Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the USA Cycling Professional Championships! It's a hot and muggy day in Greenville, South Carolina, and no wind to speak of to cool down the riders. They face 180km of brutal conditions including the daunting Paris Mountain.
The riders have already completed their three small laps in the downtown Greenville area, and the breakaway of the day was launched during those laps. Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly pb Kenda), Ben King (Trek-Livestrong), Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Daniel Holloway (Bissell Pro Cycling Team) and Thomas Brown (Mountain Khakis fb Jittery Joes) were the original riders in the move.
Van Ulden and Brown were dropped before the race headed out for the first of four long laps, which includes Paris Mountain. Van Ulden dropped out of the race, perhaps being exhausted from his third place finish in yesterday's time trial. Brown was re-absorbed by the peloton.
The field is perfectly content to let this trio stay out front and, quite literally, fry in the hot sun. They're on their way up Paris Mountain for the first time, and the neighborhood is rocking with several big block parties. It's definitely THE place to be for US Pro.
The gap comes down to 9:20 as the trio dig into the first trip up the hill. There is plenty of beer drinking happening on the sidelines, but none of the three riders take an icy, refreshing beverage. They're serious about trying to stay away.
When the US Pro championships moved from Philadelphia in June to Greenville in September, there was a lot of concern that there just wouldn't be the same kind of crowds in this much smaller city. The event has grown over the past four years, however, and there are thousands of people in downtown Greenville here to watch the race.
Paris Mountain is a difficult climb because the hardest part comes closer to the top. Put too much effort in on the bottom and the mountain will make you pay later. The peloton is heading toward the lower slopes and are definitely saving their legs: the gap is up to 12 minutes.
Taking a little scan down our start list, you'll see that defending champion George Hincapie has a strong team alongside him this year. Jeff Louder will be his primary helper, or perhaps even a candidate for the win himself. Hincapie suffered a nasty crash in the Tour of Utah and while he raced in Canada last week, he's still trying to come back from those injuries.
Our three leaders have crested Paris Mountain, while the peloton is way behind, not even starting the climb. They're back on Old Buncombe Road.
We're now hearing that it's Ben King, not Ted King, who is our King in the break. They both wear black, so we'll be sure to sort this out soon.
Back down in downtown Greenville the handcyclists are on their last lap of the Roger C. Peace US Handcycling National Criterium Championship, presented by the Paralyed Veterans of America.
Our breakaway trio of Zwizanski, Holloway and a King (either Ted or Ben, tbd) are on their way down the undulating descent from Paris Mountain while the peloton is starting the climb well behind.
Looking down our start list again, we note some pretty big names: Levi Leipheimer will be looking to overcome the disappointment of losing yesterday's time trial by just 0.14 seconds. He has Chris Horner, Jason McCartney, Bjorn Selander and Matthew Busche to back him up.
The Garmin-Transitions team has a fairly young team since most of their big stars are off in Spain celebrating Tyler Farrar's win on the final stage. Peter Stetina, the 2009 U23 TT champion, is their number one for the day, but they've got Steven Cozza, Timmy Duggan, Danny Pate - all experienced Euro pro's, as well as Caleb Fairly and Andrew Talansky, both extremely strong riders.
We've received confirmation that all along it has actually been Ben King, not Ted, who is in the breakaway. Ted, on Cervelo and no relation, is another prime candidate for a win today, but he has no teammates to help him in this race.
We've got a few solo riders here: Ted King, Craig Lewis (HTC-Columbia) - a Greenville native, Phil Zajicek (Fly V) and Lucas Euser (SpiderTech). They are up against full squads from Bissell, BMC, Radioshack, Garmin, Jamis-Sutter Home, Jelly Belly, Kelly Benefit Strategies and Mountain Khakis.
140km remaining from 180km
Getting into the day's break might have been a good strategy for Ted King, but instead it is Ben, teammate of yesterday's time trial champion Taylor Phinney, who is up there. He will hope for this move to stick. The peloton is still on the Paris Mountain climb, now a massive 16 minutes behind!
The breakaway is now rolling back through downtown Greenville to complete the first of four 22 mile-long laps. They're getting huge cheers from the massive crowds lining the streets.
Bissell's Dan Holloway is leading the breakaway through town as they have this gigantic gap. Holloway is a elite track champion in the points race and kilo, and the current US Pro criterium champion. Can he add the road title to his list of championship wins?
