Ben King (Trek-Livestrong) became the first Under 23 rider to capture the professional road title when he won the USA Cycling Pro Championship road race in Greenville, South Carolina on Sunday.
The 21-year-old, who spent nearly half the race off the front alone, held a gap in excess of two minutes over a small bunch that was fighting for second, the sprint for which was won by Alex Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies), followed by Kiel Reijnen (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda).
"I just got permission to announce that I will be riding for RadioShack next year," said King. "I'm sure winning this race will help a lot with my future. One of the things that kept me going in the final circuits was having Allen Lim and Jose Azevedo in the team car come up to me.
"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'. When I was on the podium I started to realise that I don't even have to shave yet."
King started the day in an early move that gained a maximum of 17 minutes on the field and included USPro Criterium Champion Daniel Holloway (Bissell) and Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategy). He attacked his breakaway companions over the circuit's Paris Mountain ascent on the third of four large laps and maintained a three-minute margin over the field during the final three short circuits.
"Once I was solo and still had nine minutes a lot of things were going through my mind and a lot of different motivators," King said. "My Dad [Mark] and sister [Hanna] 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."
A small, 25-rider field entered the short finishing circuits led predominantly by team BMC Racing riding for defending champion George Hincapie. The team received help from Garmin-Transitions and Kelly Benefit Strategies. Carter Jones (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) launched an attack at the start of the first circuit but was brought back by the mad chase a few kilometres later. Chris Baldwin (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis) counter attacked but he too was quickly reeled back in.
"I was able to not get dropped too much on the last time up Paris Mountain and I made it back up to the group," said Candelario. "I still had Neil Shirley there and he did what he could to help BMC try and bring Ben back but we couldn't.
"Andrew Bajadali got second last year to Hincapie and that was a phenomenal ride and unfortunately we were missing him today. We came here wanting to win but that is the way it goes. I got second today which is a good ride for the team. It is always nice to get on the podium."
King entered the road race having already won both the USA Cycling Under 23 Road and Criterium Championships held in Bend, Oregon in June.
Lax chase leads to lengthy breakaway
Some 80 of the nation's top professional riders lined up on Main St in downtown Greenville, South Carolina to contest the 180km championship event. The course offered three short 6.6km circuits where an early breakaway set sail that included King (Trek-Livestrong), Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda), Scott Zwizanksi (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Dan Holloway (Bissell) and Thomas Brown (Mountain Khakis p/b Jittery Joes).
The peloton was content to let the quintet gain time because the chances of staying away were low considering the four long laps that included the steep Paris Mountain ascent. The breakaway was reduced to three when Van Ulden, who placed third at the previous day's USA Cycling Pro Time Trial Championships behind winner Taylor Phinney (Trek-Livestrong) and Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) fell off the pace, followed by Brown.
King, Zwizanski and Holloway's efforts were successful in gaining a hefty 10-minute advantage as they exited the three small opening circuits onto the first of four larger 36.2km laps. They approached the first climb over Paris Mountain where large crowds celebrated the fifth annual event.
Temperatures approached a sweltering and uncomfortable 90 degrees Fahrenheit by the time the riders started their initial ascent over Paris Mountain. They could afford to ease up slightly and stay together over the top of the climb with a comfortable 16-minute lead.
The peloton settled into a slow pace and each team looked at the other to chase. It became apparent that RadioShack was not interested in chasing King. Furthermore, UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis announced that it has signed Zwizanski for next season and reasonable to conclude that it had a vested interest in him winning the national road title.
The gap was reduced to 15 minutes for the second time over Paris Mountain as Holloway waved to the crowds for some motivational cheers when they went through the start-finish line for the start of the third lap, the halfway point of the race.
BMC Racing was responsible for initiating a mid-race chase and it rallied help from Garmin-Transitions, Kenda-Geargrinder and Jelly Belly p/b Kenda. The concerted effort of the chasers in the peloton brought the gap to the breakaway down to 12 minutes.
"Sometimes the smaller teams will bank on the bigger teams taking control of the race but that didn't happen today," said Reijnen. "That was the risk we took. Initially the gap soared but the field wasn't moving. We put in a couple of guys to try to motivate the field but RadioShack, BMC and Garmin didn't seem interested in the breakaway. By the time they did it was too late. Ben King had a great ride."
The final dig over Paris Mountain
King launched a solo attack and opened up a 45-second advantage the third time over Paris Mountain, leaving his two breakaway companions behind. All eyes were on King to pull off a third national title, this time in the professional category on the streets of Greenville.
The solo rider delivered a brilliant effort to try and maintain as much of a gap as possible before the start of the last lap, where a series of attacks were expected.
"I'm pretty self-motivated and when I got out there at the beginning I wasn't thinking that I was going to win," King said. "I was joking around on the course and then thought I better start getting serious. I was thinking that if I could be up there at the front, when the selection was made from behind I would still be there to help Taylor of some of the RadioShack guys if I could."
Matthew Busche (RadioShack) played his card on Paris Mountain where he attacked the peloton. However, his efforts were short lived and he was reeled back in before the start of the fourth and final large lap.
King rolled through the start-finish line with a 9:25-minute lead over the chasing group. Zwizanski and Holloway conceded defeat as the chasing peloton started the last lap with a gap of less than three minutes to the young man up the road.
"I made it over Paris Mountain and I figured if I made it this far now I'll make it to the circuits," King said. "On the circuits it was all just guts."
The gap began to drop drastically when Tim Duggan (Garmin-Transitions) led the pursuit with the BCM Racing team tucked in behind him on Paris Mountain. Hincapie attacked out of the chase group with Reijnen and Levi Leipheimer in tow.
