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Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the USA Cycling Pro Road Race Championships from Greenville, South Carolina. The race will kick off at noon local time, so please stay tuned as we get our live coverage going shortly.
Today's weather is beautiful - especially relative to the hot and humid weather we've been having here on the East Coast lately. Temperatures are in the 80s (degrees Fahrenheit) and it's partly cloudy.
The national anthem has played, and riders are being introduced. George Hincapie, who lives nearby, gets huge applause from the crowd when he is called up. Contrary to earlier reports, his teammate Craig Lewis is racing, despite suffering from swine flu.
The race has started. The riders are off!
Both Hincapie and Lewis are locals - they live in the Greenville area, so they will be hoping to do well on home turf although they do not have many teammates. They probably know the course like the backs of their hands.
The peloton will complete three short laps in town and then head out for the big laps - four total, including a trip up Paris Mountain each time. At the end of the race, they'll return to Greenville for the short loop a final three laps. At the end of this first short loop, everyone is very strung out - the pace is clearly fast.
There is no defending champion in today's race. Tyler Hamilton won the event last year, but he is not here today. Earlier this season, he was caught on a second doping offense and then retired from the sport.
Two riders have established a 20-second gap: David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) and Andy Baker (Team Mountain Khakis).
Zabriske has gotten away from Baker now. He's got a 20-second gap on Baker, and the field is chasing both of them, another 30 seconds back as the roll into the second short lap.
Baker is caught by the peloton as it rolls into the third of the three short laps. Zabriske remains off the front alone.
Behind Zabriske, but in front of the peloton, three riders have launched a chase attempt. They are Timothy Johnson (OUCH Presented by Maxxis), Kenneth Hanson (Team Type 1) and Ben King (Trek Livestrong).
Two riders are down in the field. Looks like Rich Harper (Kenda Pro Cycling p/b Spinergy) and Bobby Sweeting (Land Rover - Orbea). It can be chaotic in these early kilometers as riders try to establish themselves in a break that might stick.
Sheldon Deeny (Bissell Pro Cycling), Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Christopher Monteleone (Kenda Pro Cycling p/b Spinergy), and Ian Macgregor (Team Type 1) are throwing their hats into the ring. They've got themselves into a second chase group and are rapidly catching up to the first chase group.
Our chase group is all together now. It's Timothy Johnson (OUCH Presented by Maxxis), Kenneth Hanson (Team Type 1), Ben King (Trek Livestrong), Sheldon Deeny (Bissell Pro Cycling), Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Christopher Monteleone (Kenda Pro Cycling p/b Spinergy), and Ian Macgregor (Team Type 1). They are at 20 seconds behind Zabriske. And the pelton is a further 10 seconds back.
The chasers are caught by the peloton as the bunch has just started its first big lap.
Zabriskie is riding well and extending his gap. He must not be too tired after winning the time trial yesterday. It was his fourth consecutive national TT title. He's putting those skills to good use at the moment as his advantage is up to one minute.
The peloton is on Old Buncombe road as it heads towards Paris Mountain.
The riders are commencing the 4km climb up Paris Mountain - the definitive climb in today's race. The crowds at the bottom are big, then more intermittent as we go up. This is the first of four total trips up what is a very twisting, shady route. The road is relatively narrow - it's just two lanes, one each way.
Jered Gruber (DLP Racing) is putting in a strong chase effort on this climb. He's in no man's land between Zabriskie and the field.
As we approach the final 500m of the climb, crowds are thick again.
Andrew Olson (DLP Racing) has a flat back in the main field. What a tough place to have to get a wheel change and then catch back on!
Jered Gruber (DLP Racing) has been caught by the field. On the other hand, Zabriskie is still going strong. He's grown his advantage to three minutes as the peloton crests the summit of Paris Mountain.
Zabriskie is already well on his way down what is a technical descent - with plenty of spectators watching.
There are many "dangerous descent" signs on the way down to warn riders of the many switchbacks they will have to negotiate at high speeds. Zabriskie is riding like a man on a mission - his gap is up to 3:45.
Last year Zabriskie didn't finish this race, but if you're feeling a little deja vu, it's because he went off the front near the start, along with Steven Cozza and 8 other riders, to get things going.
The field is hitting 80km/hour on parts of this descent. They are flying!