So far the peloton isn't keen to chase - when will the big teams start putting in some work?
120km remaining from 180km
Our breakaway is heading through the start/finish line on the way out for their second of four 22-mile long laps. That's 66 miles plus about 8 miles for the two short laps at the end left for the peloton to close down this gigantic 15-minute gap.
There is a little complication in the race today, because Ben King is racing for Trek/Livestrong U23 team, but that squad is part of the same organization as the RadioShack team. Chris Horner told Cyclingnews that if either Ben King or Taylor Phinney went up the road, the Radioshack boys wouldn't chase.
With Bissell represented, it will be up to Hincapie's BMC team, Garmin or one of the other domestic squads to push the chase. So far, nobody's taken that responsibility.
Information is a bit difficult to come by, but we've now heard that poor Thomas Brown, the Mountain Khakis rider who was dropped from the break on the small laps, is still dangling in no man's land. He's about two minutes ahead of the peloton. Let's put him in the situation and give him his moments of fame, shall we?
George Hincapie's BMC team is now setting pace in the peloton. Hincapie and Leipheimer are the only two former US Pro champions in the peloton today. Horner has come close to winning in the past, and would dearly love to win the title and ride out what could be his last season in the national champion's jersey.
Hincapie has won the US Pro title three times - the first in 1998, the second in 2006 and his third was last year. Few remember that he also won the race in 1997, but was disqualified by the judges for excessive drafting behind the team car after a flat during the race. The title was awarded to Saturn's Bart Bowen.
Back to our breakaway, King, Holloway and Zwizanski are working smoothly together with a whopping 17 minute lead now. The peloton is just arriving in downtown Greenville for the start of their second big lap.
Looks like the Unitedhealthcare team is absent from the front - rumor is Zwizanski will move to that team next year, so they'll be happy to see him stay away and possibly bring the stars and stripes jersey into their team for the 2011 season.
The huge gap in the breakaway is reportedly causing logistical problems, we're hearing via Twitter. There are seven miles of empty streets between the break and the field, tying up traffic with long waits to open the crossings.
The large gap has also caused problems with the running of races in downtown Greenville, such as the kid's race that just got underway.
BMC is trying to help out and do some work to close this down a bit. It's fallen to 16 minutes or so.
116km remaining from 180km
BMC and Garmin-Transitions have each contributed just one rider to the chase. They're mid-way through the second big lap and the gap is still hovering around 16 minutes. Still no concerted chase, and the longer this goes the less likely they'll ever come back.
It is still possible for the peloton to bring this break back, but they'll have to do some pretty hard riding to do so. Say the three riders out front average 25mph for the rest of the race, they'll finish in 3 hours. The peloton will have to start riding at an average of 27.6mph to close the gap down.
The breakaway is heading up Paris Mountain for the second time now, and they still have between 16 and 17 minutes.
BMC's press officer Sean Weide said that the team had a meeting last night at Hincapie’s new house. He was thankful to finally have a team to race this event and was excited about forming a strategy. HIs advice was to be alert the whole race and not just the last hour, to be attentive for the entire race and be aware of who was in the break.
The only thing is that they did not anticipate a break like the one that is happening now.
The work by BMC has managed to pull the break back to 15 minutes, but the peloton is really still playing chess. BMC doesn't want to burn all its matches now, and they need some help. Garmin is also reluctant.
Up in the break, we have riders representing the two coasts of the USA. Scott Zwizanski is originally from Pennsylvania, but now lives in Mill Valley, California and regularly trains on the nearby Mount Tamalpais - or Mt. Tam as it's known. He's quite a good climber and helping to keep the break clear.
Ben King is from North Garden, Virginia and is the current U23 road race and criterium champion. He also won the KOM jersey at the GP Portugal and is a good climber, too.
Dan Holloway is from Morgan Hill, CA. So all of NorCal (Northern California in the local parlance) is pretty happy with the composition of this breakaway.
However, our Greenville fan base is not very enthused - they'll want to see Hincapie, Lewis, or Furman University graduate Chris Butler (BMC) win this race today.
Our breakaway is through the feed zone and Zwizanski (also a graduate of West Virginia University in Civil Engineering - brainy!) takes a musette bag. It's so hot they are working hard just to stay ahead of dehydration and heat exhaustion. You'd think that mid-September would be late enough that this horrible weather would be over in the south, but it's just been a never-ending brutally hot summer.
