This weekend, the US Pro championships races (or the Greenville Hospital System USA Cycling Professional Championships) will be held in Greenville, SC., starting with the time trial on Saturday followed immediately the day after by the road race.
Only one returning champ to defend his jersey as current USPro Road Race Champ Levi Leipheimer (Astana) is racing at the Vuelta a España while US Pro Time Trial Champ David Zabriskie (Garmin-Chipotle) is returning to the race and returning from injury.
In the two previous years that the race have been, the races have been dominated by the Pro Tour riders collaborating together in a race of attrition until the final showdown, but this year the MO will be turned on its head.
With 14 riders on the start lists, the Garmin-Chipotle team is the favorite going into both races led by double threat Christian Vande Velde who was 5th overall at the 2008 Tour de France, returning champ Zabriskie and Tour de France veteran (how sweet to be able to say that) and 2001 U23 World Time Trial Champion Danny Pate. And let’s not forget Steven Cozza who finished 16th last year in the time trial in his third race after a head injury took him out for 3 months. Serious firepower.
The argyle boys will be facing some stiff competition, as anything can happen in this tough one day race and anyone can get lucky. Local resident George Hincapie (Columbia) will only have one teammate to count on, also local Craig Lewis, to try and win the jersey again.
Other teams that are bringing large numbers include the BMC team with 11 riders, led by Tour of Utah winner Jeff Louder and an on-form Brent Bookwalter. The Bissell squad will be counting on Tom Zirbel for the time trial and second on NRC Teddy King for the road race. The 8-rider Rock Racing squad is counting on Freddie Rodriguez who finished fourth last year and Tyler Hamilton. Other riders to watch include Jittery Joe’s Neil Shirley who finished third last year in the road race, Reid Mumford (Kelly Benefit/Medifast) and Phil Zajicek (Health Net-Maxxis) for the time trial, and Toyota-United’s Chris Baldwin who’s been having a tough year but showed some really good form in Utah. Count on a break to go early that will include Dan Ramsey (Time Pro) and Chris Jones (Team Type 1), and probably Tim Johnson (Health Net-Maxxis).
A whole new 20.7- mile (33.3 km) time trial course to challenge the riders. The race will be held on a relatively flat 6.9-mile closed course with numerous turns, to be repeated 3 timesby each rider.
The 110-mile (177 km) road race course is quite similar to last year and still includes 4 times up Paris Mountain and has a new start/finish line in downtown Greenville. The race will make a total of 10 passes through Greenville (including three laps each of a start and finish circuit). Last year, Leipheimer attacked on the third time up the 3-mile climb of Paris Mountain, and only a few riders were able to stay with him as he reeled in the early break, and he repeated the manoeuver on the fourth and final climb to solo away to victory. Will this pattern be repeated this year?
In the good news department, after 6 months off of recovery from his head injury, Timmy Duggan (Garmin-Chipotle) will be returning to racing this weekend.
The races will be streamed live, via justin.tv – schedule (all times are subject to change)
Friday 29 Aug, 11-12 am PST (2-3pm EST): Press Conference
Saturday 30 Aug, 8-10:30am PST (11-1:30pm EST): Time Trial
Sunday 31 Aug, 10-2:30pm PST (1-5:30pm EST): Road Race
And the races will be shown on Versus (formerly OLN) at 2:30pm PST (5.30pm EST) September 7. Yes, that’s a week after the races are completed.