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San Francisco Grand Prix - 1.HC

USA, September 4, 2005

Fighting up Filmore Street -- A San Francisco treat

By Mark Zalewski

Charles Dionne (Webcor) wins in 2004
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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With the renewal of a sponsor for the next three years, and a mayoral promise of fee reductions, the San Francisco Grand Prix, now the Barclays Global Investors Grand Prix for 2005, is ready to roll featuring many top pros from the Tour de France and all the top teams of North America. This fifth edition will have all three of the defending champions -- Tour de France stage winner George Hincapie (Discovery Channel), Suanier Duval-Prodir's Tour de France rider Chris Horner and two-time winner Charles Dionne (Webcor.)

Hincapie is having what he calls his best season in 2005, winning a mountain stage of the Tour de France and most recently the GP Ouest France-Plouay. The Discovery Channel leader will have a mix of teammates here, from young riders like American Michael Creed and Fumiyuki Beppu of Japan to more experienced like Pavel Padrnos and long-time domestic and now international pros Tony Cruz and Jason McCartney.

Two-time winner and defending champion Charles Dionne and his Webcor team will have a tough time defending the title with the loss of Chris Horner to the Pro Tour and more recently David Clinger leaving the team. However Dionne is as strong as every, winning a stage of the Tour de Beauce and the Canadian criterium championship. Speaking of Chris Horner, he has been on fire this year winning a stage of the Tour de Suisse, and nearly winning a stage of the Tour de France. This race is a west coast home coming for him as he brings a full Pro Tour squad with him, including Juan Manuel Garate and Manuel Quinziato.

Team CSC comes with a slightly smaller team, but definitely an impressive one with Tour de France podium finisher Ivan Basso and prologue winner David Zabriskie leading the charge. Levi Leipheimer and Team Gerolsteiner comes back to North America for the second time this year with Tour de Georgia stage winner Peter Wrolich joining him. Rounding out the European contingent is Lampre Caffita led by veteran pro Salvatore Commesso.

And in the other corner... the American teams always try to step-up their performance when the international teams come to town. However, it is hard to imagine the Health Net-Maxxis team has any more room to improve, holding both USPRO jerseys and winning many of the toughest races in 2005. USPRO road champion Chris Wherry will be parading the stars and stripes around San Francisco with three good sprinters following behind in Ivan Dominguez, Gord Fraser and Greg Henderson. However, as it has been proven, these sprinters can make it over some tough climbs with enough kick to take the final sprint.

Colavita-Sutter Home's Mark McCormack is having another strong year winning the Tour of Connecticut and his teammates winning stages of the Tour de Toona and others. Navigators Insurance has a split squad with some of their team at the Tour of Britain. However, they will still have a full team here led by U.S. time trial champion Chris Baldwin. The Jelly Belly-Pool Gel team will be looking to have a good showing for their California sponsor, and Danny Pate is a good bet after a near-win in Philadelphia. Numerous other North American domestic teams finish out the field.

The 108.1 mile race is a spectator-friendly course that starts and finishes on the Embarcadero at Washington Street. There will be three 1.3 mile parade laps before the field heads out on nine 8.8. mile laps that include the feared climbs up Filmore and Taylor Streets. Finally, five 5 mile laps will finish the race which include the Taylor Street climb. If you do plan on watching the race, get there early as the previous editions of the race saw crowds at least ten deep in places.