Speaking of Steven Cozza (Garmin-Slipstream), he just had a mechanical while riding as part of the main peloton. Fortunately, he's able to get back in ok.
Zabriskie's gap is up to 4:20. Both he and the peloton are back in Greenville. This means they are wrapping up lap one. Three more big laps to go once they cross through the start/finish line.
A 15-rider chase group has formed from the peloton. We'll get you names as soon as we can.
The peloton is 500m from completing its first full, big lap. Justin Spinelli (Kenda Pro Cycling p/b Spinergy) stops to get some assistance from the Mavic neutral support. He's getting a wheel change.
It's snack time for the peloton. They are passing through the feed zone.
Zabriskie is looking really smooth - especially considering he has just done what is effectively a 37-mile time trial about 24 hours after he won the US Pro Time Trial Championship. The Garmin-Slipstream rider was third in last year's world time trial championship.
We've identified our chase group members. They are Jonathan Garcia (BMC Racing Team), Jackson Stewart (BMC Racing Team), Tom Zirbel (Bissell Pro Cycling), Paul Mach (Bissell Pro Cycling), Roman Kilun (OUCH Presented by Maxxis), Bernard Vanulden (Jelly Belly Cycling Team), Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Charles Marzot (Team Mountain Khakis), William Dugan (Team Type 1), Chris Jones (Team Type 1), Jonathan Hamblen (DLP Racing), Ben King (Trek Livestrong).
The chasers are chasing (of course), but the rest of the peloton seems to be out for a mid-day's spin. They do not seem in any hurry to bring back Zabriskie or the chase group. It gives them lots of time to notice the many people out in front of their houses as we pass by. They are enjoying a lovely late August Sunday and cheering on the racers as they pass by.
Our group is a little bigger than we thought. Here is a revised list: Mike Friedman (Garmin-Slipstream), Antonio Cruz (BMC Racing Team), Jonathan Garcia (BMC Racing Team), Jackson Stewart (BMC Racing Team), Tom Zirbel (Bissell Pro Cycling), Sheldon Deeny (Bissell Pro Cycling), Paul Mach (Bissell Pro Cycling), Roman Kilun (OUCH Presented by Maxxis), Bernard Vanulden (Jelly Belly Cycling Team), Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Charles Marzot (Team Mountain Khakis), William Dugan (Team Type 1), Chris Jones (Team Type 1), Jonathan Hamblen (DLP Racing), Ben King (Trek Livestrong).
Friedman was with the group, then dropped back briefly, then regained contact. Maybe he wasn't sure whether he should go given that his teammate Dave Zabriskie is off the front solo? There aren't any other Garmin riders in this break.
At the front, Zabriskie is on his second trip up Paris Mountain. He's climbing in the saddle, appearing to go at a comfortable pace, with his hands on the bars.
The peloton is five minutes behind Zabriskie. It is about to start up Paris Mountain.
Zabriskie is still climbing smoothly and steadily as he approaches the summit. He's got even more people to cheer him on this time up the climb. There are far more people up here than on our first pass. And the crowd is enthusiastic - raucous actually. The fans are a few rows deep on either side of the road as we pass this section of the climb.
Zabriskie crests the summit and starts to fly down the descent. The chasers have made up some ground, and they are now 1:45 behind our solo leader. The peloton is at 3:00.
The chase group has members of most of the major teams in the race, including Garmin, BMC, Bissell, Ouch, Jelly Belly, Team Type 1 and Kelly Benefit Strategies.
The gaps are holding pretty steady. Both Zabriskie and the chase group have made it successfully and safely down the descent. At times during this trip down, they hit 60mph!
Everyone has been out there for about two hours so far, and we're not quite half-way into the race.
The peloton has caught the chase group, so now we're back to it being just Zabriskie off the front solo, where he has been for almost the entire race thus far.
However, his time is starting to look a bit limited. The peloton is at 1:00, the smallest advantage since he first got away. The peloton made up quite a lot of time since the climb.
Both Zabriskie and the field are back in the city limits of Greenville. They're at the end of their second of four big laps. A lot of riders are dropping back to their team cars to get feeds. Although it's getting cloudier now, it's been quite sunny and with temperatures in the mid-80s, riders will go through a lot of fluid.
Zabriskie is passing through the feed zone.
Two more trips up Paris Mountain to go. We could see other riders try to launch themselves off the front on the next trip up.
