I've done the USPRO road championships straight for the past 7 years, which included a year they were still in Philadelphia. In 2006 they were moved to Greenville, South Carolina home of one of Americas great cyclist George Hincapie. Big changes were made including having the time trial at the same time, a move to late summer, a course that included a true climb and more importantly with the growing of American cycling it was now open only to US citizens. Some changes have been made since the first event such as the placement and course of the time trial, cutting the road race from 5 times up Paris Mountain to only 4, and placing the even back to late spring.
This year the time trial was pushed back from the day before the road race to two days out in hopes to attract more racers into competing in the event. It worked as the turnout more then doubled. I was even cornered into doing the event by my director Frankie Andreu who thought it would be a good opener. There are far fewer variables in a time trial as opposed to a road race, which makes it harder to win. There are no tactics. It's just you, a bike and a clock. With the time trial being a circuit done 3 times it is easy to judge how you are doing so you know whether to pick it up or ease up as it may not be your day. By the third lap I was just cruising.
The road race has panned out many ways, but for the most part it is all about the 3.5km accent up Paris Mountain. While not particularly steep, the climb takes roughly 9-10 minute, but it's enough to take it's toll on the peloton when the pace is high.
Last year everyone knows the story of how Ben King attacked in the first few km's and stayed away till the end to win. One thing was certain going into this year and that was no team is going to want to miss the early move, which means the racing will be fast in the opening miles.
The temperature were almost as hot as the racing was in the beginning. Soon enough temperatures soared into the 90's as we climbed Paris Mountain repeatedly. Just as expected the racing was fast with attacks, covers, and counters. Our Kenda 5hour Energy p/b GearGrinder team was in full participation of the action. As expected it took nearly 40km's for a move to go just before the first accent up Paris Mountain. BMC wasn't happy with this move as Brent Bookwalter set a fast pace up the climb which shatter the field, brought back the break, and led to the formation of the main break of the day at the bottom. We were well represented with Phil Gaimon.
The rest of the race was led by United, Bissell, and Jelly Belly as they had missed the move and had hopes of bringing it back. Everyone else sat back, drank a ton of bottles and even put ice stockings on their backs to help keep cool. The break hovered around 2-3 minutes till the fourth accent where the fireworks were lit. Tejay Van Garderen, George Hincapie, and Matt Busche showed why they are some of the best in the world as everyone else was clinging for wheels. I was caught with my pants down at the back and gaps opened up that could never be closed. From my position I could see many interesting things that many will never see or know about such as water bottle slings, guys grabbing onto car racks, and even a bit of motorpacing by over the top. The things that go on at and off the back could make quite a book. Nothing I like to be a part of however.
There is no time to relax after the last accent as there still is 30km's of hard racing. The race can be lost on the climb, but for the most part it is won on the run into town and on the closing circuits. Matt Busche finished off a late race breakaway by edging out George Hincapie for the win.
I was caught in no mans land as we entered the finishing circuits I was a good 2 minutes back with a good size group a minute back. I sat up as there was no point of riding around 3 circuits alone for minor placing. I was really bummed the whole way around just thinking of how I screwed up and how things could have gone better. Hopefully the event returns to Greenville as I really love the course and I get a chance to go as I'd love another shot.