The leaders are through the start/finish and out for lap 3 of the big loop. They've got only 14:20 now. Holloway waved to the crowd to try and get some motivating cheers going.
Of course "just 14:20" is a bit of an understatement as the peloton has its work cut out for it thanks to this large lead with only a bit more than 50 miles to go. It seems the pace has picked up back there, but no word yet on who is doing the work.
90km remaining from 180km
We're just at the half way point of this race so it's (to state the obvious) still far from over. They've got a couple more hours of racing left to do, and we expect to see something happen in the peloton on Paris Mountain this lap. The selection usually comes on the final lap, but this isn't a normal year for US PRO.
Correction to our earlier statements, there are three finishing circuits on the small laps, not two as we said earlier.
I think we've finally got some cooperation in the peloton - threats, bribes - not sure what inspired them, but the new split is 14:05 and falling.
While we wait to see how this lap unfolds, there was some pretty exciting bike racing going on today. Tyler Farrar won the Vuelta's final stage and Nibali sealed his overall win.
Over in Belgium, the cyclo-cross season opened in Erpe-Mere. Sven Nys got right back to his winning ways. Last night was the USA's west coast opener in Seattle. Francis Mourey came all the way from France to win that one in the rain. There are some great photos online from the race.
The peloton has definitely perked up. Maybe it was that mid-race snack in the feed zone, or maybe some stern urging from the race organization, but Kenda, Jelly Belly and Garmin each have put a rider up front to help BMC with the chase. We're currently waiting on a new gap.
The effort is starting to pay off: the gap has fallen to 13:25 as the peloton heads in for the start of lap 3.
Hincapie might now have some extra motivation, his beautiful wife Melanie is in the BMC team car following him for the first time ever. The pressure is on now!
Oh yeah! We have action! Ben King has decided to go on the attack on Paris Mountain - he's opened up a gap to his two companions Zwizanski and Holloway.
It's a pretty nice gap for Ben King, while Zwizanski and Holloway continue to lose ground. We expect to see the same kind of fireworks from the peloton in about 13 minutes...
It looks like Holloway and Zwizanski are not putting in a concerted chase yet. Perhaps they're waiting to see if he'll blow up, or maybe they're cooked. It's a 45 second gap now, so it's not looking like he's going to blow!
Ben has to be motivated by his teammate's win yesterday. Can we see two U23 riders upset the older pros?
King reached the top with just under a minute on his two former breakaway companions. He's just starting the descent now as the peloton closes in under 13 minutes.
King still has another 22 mile long lap after he gets back to Greenville, and then three small laps of the circuit downtown. That's something like 40 miles left to go, so that's a pretty long way for a single man. The peloton has definitely picked up its pace, only 10:50 behind King at the moment.
A bit more about Ben King's season - along with the two national championships titles he's won in the U23 road race and criterium, he was best young rider in two stage races: Nature Valley and Cascade Classic. He was also Pan American champion in the U23 time trial and road race. Quite a season and it would be even more impressive if he made it 3 national titles.
It was a little confusing with the Trek-Livestrong team this year because there is another Ben King, who is from Australia, on the same squad.
Back in the field Busche (Radioshack) has launched an attack as they hit Paris Mountain. Ben King has 1:45 on his two chasers, while the peloton is 10:25 back.
Looks like that surge sent Taylor Phinney out the back...
King is working his heart out to keep his lead - he is out of the saddle powering back to Greenville. The peloton has now closed under 10 minutes with 1 1/2 large laps and 3 small laps left to go.
King is just about done with the third large lap, while Brent Bookwalter and Jeff Louder are doing the work to bring the gap down. It's 9:50 and falling to the peloton and 2:25 and growing to the two chasers, Zwizanski and Holloway.
-Ben King (Trek-Livestrong)
-Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Daniel Holloway (Bissell Pro Cycling Team) at 2:25
-Matthew Busche (Radioshack) at ?
-Peloton at 9:50
Busche managed to hold his attack over the crest of Paris Mountain and is now in between the break and the field.
Word on the street is that Busche has bridged to Holloway and Zwizanski, but they've fallen six minutes behind King. I can't imagine that Busche would stay with them long if they've dropped anchor. Meanwhile the peloton is 9 minutes behind our solo leader.
Well we're not exactly sure of the location of Matthew Busche. Some reports say he's up the road, some say he's in the field. Calling Matthew Busche! Turn on your GPS locator!
We'll keep him up the road until we hear otherwise...
