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Preview: USA Pro Cycling Championships

By:
Kirsten Frattini

Phinney and King return to defend US stars and stripes in Greenville

Taylor Phinney shows off his US time trial champion's skinsuit

Taylor Phinney shows off his US time trial champion's skinsuit

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The USA Pro Cycling Championships has once again attracted a top quality field of some of the most notable professional bike racers from across the nation.

Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) will return to defend his title in the 33.3 km Individual Time Trial Championships p/b Duke Energy held on Saturday, May 29 and Ben King (RadioShack) is planning his own defense in the Road Race Championships p/b TD Bank held on Monday, May 31, both in Greenville, South Carolina.

The USA Pro Cycling Championships will begin with the Individual Time Trial Championships p/b Duke Energy on Saturday. The parcours will begin on Millenium boulevard, turn right and make one small loop before veering back onto Carolina Point Parkway, U-turn and backtrack on Carolina Point Parkway, turn right on Innovation drive, right on Laurens road and a right back onto the finishing straightaway along Millenium Blvd. The whole loop is 11.1kms in length and the men will compete three laps for a total of 33.3 kms.

Phinney arrives to the event fresh off a respectable performance at the Amgen Tour of California two weeks ago where be placed 21st in the stage six time trial, more than one and half minutes behind stage winner and former USPro time trial champion Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Cervelo)

Zabriskie skipped the championships in order to compete in the Vuelta a Espana last year. He won the Amgen Tour of California stage six time trial in a time of 30:36 and broke the existing course record held by three-time winner Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack).

"Last year I was doing the Vuelta and missed out on the US Pro [championships]," Zabriskie said. "I'll be going back there this year. I have two time trial wins so far this season so I'll be confident going into that race. And I like that race. It will be a nice to get the jersey back for sure."

Other top contenders for the jersey include Danny Pate and Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad), Tom Zirbel (Jamis-Sutter Home), Chris Baldwin and Paul Mach (Bissell), Reid Mumford (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth), Jason McCartney (RadioShack) and Scott Zwizanski (UnitedHealthcare), who has now recovered from a broken finger.

The racing will continue at the Road Race Championships p/b TD Bank on Memorial Day Monday. The Pros will compete for a total of 185kms that includes open small circuits, followed by four large circuits over Paris Mountain, and concluding with additional small circuits.

The 100 plus rider field includes defending champion Ben King and his teammates McCartney and Matthew Busche along with a series of other ProTeam riders including former winner George Hincapie, Brent Bookwalter and Jeff Louder (BMC Racing), Tim Duggan and Ted King (Liquigas-Cannondale), Van Garderen, Pate and Caleb Fairly (HTC-Highroad) and Zabriskie – all of whom are coming off good rides in the Amgen Tour of California.

"I think it is the perfect preparation and after this week I will rest and my form will be good," King said of racing in California. "I would love to win the jersey again."

Riders from Professional Continental teams in attendance include Adrian Hegyvary, Brad White, Max Jenkins, Jake Keough, Morgan Schmitt, Chris Jones and Zwizanski (UnitedHealthcare), Pat McCarty and Lucas Euser (SpiderTech p/b C10), Scott Stewart, Keil Reijnen and Will Dugan (Team Type 1).

"I would assume that most of the Americans here [Amgen Tour of California] are going to go to Greenville," Euser said last week. "We race on Monday, we have a whole week to get the Tour of California settled in our legs. I think that's actually going to make it a better race, and a higher competitive level. I hope these guys show up, because it won't be a fun race without them."

Riders from Continental teams that will be vying for the title include Alex Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) who placed second last year, Kirk Carlsen (Chipotle Development), Matt Cooke (Exergy), Tyler Wren (Jamis-Sutter Home), Ken Hanson (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda), Cole House (RealCyclist.com), Shawn Milne (Kenda/5-hour Energy) and Frank Pipp (Bissell).

Noticeably absent from the race is Leipheimer and recent Amgen Tour of California winner Chris Horner (RadioShack) who have decided to skip the championships to focus on their preparations for the Tour de France in July.