In a history making move Ben King of Trek/Livestrong was part of a three man break that rode away early from the peloton. With 40 miles remaining King soloed away from his companions taking a well earned and painful victory.
An early break of three riders went off the front: Ben King, Daniel Holloway and Scott Zwizanski, which started to gain time by the handfuls. At one point the three riders were over 17 minutes in front of an unmotivated peloton.
George Hincapie said about the slow speed of the peloton, “The race was very slow from the beginning. Last year, we probably went 15 minutes slower the first 30 kilometers than last year.”
With four big circuits which included the 2.2 mile ascent of Paris Mountain, the break was not given much of a chance to succeed. In the history of the Greenville U.S. Pro road race, a long break away has never succeeded. The reason: the distance, heat and Paris Mountain. But history was going to be made today.
With Ben King up the road RadioShack could to sit back and force BMC to set the pace at the front. On the first ascent of the Paris Mountain climb BMC’s Chad Beyer and Chris Butler went to the front to keep the break in check. The time started to drop to 15 minutes. There seemed to be some coordination between the teams but no one was willing to throw their full weight behind the effort and bring the three rider back.
On the third Paris Mountain ascent King attacked dropping his break away companions. This is a strategy King knows well – his wins in junior roads and at the U-23 nationals were similar.
“Once I was solo and still had nine minutes (on the field) a lot of things were going through my mind and a lot of different motivators,””admitted King. “My Dad and sister were out on the course so I was thinking about that. I started praying pretty hard after Paris Mountain and onto the circuits and I think my prayers were answered.”
On the final climb of Paris Mountain King still looked strong but he was suffering. Once over the top all the remained were three smaller loops in downtown Greenville.
“I was trying to find all the motivation to keep going. It doesn’t seem like it was worth it when you are hurting that bad but Lim kept yelling, ‘You are making history, this is huge’.”
The chasing field of 25 riders were a little over three minutes behind the 21-year old as they entered the final shorter loops. But that was all the cushion he needed. Although cramping heavily King pushed on knowing what the reward was – a stars and stripes national jersey. “On the circuits it was all just guts.”
Coming around the final left hand turn King could finally crack a smile on his salt encrusted face. As he crossed the finish line he was immediately surrounded by the scrum of media. Behind the remaining riders sprinted across the line for the second and third. Alex Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies) kicked harder for second and Jelly Belly’s Kiel Renijnen was thrid.
This weekend is an indication that there is a changing of the guard – 20 year old Taylor Phinney taking the tine trial from one of America’s fastest riders and Ben King outlasting a heavily favored group of cycling stars to add another stars and stripes jersey to the Team Trek/Livestrong stable.
At the post-race press conference King said that his recent European campaign was the reason for his excellent form.
“L ‘Avenir (Tour of the Future) had everything to do with it,” explained King. “I was riding the front every single day. That’s what I think I’m good at – doing the dirty work.”
King also announced that he will be riding for team RadioShack for 2011.
Unfortunately King’s reign as national champion will be cut short as it was announced that the national championships are moving to May to align with the majority of countries’ national championships which are held in that month. It will also return to a Friday and Sunday racing format – allowing time for racers to recover for the road race. Further good news for Greenville as USA Cycling announced that the national championships will return for two more years.
1 Benjamin King (USA) Trek Livestrong U-23
2 Alex Candelario (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies
3 Kiel Reijnen (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Kenda
4 Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack
5 George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team
6 Shawn Milne (USA) Team Type 1
7 Matthew Busche (USA) Team Radioshack
8 Taylor Phinney (USA) Trek Livestrong U-23
9 Andy Guptill (USA) Jamis – Sutter Home
10 Craig Lewis (USA) Team HTC – Columbia