In one of the most dynamic and active US Pro Road Races in, well maybe ever, Radioshack’s Matthew Busche outsprinted hometown favorite George Hincapie (BMC) to win the National title in a photo finish at the Greenville Hospital Systems USA Cycling Road National Championships.
Tactics are always interesting at US Pro and this year was no exception. We saw the domestic team assume the chase in the field with, in my opinion, the best and fittest field ever.
After tons of attacks, shuffling and re-shuffling, the race for the Stars and Stripes came down to four riders in the final finishing circuits in Greenville. Hincapie, Busche, Ted King (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Tejay van Garderen (HTC-Highroad). All were feeling the heat and the hard day of racing in their legs. The four worked together to keep the chasing field away until Busche opened up his sprint on the final corner, Hincapie covered and the two up-sprint was on. Each threw their bike and had to wait just after the finish line while the officials looked at the photo finish. It was that close, a few inches in Busche’s favor gave him the title.
King came in third with van Garderen fourth. Kyle Wamsley (BISSELL) won the field sprint for fifth, making him the top domestic rider in the race.
After last year’s race where Ben King (Radioshack) was able to get a gap of up to 17 minutes on the field who was playing the ‘no you chase’ game, the goal for the ProTour riders was to make it a race of attrition. Combined with heat, it became survival out there. A lot of activity at the front on the three opening small circuits led to three riders trying their luck the first time up Paris Mountain. But that early move was short-lived as BMC’s Jeff Louder set a punishing pace up the climb, the field exploding under pressure. For many, that was the end of the race. Others clawed back up and made it back to the dwindling main field by the second lap.
With the pace a bit slower at the start of the second lap, another move went and this one looked somewhat promising. The break included three ProTour riders Jason McCartney (RadioShack), Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing) and Tim Duggan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and five domestic riders, Phil Gaimon (Kenda/5-Hour Energy), Quinn Keogh (Exergy), David Williams (BISSELL), Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) and Robert Bush (Chipotle Development). By the time they crested Paris Mountain for the second time, the gap was up to 3 minutes but both Williams and Bush fell back.
The remaining six stayed together until the next time up Paris with Bookwalter, McCartney, Duggan and Anthony upping the tempo. Behind the chase was led by the domestic teams that missed or were out of the break, showing that they were still in the game. The fourth and final time up Paris Mountain, Anthony attacked solo but was reeled in and then dropped by the other three who were soon joined by riders bridging from the field with the gap now down to less than 15 seconds.
A fast descent to downtown Greenville, and the group of four emerged to battle it out for the honor to be called US National Road Race Champion.
Early in the race, a few riders, including Jeremy Powers (Jelly Belly) and Max Jenkins (UnitedHealthcare) crashed after tangling bars. Powers was taken to the hospital but though banged up found that nothing was broken. Jenkins finished 24th but said that his back was hurting afterwards. Ken Hanson (Jelly Belly) also went down hard but finished in the main chase group at 7th while sporting some road rash.
Matthew Busche (Team RadioShack). “Definitely it hasn’t sunk in really. I don’t know what the feeling of sinking is or when it will come. In the last kilometer, it’s hard to go to the line with George, he’s known to be a really good sprinter, that’s how he’s won this race multiple times. That’s a little nerve racking but I felt that I had pretty good legs. Watching him and the other two, Ted and Tejay, I could see maybe that they were feeling petty tired, as was I, but I hoped that was to my advantage. I hadn’t made a move before the final kilometer so I guess I only had the final kilometer to make my move. Right at the last corner, Tejay was at the front and George was second wheel. The pace let up little bit and I decided I had to head out, George covered it real quick I think, then he just came off the wheel too early, I guess he came off the wheel too early and I was able to get on his wheel and then I was able to gain a little momentum and come back past him, but it was close obviously.”