Mr. King is still our slo leader, he's past the feed zone now with just over one large lap to go. He has 3:45 on the chasers (two or three, we're still waiting to find out) and 9 minutes plus on the field.
It seems like the temperatures are starting to fall a bit as the sun gets a little lower in the sky.
56km remaining from 180km
As King heads through the start/finish line he has 35 miles (56km) left to go in this race. His legs have to be screaming in pain by now, but as we've seen all year, he knows how to rise to the challenge of a championship race. He's in his time trial position and coated in all the salt from his sweat drying on him.
If we recall the U23 road nationals in Bend, Oregon earlier this summer, this is exactly how King won. He broke away and then soloed for the last half of the race. However, in that race he didn't have the caliber of teams chasing him that he does today.
The final journey up Paris Mountain will certainly be the decisive moment in this race today. The field has been whittled down to about 35 riders after that last hammer-fest up the mountain.
We estimate King needs at least 2 minutes at the top of the climb to have a hope of staying clear. He now has 9:20 - he's brought it back out a bit.
We've heard that Taylor Phinney, who was dropped on the descent, has regained the field. We're working on the composition and location of the chasing group in between.
The chasing duo, Zwizanski and Holloway, came through around seven minutes behind King, no sign of Matthew Busche, so those reports must have been mistaken.
So our current race situation, with less than one large lap left to go and three small circuits is
-Ben King (Trek-Livestrong)
-Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Daniel Holloway (Bissell Pro Cycling Team) at 7:00
-Peloton at 9:25
Back in the field, Garmin, BMC, Unitedhealthcare and Radioshack are all putting riders to work to chase King down. The peloton is pretty small - only 35-40 riders left back there. It's been a long, hot race and despite the big gap, the pace is still hard on the riders, especially after such a long season.
BMC's press man Sean Weide said the team is getting concerned because the gap to King just isn't falling as fast as they thought it would. Could we see another huge upset by the young Trek-Livestrong riders?
King is still powering his way out to Paris Mountain, while behind him Zwizanski and Holloway are caught by the peloton. The field has seen a large number of riders choosing to climb off and get a cold beverage rather than continue the race
The gap is still holding at 9:15 - a tremendous effort by 21-year-old Ben King!
As King begins the long, and quite painful now, ascent of Paris Mountain, his lead has fallen to 8:15. He can stand to lose a little bit of time, but needs to save his energy for the steep bit at the top and the 20 miles or so he still has to race after he makes the crest.
If King can hold his gap, there is the very real possibility that he could lap the field on the small closing circuits. He will certainly run into some riders who have been dropped on Paris Mountain. He could legally take refuge in a group, but more likely the judges would pull the riders before that happens.
Right now our solo leader, Ben King (Trek-Livestrong) still has a gap of 7:30 on the peloton. That's seven minutes, thirty seconds - we think that could be enough, but let's see what happens in the peloton on the climb!
The field is shattering on the climb under the pressure from Garmin-Transitions.
That's Timmy Duggan of Garmin on the front, followed by the whole BMC team. Chris Horner is moving up the side - let's see if he'll attack.
There are only about 20 riders left in the group behind King, of course defending champion George Hincapie is still up there.
156km remaining from 180km
Just 15 miles left to go for Ben King! His gap is still quite large as he nears the top of the climb.
We're still waiting on a time check, but the peloton is still on the climb and King is on the descent - if it's even half what it was at the bottom of the climb, he would have to have a colossal implosion in order to not win this race.
Latest gap is 6:25! I think Mr. King might well have won himself his third national title! There has been a selection behind King, only a dozen or so riders and most likely some of the best in the world. But they've left it too late we think.
It may have been a wise move to leave Holloway and Zwizanski behind after all. Normally you want to have help for the long haul and have a huge disadvantage going solo, but today is not a normal day.
By my calculations, if King is going 25mph, the chasers would have to average a whopping 30mph to catch him by the line. That's asking a bit much even from riders like Hincapie, Leipheimer and Horner.
This will be an even bigger coup than Phinney's topping Leipheimer in yesterday's time trial. Phinney is well known as world pursuit champion, while King has excelled in the U23 ranks, this will be his first major elite victory. And what a win!
Looks like Hincapie and Leipheimer and one Jelly Belly rider, Keil Reijnen have slipped away - they've closed to 4:45
King is still looking strong - he's getting out of the saddle to keep his speed going. He's got Hincapie, the defending champion, Leipheimer, who is wanting to make up for yesterday's disappointment, and Reijnen chasing.
