The US Pro road race was once again won by a worthy rider. After 115 miles the race for the national champion’s jersey came down to four riders: Greenville’s hometown hero George Hincapie (BMC), Matt Busche (RadioShack), Ted King (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad). In the last three small laps through the downtown area, the quartet worked together, keeping the pace high enough to prevent anyone from escaping.
Around the left hand corner onto Main Street for the last time it was Big George punching it for the line. Tucked in behind was Busche. In the final meters the RadioShack rider pulled along side Hincapie and with a bike throw before the line beat him by inches. In fact it was several minutes and a consultation with the instant replay that finally determined the winner. Of course there was a lot more racing that occurred before the battle on Main Street.
Just like on the Friday at the time trial the weather was once again hot and humid with temps in the mid 90s. That didn’t stop the standard early break away from developing on the first laps in downtown Greenville.
With the smaller circuits completed it was time for the first ascent of Paris Mountain. The locals had organized house parties along the climb with the most vocal being the SRAM wrapped house at the base of the climb.
Hincapie had instructed his teammates to make the race difficult and that’s what they did. Riders were falling off the main peloton. Up the road BMC’s Brent Bookwalter was part of a break which allowed Hincapie the opportunity to watch and wait for his moment. It was obvious that Hincapie was the protected rider in the BMC squad.
On the circuits the main group was keeping the pace high and weren’t going to have a repeat of last year when the early break checked out, never to be seen again.
On the second ascent of Paris the break away lost a few riders as the heat and stress was starting to take its toll. Over the top and through town the break seemed to be working together, but the gap never got huge enough to start a panic.
The third trip up Paris was when we expected fireworks. The gap had been coming down and if the break lost its momentum and the main group picked up the pace, the lead could be sheared in half. However, the break rode hard on the climb and lost a couple more riders. At the summit it was Duggan, Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit), McCartney (RadioShack) and Bookwalter.
On the fourth and final push up Paris Mountain Anthony attacked his break away companions. Those three were caught by Matt Busche, Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) and Hincapie. On the last steep section of Paris, King jumped across.
In the post race press conference King said, “I had to stay within my limits because I can’t climb with those guys.”
By the time the group had descended from Paris it was now the quartet of Hincapie, Busche, King and Van Garderen. In the media car we picked our race winner knowing it was going to be one of these four.
In the post-race press conference Hincapie assessed the race.
“I felt good and it was tough which suited my qualities,” he said, but he also revealed that he was cramping in the last kilometer.
“I’m proud of my effort.”
Busche wasn’t even sure that he had won the race when he crossed the line. “I usually don’t sprint and do bike throws, so I had no sensation or perception of who won. It was really sweet when I heard that I had won.”
With the team being short handed Busche’s mom and wife were recruited to hand him bottles throughout the day as hydration was critical to the success and survival of all the riders.
As the streets of Greenville emptied and the fencing was removed, the US Pro road race weekend was deemed a success by all involved.
Full results here