It took a photo finish to decide the winner of the USA Pro Cycling Championships and in the end it was Matthew Busche (RadioShack) who was awarded the stars and stripes jersey ahead of runner up and hometown favourite George Hincapie (BMC Racing) on the streets of Greenville, South Carolina on Monday.
Ted King (Liquigas-Cannondale) secured third place on the podium ahead of Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) in fourth.
Busche, who put in an impressive performance at Tour of California as a mountain domestique, was an unknown quantity in the breakaway - even to himself - having had little chance to show his sprinting legs in his brief career.
"I've never sprinted on this level before," Busche said. "I'm not usually the sprinter, but today it wasn't really a sprint, it was more of a drag race. It came down to a bike throw and I guess I got the first wheel."
A breakaway of four riders entered the final three finishing circuits together that included Busche and Hincapie along with King and Van Garderen. Busche led the group out of the last corner and was passed by Hincapie on the way to the finish line. However, Busche conjured up enough determination to regain contact with Hincapie's back wheel and then throw his bike at the finish line in a dramatic victory for the championships title.
"I'm not sure what everyone wanted in the breakaway," said Busche who was told five minutes after crossing the line he had won the race. "Everyone was feeling a lot of pain at that point and doubting how good their legs where. I didn't want to expect too much because I had to burn one match coming into town. I let some guys go who I shouldn't have and had to close the gap. Thankfully it didn't cost me.
"You never really want to have it come down to a sprint with Hincapie. That's why I had to be aggressive out of the last corner. Hincapie came flying by and I caught his wheel. I mustered up enough energy right at the end to throw the bike to the line."
Hincapie won a national title on three previous occasions and entered the day as the odds-on favourite to win the stars and stripes jersey for a fourth time. He expressed his disappointment for not winning following the race, however, praised Busche for a strong performance.
"It was tough," Hincapie said. "I felt good out there and the race was tough which suited my qualities. The guys up there were the strongest guys in the race and there was no luck involved in that. I was cramping in the last kilometre and I probably went up a bit too early. Matthew went and sat up so I though he was done. I’m proud of my effort and I am proud of Matthew’s effort. I’m disappointed that that I didn’t win but I think Matthew is a suitable champion."
Race heats up at USA Pro Cycling Championships
The USA Pro Cycling Championships started under warm late-spring temperature reaching upwards of 95 Fahrenheit, similar conditions to the previous year's September event. Just over 100 of the nation's top professional cyclists kicked off the 185km championships race on Main Street in downtown Greenville, South Carolina.
The race commenced with three short 6.6km circuits, where a breakaway traditionally escapes the field. Last year saw defending champion Ben King, who now races for RadioShack, break away with a small group and then solo to the finish line for the entire race to the title victory.
This time it was Robert Bush (Garmin-Cervelo) who took an early flyer on the first short lap to initiate the move. He was followed by riders from Jamis-Sutter Home, Bissell, Kenda/5-hour Energy and Jelly Belly p/b Kenda. The next lap around it was Tim Duggan (Liquigas-Cannondale) who drove a new breakaway of four riders that also included riders from BMC Racing, Exergy and Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth.
Ted King (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Julian Kyer (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) took their chances and snapped off the front of the field and lead the way through the third and final short circuit before heading out to contest four large circuits, 36.2km laps, that included Paris Mountain.
"Tim and I anticipated going into the break but it’s not easy when you have two riders," King said. "We’ve been around for a while and know how this race can work, but last year a breakaway did succeed. You have to wait and you don’t want to fire bullets too early. There was a good chance that the breakaway could succeed. It was tough with only two guys but we were not the only team with numbers not in our favourite."
The Paris Mountain showdown
A six-man breakaway emerged before the base of Paris Mountain, however, all came back together over the top of the 3.5km decisive ascent. Depending on who was leading the peloton, the climb took roughly eight-to nine minutes to ride form bottom to top.
A reshuffled breakaway blazed through the start-finish line on the second large lap that included Quinn Keogh (Exergy), David Williams (Bissell), Jason McCartney (RadioShack), Jesse Anthony (Jesse Anthony), Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing), Phil Gaimon (Kenda/5-hour Energy), Tim Duggan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Robert Bush (Chipotle Development).
The group increased its lead from 45 seconds to nearly three minutes before the second climb over Paris Mountain. Williams and Bush fell off the pace over the climb and the six remaining breakaway riders continued on with a 2:40 minute lead as they crested the climb and started the descent back into downtown Greenville.
On the third lap, McCartney, Duggan, Anthony and Bookwalter drove the pace shedding Quinn and Gaimon on Paris Mountain. They maintained a two-minute lead as they rounded through the start-finish line with one large lap (and three small circuits) remaining. Roman Kilun (Kenda/5-hour Energy) attacked the field following the descent off of Paris Mountain and tried to bridge across to the breakaway for the last lap, he was unsuccessful
On the final climb over Paris Mountain, Anthony attacked the breakaway and maintained a solo lead ahead of a group of chasers that included McCartney, Bookwalter and Duggan. A strong group of climbers emerged from the field and caught up to the breakaway including Matthew Busche (RadioShack), Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) and George Hincapie (BMC Racing).