Back in the field, only 25 riders or so remain, everyone else is watching from the sidelines.
Of course there will be somewhat of an alliance between Leipheimer and King, being two factions of the same organization.
The Radioshack team car pulled alongside Ben King, perhaps telling him what's going on behind him. The gap is now down to 3:30!
When King gets to the line, he'll have three laps to go, just 12 miles. He's looking pretty good - he'll get a big boost from the boisterous crowds once he makes his way into downtown Greenville.
King has made it to the final circuits - 11 miles to go and he has nearly a four minute lead. It's looking pretty good for him right now!
Hincapie is doing the work in the chase but not able to bring the gap down to less than 3:50. Leipheimer is sitting on. The crowds in Greenville are being worked into a frenzy by announcer Dave Towle.
19km remaining from 180km
Just under 20km to go for King, and with this lead he should, barring disaster, become our new US Professional National Champion. Looks like Trek/Livestrong's development program is working pretty well!
While it is a big disappointment for the more "experienced" riders in the peloton here, it's a good sign for US cycling that riders so young, like King and Phinney, can show this kind of ability.
Oh wow! Big upset - Hincapie, Leipheimer and Reijnen have been caught by the field and now Carter Jones (Jelly Belly) is on the attack.
Jones opened up a 20 second gap on the field, but he's got a full 3 minutes to close down with just 15km to go.
There is hardly anything left of the field, just a handful of riders and not a single one strong enough to close down this gap right now. It is looking all the more likely that a new King will be crowned here in Greenville today.
12km remaining from 180km
King will still have 8 miles to go when he comes through the line. He is being pursued by a soon-to-be teammate. Carter Jones, 4th in yesterday's time trial, will be on the Trek-Livestrong team in 2011.
Wow, King is looking very strong with a little more than 10km to go. Just another 10 minutes or so of agony.
Behind, Jones has been absorbed by what's left of the field, 3:15 behind King.
King is riding like a motorcycle toward his biggest career result, while all the time behind him the chase tries and fails to make up ground. He still has three minutes on the elite group of chasers behind.
Jason McCartney and Brent Bookwalter are doing their best to push the pace, but it's only fallen to 2:45 with about 7 miles left to go.
We've got to hand it to Ben King. Champion or not, this has been one extraordinary performance today. His pain threshold alone has to be impressive to withstand this kind of chase. He's being pursued by riders who have been at the top of Grand Tours - and he's resisting!
6km remaining from 180km
Just one lap to go for Ben King! He still leads by over two minutes with 6km or so to go!
So far there is no interference from any riders getting lapped. Just King, alone, in full time trial mode, hammering himself into the ground on the way to the US Pro title.
Back in the field Chris Baldwin has attacked.
King must be in abject agony with the amount of lactic acid that has to be flooding his body, but he still pushes along, holding off the chase from BMC. All of Virginia's cycling scene must be going crazy right now. He has 2:15!
What a spectacular ride by this rider from Virginia Tech and the Trek-Livestrong under-23 team. Bookwalter and Horner are lined up behind with Phinney sitting in, hoping for a podium finish - a Livestrong 1-2 maybe?
The city of Greenville is buzzing with excitement as Ben King nears the final kilometres of the US Pro Championship. One of the most memorable rides in the history of this event, and certainly the most impressive ride of the past four years since it moved to Greenville!
The only question now is, who will fill out the podium? Because it is certain, Ben King will win this race. He still has a large lead. Can Baldwin hold on for second?
2km remaining from 180km
Inside the barriers and the crowds are going wild. It's 10-deep with fans cheering on King with 2km to go!
He's inside the final kilometre and his dad is here to see his son win the US PRO title!
King raises his arms in victory! What a spectacular ride!
Give that kid a saline drip - he's gotta be beef jerky by now. The sprint is on for second!
Alex Candelario takes the sprint for second, giving Kelly Benefit Strategies a podium placing. We're still waiting on who took third.
That's a fine ride by Candelario, who's not necessarily noted for his climbing. But what about young Ben King? What a great promise for the future.
We think it was Keil Reijnen of Jelly Belly who claimed the final podium spot. A big zero for the big ProTour boys today, despite their hard work.
Thanks for following the most exciting edition of the USA Cycling Professional Championships with Cyclingnews! Look for a full report, results and photos coming soon.
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