to make it 2 miles up the trail. At that point, we decided some hot springs action was in order and so flipped it and headed down.
It's called the Switzerland of the U.S. for obvious reasons seen from the pics below. Also, of constant debate during the trip was the correct pronunciation of the town: Is it Yer-ray or maybe Ooh-Ray? I chose Oower-ray because I think it deserves an extra syllable.

Our accommodations for the weekend. Livin Large!

Ouray was originally a mining town so there are several abandoned mine shafts on the surrounding trails.