About having McCartney in the break. “It was the perfect team move to have someone in that break that allowed Ben and myself to sit in the field and conserve energy as much as possible, try to stay hydrated in this crazy weather. Jason played the ultimate team player today, he was in that move, sacrificing himself. Having jason in that move, that was good for him anyway, if something were to happen where they gained a big gap, Ben and I had the confidence in him that he would be able to deliver as well at the line. It was good in all scenarios, it was very important to have Jason in that move.”
“Physically I didn’t feel spectacular or anything but I have confidence coming off of Tour of California and after the time trail on Saturday that my form and fitness is good. The legs felt a little bit heavy, whether it’s from the time trial on Saturday or the heat, any number of factors but I didn’t have any cramps, I had a few stomach weird sensations but thankfully they never created too huge of an issue. Coming into the final, I thankfully was able to sprint it to the line or kick it to the line and avoid that situation.”
George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team). “It’s tough. I felt good out there, the race was tough which suited my qualities. The guys out there were the strongest guys in the race, there wasn’t any luck involved with that. I was confident in my sprint, it was unfortunate I started cramping a bit the last kilometer and I probably went a bit too early. Matthew did a good move where he went and then he sat up so I thought he was finished, but obviously he wasn’t, he was able to get on my wheel and come around me just at the end. It was great race by Matthew, I gave it everything I possibly had so I can’t say that I saved something there or saved something here, I put it all on the line. I’m proud of my effort, I’m proud of Matthew’s effort. The guy has not been racing that long, he’s done very well, here in particular and for him to win is good, I’m happy to see that. Disappointed that I didn’t win but he’s a suitable US Champion.”
About his 4-man BMC team. “The team was awesome. We put ourselves in a position where we didn’t have to do the work in the beginning which was better for us, the guys had to chase Brent down and it made the race hard. We didn’t go that hard the first three times up Paris but we went hard in between. As you can see the last time that we went up Paris, it was three of us, everybody was done so that really played into our cards. I had asked the team to make the race hard from the beginning, we rode fast up Paris Mountain, I wanted it to be a hard, aggressive race which would increase our chances to win,”
About being the fittest field. “You saw some really hard racing today, the domestic teams, it’s not like they sat up and did nothing, they chased all day, they worked the hardest, they were out there pulling the whole day. We put ourselves in a position where we were able to take advantage of that, sit back, let them do the work and attack when needed. I think had they not just raced Tour of California, they wouldn’t have been able to do that but it made the race really aggressive and exciting the whole day.”
Ted King (Liquigas-Cannondale). “We anticipated going into the break, one of us. We’ve done this race ample times before, we know how it’s going to unfold a little bit and look at last year, the break can certainly succeed. So we were alternating initially. He did an awesome getting into the successful breakaway. Going up the last time, Tejay went with George on his wheel with Matthew right in tow as well. I just told myself, stay within my limits, I’m not going to climb with those guys but on that last pitch, I could see that they were close so I jumped across. I was psyched to be there. BMC was there and Jason McCartney, at that point, it’s a question of numbers, BMC was favorite with three guys but everybody is fairly cooked. In about 115-mile race in this sort of heat, only the strong survive.”
About the final laps. “In those three laps, you’re trying to take it all in, deduce what is going to happen. George is often favorite in the sprint, Tejay can just go from the last kilometer and Matthew is obviously talented and strong so it had a good mix between the four of us. I was anticipating coming into a sprint, with about 700 meters to go, you can swing and take some wicked momentum to the finish. With one lap to go, I had just the most ferocious cramp, fingers crossed ‘please go away, please go away’. That ended up taking a toll on me but George said the exact same thing after the race.”
Top 10 Results (Complete Results)
1. Matthew Busche (Team RadioShack) 4.28’02”
2. George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team) st
3. Ted King (Liquigas-Cannondale) 2″
4. Tejay van Garderen (HTC Highroad) 7″
5. Kyle Wamsley (Bissell Cycling) 1’29”
6. Alexander Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies – OptumHealth) 1’30”
7. Kenneth Hanson (Jelly Belly Presented By Kenda)
8. Benjamin King (Team RadioShack)
9. Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing Team)
10.Chase Pinkham (Bissell Cycling) 1’31”