Here we are once again in Greenville SC, for the fifth year in a row, for the Greenville Hospital System USA Cycling Professional Championships where two American (male) pros will claim the honor to win the Stars and Stripes next year in the time trial and road events.
The questions were put forth in the press conference earlier today, as to first if US Pro would return to Greenville for a sixth year, and secondly if US Pro would be moved to a new date. The answer was basically to wait until Sunday when the organizers hope to be able to make an announcement.
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TT. Same course as last year for both events, the only thing that is certain is that the time trial champion will not be a repeat winner. Four-time US Pro Time Trial Champion David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions) is racing at the Vuelta a Espana and will not be in Greenville. With many ProTour riders racing in Europe, and the others opting to focus on the road race on Sunday, the field is small, very small with only 15 riders on the start list.
Favorites going into the race have to be Levi Leipheimer (Radioshack) and Taylor Phinney (Trek-Livestrong). On the domestic side, Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit), who finished third last year, has focused and trained all year for this race. He wants it, can he do it? Other riders hoping to improve previous year’s results include Reid Mumford (Kelly Benefit) and Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly pb Kenda).
Starting at 11:30 am ET on Saturday, riders face 3 loops around a flat, technical 6.9-mile (11.1-km) circuit at CU-ICAR. The good news is that with three laps, riders can definitely take the best lines but the bad news can be traffic on the course with other riders and sometimes VIP cars, as Mumford found out last year. Fastest time last year was 39:37 set by Zabriskie. (See cheat sheet for map)
Road. Sunday brings the road race and its 4-times up Paris Mountain, the decisive climb every year.
The first time the race was held in Greenville, in 2006, the ProTour riders worked together to put pressure on the field which shattered the third time, out of five, up Paris Mountain. Only 9 riders were allowed to start the finishing circuits, and George Hincapie took the win in his hometown. In 2007, Levi Leipheimer broke away from the lead chase group on the second of four times up the climb and soloed away to victory. The following year, a select group of about 25 riders crested together the final time up Paris Mountain which was reduced to five riders after attacks. The tactical game was on and Tyler Hamilton took the honors besting Blake Caldwell of Garmin by two-hundreds of a second – decided by photo finish. Hamilton was later suspended for doping.
Last year, an 8-rider select group escaped the fourth and final time up Paris Mountain and made their way to the 3 finishing circuits. The attacks flew on the final short lap with Jeff Louder (BMC) going on a solo flyer but he was chased down by eventual winner George Hincapie, now with BMC, who outsprinted Andy Bajadali (Kelly Benefit) for the win. Louder finished third.
Hincapie and Leipheimer are back and for the first time, Hincapie has a team to support him with Brent Bookwalter as an ace in the hole. Leipheimer will also have teammates to count on. Playing possum and bidding his time will be Teddy King (Cervelo TestTeam), racing solo – will he make alliances with other solo riders or even with his future team? Of note, Garmin-Transitions is bringing Andrew Talansky as a stagiaire. Talansky just finished 2nd at Tour de l’Avenir.
On the domestic side, BISSELL, Jamis/Sutter Home p/b Colavita, Jelly Belly p/b Kenda, Kelly Benefit Strategies, Kenda p/b GearGrinder, Mountain Khakis Fueled by Jittery Joes, Team Type 1 and UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis are bringing in full squads. All will be working to put riders in the selection made on the climb up Paris Mountain.
Maybe this is the year for a domestic rider. The candidates are plentiful and many put in hard racing at Tour of Utah to get ready for this one. But how will the later dates and canceled Tour of Missouri impact the race readiness of the domestic peloton. The US Pro Championships are two weeks later than previous years to accommodate the ProTour races in Canada. And wouldn’t it be nice if the new Champion actually wants to go race at the upcoming World Championships in Australia?
The 185.1 km/115.0 miles course is really divided into 3 sections, starting off with the 3 loops around the 4.18-mile short circuit followed by the heavy hitter of the 4 times around the 20.8-mile loop which includes the climb up Paris Mountain and for those still in the game, it finishes with 3 laps around the same short circuit. (See cheat sheet for map)
Also coming into play this year is the enforcement of the race radio ban for the road race.