Zabriskie is caught! The peloton is all strung out, single file. Look for some possible counter attacks to follow quickly. They've got one mile to go until they pass through the start finish and see two big laps to go. But don't forget, once they finish those, there are three more small circuits to complete.
The short-lived break is caught, and the peloton races through, under the start finish line, for two big laps to go.
Four riders have established themselves in a break, and there is another man in between the break and the peloton chasing.
Alex Howes (Garmin-Slipstream), Jackson Stewart (BMC Racing Team), Chris Jones (Team Type 1) and Ben King (Trek Livestrong) are in the break. They've got themselves 40 seconds over the lone chaser and 3:05 over the peloton.
Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Pro Cycling) is the poor guy riding all by himself in no man's land.
Alex Howes (Garmin-Slipstream) is leading the break on the climb. It's the third trip up Paris Mountain. On the opposite end of the break is Jackson Stewart (BMC Racing Team). He's dropping off... no, now he's trying really hard and catching back on.
The break splinters, with Alex Howes (Garmin-Slipstream) and Chris Jones (Team Type 1) at the front. But the other two aren't giving up easily and they struggle, but catch back on.
The peloton catches Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Pro Cycling) and it is closing in on the leaders. Their margin's down to 1:30.
The clouds have brought us some rain. It's starting to rain now - not the best timing as riders head into the Paris Mountain descent for the third time. Stewart and King have come off and are dropping back from the break.
King is caught by the peloton. Now it's just Alex Howes (Garmin-Slipstream) and Chris Jones (Team Type 1) at the front together. Stewart is in between the two leaders and the peloton after falling off the pace.
Jones and Howes are just drilling it at the front as they head toward Greenville. They seem to be working together well as they have 1:00 over the peloton.
Jones has been in the top 10 for the past two years here at this race.
The section of the course that runs through Greenville is no place for a rest. It's quite a twisty route, with plenty of turns and bumpy roads to keep the riders on their toes.
Howes is the current US National Under 23 road race champion. He was also second in the US National Under 23 criterium championship.
Behind Howes and Jones, we've got Frank Pipp (Bissell) riding solo at 30 seconds. Former break member Stewart is riding with Ivan Dominguez (Rock Racing) and they are at 45 seconds. The peloton is sitting at 1:30.
Our leaders, Howes and Jones, are passing through the start finish line and seeing that they have one big lap to go. The rain has let up quite a bit and they're riding through intermittent mist. It looks like these two leaders might get some company soon.
Pipp has successfully bridged up to the two leaders. We're not so sure about the other two riders - they may have been caught by the peloton. We're trying to find out.
The three leaders are working well together. We're expecting some fireworks in this last long lap. The final climb up Paris Mountain may be just the time for someone to make a move to bridge up to the leaders. Of course, the peloton may try to catch the leaders, there, too, although they will be trying hard to make it up and over with enough of a margin to have a chance at the overall win.
Alex Howes (Garmin-Slipstream) reaches in his pockets - digging for food - something to help him keep motoring onward with his two break companions.
Bradley White (OUCH Presented by Maxxis) and Ivan Dominguez (Rock Racing) are working together to chase the leaders. They are on their own, in front of the peloton but 58 seconds behind the leaders.
Our leaders, Alex Howes (Garmin-Slipstream), Chris Jones (Team Type 1), Frank Pipp (Bissell Pro Cycling), get some good news. The rain has stopped! The roads are pretty dry now, too.
The three are working well together as they approach the final ascent of Paris Mountain. The riders can see it coming. It's just up ahead on the right ... looming in the distance.
Pipp took a win just few weeks ago from a two-up break. He won the warm-up race the day before the US Pro Crit Championships in Downer's Grove, Illinois, in mid-August.
The leaders are on the climb up Paris Mountain. So far they're sticking together pretty well. It'll be interesting to see if they keep working together or try to attack each other.
The peloton has caught Ivan Dominguez (Rock Racing). That leaves our three leaders plus one man, Bradley White, on his own between them and the peloton.
Frank Pipp (Bissell Pro Cycling) is dropped from the break! Oh, this climb has to hurt. Chris Jones (Team Type 1) is leading.
Alex Howes (Garmin-Slipstream) is struggling. He is dropping back, leaving Jones on his own in the lead. Jones looks really good. He's riding in the saddle in a low gear, spinning up this climb.