Hincapie made a short-lived attacked from the chase group at the top of Paris Mountain. Anthony was caught by the six chasers and the front group swelled with the addition of Ted King (Liquigas-Cannondale). Only small gaps were established between each small group on the descent off of Paris Mountain.
"I had to stay within my limits because I can’t climb with those guys so I caught back up on the descent. In these heat and conditions only the strong survive," Anthony laughed.
Van Garderen also made a short lived move on the descent back into downtown Greenville. The front group swelled again with the addition of Pat McCarty (SpiderTech p/b C10) and Jeff Louder (BMC Racing).
Downtown Greenville short-circuit finale
A group of four emerged as the strongest riders in the group that included Busche, Van Garderen, Hincapie and King. They landed onto the final three short circuits together and Busche led the group through the start-finish line and all proved to be determined and strong during the final laps.
"We worked together well but the strongest guys were in it at the end," Hincapie said. "Everyone was working because we were all pulling and going full gas. No one started sitting on during the three circuits. It was too fast to attack. I put myself in the best position to win but unfortunately lost by a photo finish."
King took his turn on the front as the group passed through the start-finish line with two laps to go. Hincapie, a proven fast-man when it comes to a sprint, was arguably the most threatening rider in that group.
Van Garderen pulled through at the start of the last lap followed by King, Hincapie and Busche. The four rounded the final corner together with Busche launching an initial sprint. Hincapie passed Busche, however, he was able to sneak in behind and take advantage of a draft on the downhill finish. Busche saved enough energy to catch Hincapie at the line in what ended up a photo finish, and won the title.
Back in the field, Louder and Lucas Euser (SpiderTech p/b C10) attacked the dwindled bunch in a sprint for the top five to ten places. A small chase group formed that also included Jelly Belly p/b Kenda and Bissell. In the end it was Kyle Wamsley (Bissell) who took the bunch sprint for fifth place.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Matthew Busche (Team RadioShack)||4:28:02|
|2||George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team)|
|3||Ted King (Liquigas-Cannondale)||0:00:02|
|4||Tejay Van Garderen (HTC Highroad)||0:00:07|
|5||Kyle Wamsley (Bissell Cycling)||0:01:29|
|6||Alexander Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealth)||0:01:30|
|7||Kenneth Hanson (Jelly Belly Presented By Kenda)|
|8||Benjamin King (Team RadioShack)|
|9||Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing Team)|
|10||Chase Pinkham (Bissell Cycling)||0:01:31|
|11||Danny Pate (HTC Highroad)|
|12||Christopher Jones (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling)|
|13||Oscar Clark (Realcyclist.com Cycling Team)|
|14||Jeff Louder (BMC Racing Team)|
|15||Lucas Euser (Team Spidertech Presented By C10)||0:01:32|
|16||Frank Pipp (Bissell Cycling)||0:01:33|
|17||Tyler Wren (Jamis/Sutter Home)|
|18||Matthew Cooke (Team Exergy)||0:01:34|
|19||Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly Presented By Kenda)|
|20||Timothy Duggan (Liquigas-Cannondale)|
|21||Sergio Hernandez (Jelly Belly Presented By Kenda)||0:01:38|
|22||Joshua Berry (Realcyclist.com Cycling Team)||0:01:42|
|23||Ian Burnett (Realcyclist.com Cycling Team)||0:01:46|
|24||Maxim Jenkins (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling)||0:01:47|
|25||Nathan Brown (Trek Livestrong U23)||0:01:55|
|26||Andrew Bajadali (Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealth)|
|27||Pat McCarty (Team Spidertech Presented By C10)||0:02:00|
|28||Tom Zirbel (Jamis/Sutter Home)||0:02:01|
|29||Caleb Fairly (HTC Highroad)||0:03:15|
|30||Michael Creed (Kelly Benefit Strategies - OptumHealth)||0:04:47|
|31||Scottie Weiss (Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling p/b Geargrinder)||0:09:05|
|32||Sean Mazich (Jelly Belly Presented By Kenda)|
|33||Robert Sweeting (Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling p/b Geargrinder)|
|34||Jacob Rytlewski (Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling p/b Geargrinder)|
|35||Jason McCartney (Team RadioShack)||0:09:06|
|36||Daniel Summerhill (Chipotle Development Team)|
|37||Alexander Hagman (Jelly Belly Presented By Kenda)||0:09:07|
|38||Yosvany Falcon (Realcyclist.com Cycling Team)|
|39||Alex Howes (Chipotle Development Team)|
|40||Alfredo Cruz (Chipotle Development Team)|
|41||Taylor Shelden (V Australia)|
|42||Evan Hyde (Realcyclist.com Cycling Team)||0:09:08|
|43||Roman Kilun (Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling p/b Geargrinder)|
|44||Frank Travieso (Realcyclist.com Cycling Team)|
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