With a winning margin of just 14 hundredths of a second, Taylor Phinney (Trek-Livestrong) became the first rider other than David Zabriskie to be named USA Cycling Pro Time Trial Champion. Phinney narrowly edged out Team RadioShack's Levi Leipheimer for the honor, which was first awarded in 2006.
"This is probably one of the biggest wins in my career because it is an Elite national championship," said Phinney, a two-time elite world pursuit champion. "Anytime you win as an Under 23 it is great but it’s not the real deal. This is a jersey that I get to wear for the next year and in my first year as a pro and I am very excited about that. It is up there with my world championship wins on the track for sure."
The 20-year-old conquered the 33.3km course in a time of 41:02, beating Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) by a mere 0.14 of a second and third placed Bernard van Ulden (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) by an additional 1:12 minutes.
"I really gave it everything I had because I’ve been the guy that has lost by 0.1 second so I was glad I came out on top of that," Phinney said. "It was difficult but hats off to Levi. I was just happy to be up there and even close to where he is time trialing because he is one of the best time trialists in the world."
Phinney crossed the line with the fastest time of the day as Leipheimer rounded his last lap in a forceful effort to reduce a 15-second deficit after the first lap. He closed down most of the gap, but did not have enough to surpass Phinney for the national title.
"You could count a hundred places where I lost 0.14 of a second but anybody can do that, Taylor can do that and Bernard can do that," Leipheimer said. "It will just take some time to get over the disappointment. Sometimes it is good to have a stinging defeat like that. Sometimes you need it to kick it in gear and re-motivate yourself. I guess I’m just looking on the bright side."
"It is not the first time that I have lost by 0.14 of a second," he said regarding a second place in the Dauphine Libere time trial in 2005. "I lost an hour-long time trial by 0.14, but I also took the yellow jersey that day and that was a little bit of compensation. Today I get nothing, nothing but 41 minutes of pain."
Small field gives way to an exciting outcome
The best time trial contenders in the nation competed along a 33.3km course consisting of three 11km circuits at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research. Four-time champion Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions) was in Europe for the Vuelta a España and was not in attendance, leaving the event wide open to present a new champion.
A sparse but highly qualified field took to the starting ramp in three-minute intervals. Carter Jones (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) opened with the fastest first lap in a time of 13:58. He finished his time trial with a 42:17 and provided a gauge for the remaining fourteen riders. The opening time was some three minutes off of Zabriskie’s winning time of 39:37 set the previous year.
"Coming out of the start gate there was a headwind and some of the uphill sections were headwinds and I think I go better downhill in a time trial than uphill," Van Ulden said. "I was definitely suffering through there. Some of the faster sections of the course were cross winds. Coming onto the main road before the finish had strong cross winds. You can’t concentrate too much on the clock on windy days but the nice thing about doing laps is that you could mark where your competition was."
Former Under 23 time trial champion, Peter Stetina (Garmin-Transtions) crashed on course and could not finish the full three laps, eliminating him from the running for the national title.
Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) posted a new best finishing time of 42:14 that moved his teammate Jones into second place. "I was watching my watch and I knew the times from last year," said Van Ulden, who was moved into third place in last year’s time trial after runner up Tom Zirbel returned a positive anti-doping test.
"I started out relatively fast for me and I was a little concerned that I may have gone out too hard. But based on my time from last year, if you can at least hold the same time through the laps you might be OK."
When Phinney rounded the first lap, his split time surpassed Jones and Van Ulden by more than half a minute. Leipheimer, the odds-on favorite to win the race, slotted in second place 15 seconds slower than Phinney after the first lap and tried to slowly pull back time.
"Taylor was the biggest competitor here and I think everybody knew it," Leipheimer said. "He is a world pursuit champion and he is used to starting fast. He’s got younger legs and can start quicker than me. My advantage is the length, the efficiency, the experience and pacing. Those are the things that are on my side. I tried to keep it smooth and focus on the last lap to make sure that I had enough left but it wasn’t quite enough."
The battle continued as Phinney came through the start of the second lap with a time of 27:14 while Leipheimer gained seven seconds back. Silence swept over the finish line crowds as they waited for the pair to finish.
Phinney crossed the line with a time of 41:02:51. Leipheimer gained nearly eight additional seconds by the finish line, but fell 0.14 seconds shy of the time needed to surpass Phinney for the title.
"I was suffering on the uphills but can gain a lot of time on the downhill just due to my size," Phinney said. "I was focused on getting over the hills and working up a speed over the top. That last lap I was suffering but I knew that I was close because there were times when I could see Levi and every lap he would sort of be in the same place. I knew that if I was going to make up any time it would be on the back section of the course.
"To be honest I didn’t think I got it when he crossed the line," he added. "I was creeping back toward the finish line, 50 metres away watching the time and looking for Levi. I saw him coming and I was pretty sure that I had not done enough. It was a waiting game and 20 of the longest seconds of my life."
89 riders will take on the USA Cycling Pro Championships road race on Sunday.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Taylor Phinney (Trek Livestrong U23)||0:41:02.51|
|2||Levi Leipheimer (Team RadioShack)||0:00:00.14|
|3||Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly)||0:01:12.46|
|4||Carter Jones (Jelly Belly)||0:01:14.64|
|5||Matthew Busche (Team RadioShack)||0:02:18.14|
|6||Adrian Hegyvary (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis)||0:02:19.50|
|7||Benjamin King (Trek Livestrong U23)||0:02:42.69|
|8||David Williams (Bissell Pro Cycling)||0:02:52.11|
|9||Paul Mach (Bissell Pro Cycling)||0:02:52.63|
|10||Nicholas Frey (Jamis-Sutter Home)||0:03:00.81|
|11||Jonathan Mumford (Kelly Benefit Strategies)||0:03:17.31|
|12||Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies)||0:03:18.16|
|13||Jeremy Powers (Jelly Belly)||0:03:55.23|
|14||Scott Tietzel (Mountain Khakis)||0:03:58.95|
|DNF||Peter Stetina (Garmin-Transitions)|