Both Pipp and Howes are caught by the field, which is now just 40 seconds behind Jones. That's not a very large margin with over 30km to go.
Jones just turned 30 earlier this month. He's in his third year as a pro and is riding for Team Type 1. Jones is a smart guy, too. According to his team's website, he has an undergraduate degree in business management and a master’s degree in civil engineering. "He hopes to someday oversee the building of heavy infrastructure (bridges, dams, industrial plants, etc.) after working in the industry for two years previously."
The peloton has closed on Jones. The gap is down to 20 seconds.
Local favorite George Hincapie (Team Columbia-HTC) has made his move! He takes Matthew Busche (Kelly Benefit Strategies) with him and the two bridge up to Chris Jones (Team Type 1).
The skies are threatening again, but at least the descent is dry. The leaders crest Paris Mountain for the final time today. Four other riders have joined our leaders so we have a group of seven.
We picked up a rider, and our lead group is now George Hincapie (Team Columbia-HTC), Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing Team), Jeff Louder (BMC Racing Team), Jonathan Mccarty (OUCH Presented by Maxxis), Andrew Bajadali (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Matthew Busche (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Chris Jones (Team Type 1), Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia).
This is a strong group that has a chance of sticking, but it won't be easy. The riders still have to make it to Greenville and then complete three short finishing circuits.
We're up to nine riders in the lead group and a very slim gap of 20 seconds. Unless they get to work quickly, it doesn't seem like they'll be able to hold off the peloton.
20 seconds behind our eight leaders is a chase group of nine riders: Jason Donald (Garmin-Slipstream), Swindlehurst T Burke (Bissell Pro Cycling), Bradley White (OUCH Presented by Maxxis), Daniel Bowman (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Neil Shirley (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Kenneth Hanson (Team Type 1), Shawn Milne (Team Type 1), Max Jenkins (Glud & Marstrand Horsens), Jason McCartney (Saxo Bank).
The peloton is sitting at 50 seconds.
Just ten seconds separate the two lead groups now. Seems quite likely they will merge together.
The racers have finished their last big lap and are on their short loops now. They'll do three total.
On this first of three little laps, we have three leaders: George Hincapie (Team Columbia-HTC), Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) and Bradley White (OUCH Presented by Maxxis).
As our three leaders race through the streets of Greenville, they have a 30-second lead on the peloton. George Hincapie (Team Columbia-HTC), Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) and Bradley White (OUCH Presented by Maxxis) are off the front. No doubt that Hincapie would love to win in front of his home crowd.
The leaders are passing through the start finish and they see two short loops to go. That's 8.4 miles.
There are huge crowds here downtown watching along the finish. It's drizzling lightly, and the racers have about six miles to go or a lap and a half.
There is a lead group of seven riders now. We're trying to find out who's in there.
One lap to go, and our seven leaders have 43 seconds on the peloton.
The roads are starting to get wet as the rain picks up. That could make for a treacherous final sprint.
Jeff Louder (BMC Racing Team) is one of the riders in the lead group of seven, and he attacks the rest of them. He's trying to go it alone.
Jeff Louder (BMC Racing Team) has a 10-second lead.
One kilometer to go and Jeff Louder (BMC Racing Team) is still in the lead.
Jeff Louder (BMC Racing Team) is caught by George Hincapie (Team Columbia-HTC) and the others. It was a bold move for Louder, but he didn't have enough to hang on.
They're in full go mode toward the finish.
It's three riders who are going for it - the final sprint.
George Hincapie (Team Columbia-HTC) wins! It's Big George taking the victory at home here in Greenville.
Andrew Bajadali (Kelly Benefit Strategies) takes second and Jeff Louder (BMC Racing Team) hangs in there for third.
A few seconds after the first three, a group of four follows.
Our top seven finishers are: 1 George Hincapie (Team Columbia-HTC)
2 Andrew Bajadali (Kelly Benefit Strategies)
3 Jeff Louder (BMC Racing Team)
4 Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing Team)
5 Matthew Busche (Kelly Benefit Strategies)
6 Jonathan Mccarty (OUCH Presented by Maxxis)
7 Chris Jones (Team Type 1)
That wraps up our live coverage for today. Thanks for joining us. Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for complete coverage including a full report, lots of photos and results!