"I wanted it to be aggressive and there were attacks at the bottom," Hincapie said. "I was patient and then went full gas the last kilometre or 800 metres. Kiel Reijnen and Levi came with me. We had 40 seconds right away and took out a bunch of time on King. But Levi said he couldn't work because King was up the road.
"Kiel and I went full gas but the group behind really wanted to catch us. They caught us and at that point it was over. The BMC Racing Team couldn't do all the work. Unfortunately, not all the work was being shared equally among the teams left in the end."
The threatening chase group muscled around the backside of the circuit in pursuit of King and more importantly the stars and stripes jersey. Their efforts were also short lived and, with the exception of King, the field started the final circuits intact.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Benjamin King (USA) Trek Livestrong U23||4:44:56|
|2||Alex Candelario (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies||0:01:34|
|3||Kiel Reijnen (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Kenda||0:01:35|
|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 U23||0:01:36|
|9||Andy Guptill (USA) Jamis - Sutter Home||0:01:39|
|10||Craig Lewis (USA) Team HTC - Columbia|
|11||Lucas Euser (USA) Spidertech powered by Planet Energy|
|12||Jacob Rytlewski (USA) Kenda p/b Gear Grinder|
|13||Scott Stewart (USA) Team Type 1|
|14||Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team|
|15||Chris Baldwin (USA) United Healthcare pb Maxxis||0:01:40|
|16||Maxim Jenkins (USA) United Healthcare pb Maxxis|
|17||Neil Shirley (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies|
|18||Jason Mccartney (USA) Team Radioshack|
|19||Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Transitions|
|20||Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team Radioshack||0:01:41|
|21||Carter Jones (USA) Jelly Belly presented by Kenda|
|22||Christopher Butler (USA) BMC Racing Team|
|23||Chris Jones (USA) Team Type 1||0:01:54|
|24||Timothy Duggan (USA) Garmin - Transitions||0:04:37|
|25||Oscar Clark (USA) Mountain Khakis fueled by Jittery Joes||0:08:10|
|26||Tim Farnham (USA) Adageo Energy||0:08:14|
|27||Joey Rosskopf (USA) Mountain Khakis fueled by Jittery Joes|
|28||Andy Jacques-Maynes (USA) Bissell||0:08:16|
|29||Ted King (USA) Cervelo TestTeam|
|30||Tyler Wren (USA) Jamis - Sutter Home|
|31||Adrian Hegevary (USA) United Healthcare pb Maxxis||0:08:17|
|32||Frank Pipp (USA) Bissell|
|33||Paul Mach (USA) Bissell||0:09:03|
|34||Philip Gaimon (USA) Kenda pb Geargrinder|
|35||Matthew Cooke (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies|
|36||Jesse Anthony (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies||0:10:26|
|37||James Driscoll (USA) Jamis - Sutter Home||0:12:06|
|38||Bradley White (USA) United Healthcare pb Maxxis|
|39||Jeffry Louder (USA) BMC Racing Team|
|40||Phil Zajicek (USA) Fly V Australia||0:12:07|
|41||Peter Stetina (USA) Garmin - Transitions||0:14:02|
|42||Morgan Schmitt (USA) United Healthcare pb Maxxis|
|43||Ian Boswell (USA) Bissell|
|44||Jeremy Powers (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Kenda|
|DNF||Chad Beyer (USA) BMC Racing Team|
|DNF||Bjorn Selander (USA) Team Radioshack|
|DNF||Steven Cozza (USA) Garmin - Transitions|
|DNF||Caleb Fairly (USA) Garmin-Transitions|
|DNF||Danny Pate (USA) Garmin - Transitions|
|DNF||Daniel Holloway (USA) Bissell|
|DNF||Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) Bissell|
|DNF||Cody O'Reilly (USA) Bissell|
|DNF||Kyle Wamsley (USA) Bissell|
|DNF||David Williams (USA) Bissell|
|DNF||Nicholas Frey (USA) Jamis - Sutter Home pb Colavita|
|DNF||Jackie Simes (USA) Jamis - Sutter Home pb Colavita|
|DNF||Frank Travieso (USA) Jamis - Sutter Home pb Colavita|
|DNF||Sergio Hernandez (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Kenda|
|DNF||Brad Huff (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Kenda|
|DNF||Sean Mazich (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Kenda|
|DNF||Bernard Van Ulden (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Kenda|
|DNF||Dan Bowman (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies|
|DNF||Guy East (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies|
|DNF||Reid Mumford (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies|
|DNF||Scott Zwizanski (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies|
|DNF||Robert Bush (USA) Kenda p/b Gear Grinder|
|DNF||Chris Monteleone (USA) Kenda p/b Gear Grinder|
|DNF||Nicholas Waite (USA) Kenda p/b Gear Grinder|
|DNF||Scottie Weiss (USA) Kenda p/b Gear Grinder|
|DNF||Andrew Baker (USA) Mountain Khakis fueled by Jittery Joes|
|DNF||Thomas Brown (USA) Mountain Khakis fueled by Jittery Joes|
|DNF||Mark Hekman (USA) Mountain Khakis fueled by Jittery Joes|
|DNF||William Hoffarth (USA) Mountain Khakis fueled by Jittery Joes|
|DNF||Eric Schildge (USA) Mountain Khakis fueled by Jittery Joes|
|DNF||Scott Tietzel (USA) Mountain Khakis fueled by Jittery Joes|
|DNF||Alex Bowden (USA) Team Type 1|
|DNF||William Dugan (USA) Team Type 1|
|DNF||Ken Hanson (USA) Team Type 1|
|DNF||Eric Bennett (USA) Adageo Energy|
|DNF||Adam Carr (USA) Adageo Energy|