In front of his hometown, George Hincapie (Columbia-HTC) won the Greenville Hospital System USA Cycling Professional Road Race Championship. Part of a late 8-rider break that formed that last time up Paris Mountain, Hincapie with his fast kick, outsprinted Andy Bajadali (Kelly Benefit) for the win. In third was BMC’s Jeff Louder who put in a strong solo attack on the last 3 kilometer in the final short lap only to be caught with 500 meters to go.
This is the third National title for Hincapie who also won in 1998 in Philadelphia, then again in 2006 in its first year in Greenville and the first year the race was only for US riders.
“It’s very emotional for me, it’s my hometown, I always tell everybody how great it is. Not even winning, but having the National Championship in my hometown is special but to be able to win with all that pressure, I had the whole city that wanted me to win, it’s a great feeling once it’s done. Before, it’s not such a great feeling because you’re stressing out about the race, I’m really glad it worked out.” said Hincapie.
“I gave it all, the team gave it their all. It’s hard, there’s only one result at the National title really, you can’t be excited about that or … I am excited, it’s great for the team but I want to come back and win. It’s all about winning, it’s the national jersey, you want to wear it.” said Bajadali whose prior highest-placed finish was 6th in 2006.
“The chance to be able to wear the jersey for the year. It’s only the race, except for the World Championships and the Olympics, where you get to pull something for the season so it’s really that I always wanted to do, I always wanted to win a National Championship and came close. At the end of the day, I came short but I can’t be ashamed of how it ended up because I didn’t hold anything back at all. ” said Louder who improved on last year’s fifth place finish. “Also to be able to win a National Championship, it’s great to tell the grand-parents, they understand that, that’s kind of tangible thing for people that don’t necessarily follow cycling can understand, it’s pretty motivating.”
The break. The fourth and final time up Paris Mountain, as part of the 22.48-mile long laps sandwiched between the shorter starting and finishing circuits brought the decisive break off the front. Hincapie’s teammate Craig Lewis, while suffering from the H1N1 virus, not only started the race but raced hard and aggressively, put in a blistering pace to whittle down the field for the first kilometer and a half of the climb. Attacks were flying with Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) making a move which reduced the numbers even more. And then it was Hincapie’s turn with only Matt Busche (Kelly Benefit) sticking to his wheel.
“I attacked after that, I think I got away with one other guy, maybe 5 or 10 seconds on these guys, but it was a long way to go alone, they caught right back up on the first little downhill then we started working together fairly well. ” said Hincapie.
The select group of 8 riders off the front were Hincapie, Louder and his teammate Brent Bookwalter, Bajadali and Busche, Zajicek, Team Type 1′s Chris Jones who had been in an earlier break and Jonathan McCarty (OUCH). Behind them, a 9-man chase group which included duos from Garmin-Slipstream Jason Donald and Danny Pate, Neil Shirley and Dan Bowman from Kelly Benefit Strategies, Mike Creed and Shawn Milne from Team Type 1, Burke Swindlehurst (BISSELL), Brad White (OUCH), Max Jenkins (Glud & Marstrand Horsens) and Jason McCartney (Saxo Bank).
With a strong group on the hunt there was no times for games at the front even if both two teams had two riders as the lead group was going down the tricky descent and starting the final 3 short 4.18-mile finishing circuits.
“I think that one they realized that there were 9 guys hunting us pretty aggressively, I think everyone realized that it was better to try to ride,” said Louder, “so in the end, it was great to have Brent there as a teammate, the other guys it kind of evened out because luckily we had a group chasing us so we had to keep moving down the road”
The cooperation continued until the final lap as the gap hovered between 20 and 40 seconds to the chase group. With his known finishing kick, Hincapie was a threat and everyone knew it.
“I knew that it was obvious that George was the fastest guy and the strongest, the way he rode Paris Mountain, he was still there and looking really good that really if we did go to the line, it wouldn’t work. So knowing that Brent was there, that he had my back, I knew that it had to be a solo move if I had a chance, kind of looked for the right opportunity and make sure it was close enough to the line so I had a chance.” said Louder who launched his solo move in the final three kilometers.
And then Hincapie made his move with one kilometer to go which Bajadali knew was coming.
“Jeff had put in a great attack, and I saw behind that the guys I was with were at the limit, so I attack with a k[ilometer] to go, I was able to catch Jeff right at the end, he did an awesome move.” said Hincapie
“Hincapie, I knew was going to go, he had to in the last k and a half, there’s a hard hill and then you come into the final k, he hit out really hard and I knew he was going to go, I almost didn’t make it because he went so hard.” said Bajadali.
The pair caught Louder and Baj tried to outsprint Hincapie. “My only shot was to hit out with 300 meters and just go for it, I actually got a little gap on him and I was cramping, he was cramping, he got on me, he’s got a really fast finish, everyone knows that so that was it, he came around with 250, 200 meters, won it pretty easily.”
“The last kilometer I was full gas so I didn’t hear much, my legs were on fire but I was able to post with 25 meters to go that I really heard it, it was really exciting.” said Hincapie who was surrounded by a wall of noise from the cheering crowd as he drove to the line for the win.
Playing rabbit. But before all that, David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) went off on a solo move to force the other teams to chase. Two miles into the 185.1 km/115.0 mile long race, he hit it, put his head down and time trialed away, quite a feat of force for the man who set a blistering speed to win his fourth US Pro Time Trial title the day before. He flew and the gap started to grow.
A 15-rider strong chase group was organized and starting to hunt down the rabbit. This group included Jones and his teammate Wil Dugan, Zabriskie’s teammate Mike Friedman, Jonathan Garcia and Jackson Stewart of the BMC team, three riders from BISSELL Tom Zirbel, Sheldon Deeny and Paul Mach, Roman Kilun (OUCH), Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly), Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit), Jon Hamblen (DLP Racing) and Ben King (Trek Livestrong).
At the bottom of the second time up Paris Mountain, Zabriskie had a gap of three minutes and fifteen seconds to the chase group and four minutes and forty-five seconds to the field.
“I think he was just trying to put pressure on the other teams and take pressure off his teammates, he really earned that thing.” said Louder. “I don’t know how he stayed away because he went away immediately and we were not going slow, he was racing like it was a crit, the last 30 minutes, he did a pretty impressive early time trial effort just to make himself stay out there and then he kind of backed off.
Hincapie added “Those first three laps hurt almost as the end for me. ”
But the effort took its toll, and by the third long lap Zabriskie was caught and dropped. Immediately, a counter-move of 4 riders – U23 Road Champion Alex Howes (Garmin-Slipstream), Jones, Stewart and King - were off the front, with a gap of over three minutes to the field. Andy Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL) dangled in no man’s land attempting to bridge solo.
Raindrops started to fall as the break shattered the third time up Paris Mountain as Jones and Howes continued solo up and over the climb. Meanwhile, back in the field, Lewis and Ian McKissick (BMC) were setting a blistering pace to drop riders left and right. As the duo headed to Greenville, the pack caught all the remaining break riders and was only at one minute behind. By the fourth time up Paris Mountain, Frank Pipp (BISSELL) had bridged to the front to make it three riders with White and Ivan Dominguez (Rock Racing) behind them chasing. But at the point, the field was ready to pounce and caught up with the riders on the climb.
After four years in Greenville and the expiration of its commitment to hold its pro championships there, USA Cycling announced after the race that the event would return to the city in 2010.
Complete results here
Gallery (Click for larger images)
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