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Preview: USA Cycling Pro Championship

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Sandwiched between three starting and three finishing circuits through an extended downtown area, are four large laps featuring the 1978 ft climb up Paris Mountain north of town.  Shortened slightly from its inaugural running in 2006, this year's course remains spectator friendly and short enough to hold the casual cycling fan's attention and provide some high powered fireworks.  PDF with profile of the course here.

The time trial goes off on Saturday, 30 August, the road race on Sunday.

UPDATED START LIST (from VN) HERE

More below the fold (I've always wanted to type that).

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Okay, so it's really more my opinion than a preview but, whatever. 

I realize the U.S. Domestic scene has more talent these days, and I know we all have favorite riders who are friendly and personable BUT, this is:

  1. a hard-man's course - despite only one significant climb (4 times), the rest of the course provides no place for rest.  The last two years there were only, like, 30 finishers.  It favors Euro-seasoned riders.
  2. a chance for a Euro based U.S. Pro to take the Stars & Stripes Jersey (and gloves and helmet and lunch box, etc) to Europe and show it off.  That motivation can't be underestimated.
  3. a race not always won by the rider who's on the best form.  In 2006, the first time in Greenville, Levi Leipheimer was the strongest rider in that race.  I was there.  I saw it.  He clearly dominated the entire field single-handedly.  But, given the circumstances (a. soon to join Discovery; b. knowledge that George will guide him to a TdF podium place in 2007 and c. U.S. Pro Champs. in Hincapie's hometown?), there was no way anybody but Hincapie was going to win that race.  What am I saying?  LL tanked it for George...that's what I'm saying.  I've wanted to get that off my chest for 2 years now.

I'd like to believe that a little domestic guy will reach into his 6 demon bag and become invincible enough to pull out a win, but I'd be wasting my time (and yours).

But, here's my quick breakdown of the "Riders To Watch" according to the Greenville Hospital System USA Cycling Pro Champs. Website:

HINCAPIE - Could win it if he wanted to.  But, my hunch is he'll work for his young teammate and fellow Greenvillian, Craig Lewis.  This year, Lewis hasn't really done much of anything, but it's a hunch, and if it comes true, you heard it here first.  However, if GH ends up in a break without CVV, he may just pimp slap his breakaway companions and win it just cuz he can.

VANDE VELDE - This is the year he wins the championship.  You know how I know?  Conditions are perfect. 

1. He's got hard-man experience, definite euro-seasoned pro. 

2. He's got the team.  The roster proclaimed on the G-C website is stizzacked.  Even if Danny Pate is spent from winning the TT the previous day (that's my TT preview, BTW); Will, Cozza & Caldwell are currently "on form" and should make the race hard enough to neutralize any fall guys.  Plus, I think the GarMen genuinely want him to win. 

3. Race confidence, I hope.  Am I the only one not totally convinced that CVV has turned THE corner on his race confidence?  Don't be mad at me Nikki, but IMHO, he needs to throw down a big sacked attack and don't look back.  His attacks at the TdF were only in the last few K's and when someone else was already up the road.  In Beijing, I kinda noticed him looking around waiting for someone else to make a move (before I fell asleep, drooling in my chair).  It's my sincere hope, that when he sees his teammates turning themselves inside out, he'll do what we all know he can and bring it home.  CVV, if you have to shoot, shoot.  Don't talk.

ZABRISKIE - I'm not sure of his form, but he'll hang around and try to soften the field before the rest of the GarMen take over.  Then he'll peel off, head for Hincapie's house and watch Spaceballs.

RODRIGUEZ - I can't find Rock's proposed roster, but it doesn't matter.  His team is not as strong as G-C (whose is?).  If G-C heat this race up like we all know they can, he'll be a victim of his own "race-of-attrition" tactics during which he'll be attrited.  However, last year, I think he finished in the top 10, AND he just did well somewhere (?), so if "they" haven't dispensed with him by the time the field starts the 3 finishing circuits, he could be dangerous.  (Whoa!  I just had the thought of the Stars & Stripes kit possibilities with Rock Racing).

HAMILTON - He won the Tour of Qinghai Lake, and he may be on form here, but that is insignificant when compared to the power of Argyle.

LEWIS - Now this is interesting.  In order to support my "Helped by Hincapie" theory, Craig Lewis has to get into the right situation.  I recall the support he showed at the ToG, so we know he can hammer.  If he gets into a long breakaway with anybody not named Frischkorn, he may have a serious chance.  Plus, will he be heading to Europe for more racing next year?  Team Columbia likes them some national champs. jerseys.

SHIRLEY - Meh.  I don't pretend to know too much about him, but I think he got lucky last year.  Maybe when half his teammates drop and start cheering for him through the feed zone, he'll pull out something special.

KING - The Bissell boys seem to be able to come to the front and turn the screws on the field.  I'd say he has a better than average chance if his team can handle the G-C onslaught.

Other mentionables (in 5 words or less):

WHERRY - Past his prime.

DANIELSON - Knows his role.

FREIDMAN/PATE/FRISCHKORN/CALDWELL/COZZA - Long break that sticks.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  For the first time since "U.S. rider only" policy was installed, a Euro-based team will bring a beefy squad with at least 2 ½ legitimate threats.  It's obvious that this is Garmin-Chipotle's race to lose.

I'll be there, with #1 son in tow, representing the Mid-Atlantic bureau of PdC's East Coast Division and will submit an updated report, with photos, in a time-late and irrelevant manner.  I encourage anyone within 10 hours driving distance (like me) to make it out.  The course is VERY conducive to photos and spectating.  After watching the opening loops, we'll dash up to Paris Mtn., catch climbs 2 and 3 (and 4 if there's no breakaway yet), zip back downtown, watch a lap or two through the feed then head to the Finish (and then over to the Mavic booth to score some swag).  I've also borrowed a buddy's radio scanner so's I can do some eavesdropping on team radios and whatnot.

FINAL USELESS TIDBIT:  Those of you with children may be familiar with the bedtime story Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown which depicts a small mouse in every illustration throughout the book.  Well, in downtown Greenville, visitors are invited to search for nine bronze mice, which can be found in various locations beginning at the fountain in front of the Hyatt Regency Hotel along the nine blocks that make up Main Street between the Hyatt and the Westin Poinsett Hotel.

UPDATE:  Thanks Gavia.

 

 

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