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USA Cycling Pro championships - CN

USA, September 1-2, 2007

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Race 2 - September 2: USA professional road race championships, 177 km

By Mark Zalewski and Steve Medcroft

12:55 EDT   
Welcome to day two of the USA Cycling Professional Championships. On tap today is a 177-kilometer road race on a circuit course through and around downtown Greenville, South Carolina.

The course is a little different from the 2006 race. In 2006, the route went over an approximately two-kilometer climb over Paris Mountain six times before ending with three circuits in downtown Greenville. The mountain shredded the field though; half of the riders were dropped in the first lap and with a handful of ProTour riders (George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer fresh off Tour de France campaigns most notably) cracking the whip up the climb every time, only nine riders made it to the finishing circuits. Hincapie took the win. Leipheimer, who was with Gerolsteiner but was to join Hincapie's Discovery for the 2007 season followed. Mike Creed (Slipstream) finished third.

The 2007 course opens with three shorter loops through downtown Greenville, then runs four times around the circuit which includes the climb up Paris Mountain before closing with three more loops downtown.

13:04 EDT   
As the riders get underway, here are a few comments from the start line:

2005 champion Chris Wherry said last year was a frustrating race because of the ProTour riders aggression and seeming teamwork. But he knows that with a shorter race and that riders who want the jersey like Bobby Julich - who missed out on the ProTour cabal last year - will factor in the action, Wherry plans to follow big wheels and hope to be in the final move.

13:05 EDT   
Former multiple national champion Freddy Rodriguez, who is here without teammates, said he is used to racing on his own when he's at the US Pro Championships.

13:06 EDT   
Andrew Badjadali (Jelly Belly) said he has more racing in his legs this year than last and likes his chances. He also said that he will not be satisfied to sit on wheels and expects to be active at the front of the race.

13:09 EDT   
Defending champion, the Discovery Channel rider George Hincapie who calls Greenville home, says he feels good. Considering he said he had bad legs in last year's race and was able to dominate the field, that bodes well for his chances at a repeat. And he has the pressure of performing in front of a home-team crowd; Hincapie has a full contingent of family and friends in a VIP tent next to the start/finish line.

13:10 EDT   
Through the first opening lap, Brad Huff (Slipstream) has a 20-second gap. Mike Sayers (BMC) and Mike Creed (also Slipstream) are chasing but only meters in front of the peloton.

13:13 EDT   
More riders have joined Huff at the front to form a 17-man lead group. The gap to the peloton is slim - only about five seconds though.

13:15 EDT   
Tyler Hamilton pulled our on-site reporter Mark Zalewski aside this morning as well. He wanted to clarify that he had not been fired from Team Tinkoff as we had written in our live report; he said he is in a contract dispute with team owner Oleg Tinkoff. He added that he expects that dispute to be resolved in the courts in the next two weeks.

13:16 EDT   
Through the start/finish line at the end of the second opening circuit, the group contains about fifteen riders and has a ten-second lead.

13:17 EDT   
And now the race is all together.

13:17 EDT   
Active at the front is Mike Creed (Slipstream) and riders from Health Net and Priority Health.

13:21 EDT   
The skies were overcast at the start but the cloud cover has since burned off leaving almost perfect conditions for bike racing; clear sky, dry roads, mid-80's temperatures (F) and manageable humidity.

13:23 EDT   
Once the riders finish this short downtown lap, the race heads out for its first circuit which includes the Paris Mountain climb. The early aggression was an obvious attempt to get some riders up the road ahead of those climbs to prevent the repeat of ProTour rider dominance over Paris Mountain of last year. But despite Sleapstream's attempt to throw riders at breaks, the high tempos of the peloton has pretty well controlled any attempted breaks.

13:27 EDT   
No sooner do we declare this a break-free race than a group gets away - there is a group of seven riders at the front. Mike Friedman (Slipstream) and Johnny Sundt (Kelly Benefit Strategies / Medifast) and Doug Ollerenshaw (HealthNet presented by Maxxis) are in it for sure. Mike Creed (Slipstream) and Graham Howard (Priority Health presented by Bissell Pro Cycling Team) are chasing. The leaders have fifteen seconds on the field. The chase have ten.

13:36 EDT   
Jackson Stewart (BMC), Tyler Wren (Colavita Sutter Home), Graham Howard (Priority Health) and Joshua Thorton (Kodakgallery) are the other riders in the break. The group has a 45-second advantage and there are no longer any riders in the gap to the peloton.

13:39 EDT   
Pat McCarty (Slipstream) is the last rider in the break. The gap has grown to 1:55 as the peloton has essentially sat up to let it get away.

13:43 EDT   
The break is at the foot of their first ascent of Paris Mountian.

13:45 EDT   
The pressure is high in the lead group and Friedman is popping off the back half way up the climb. Ollerenshaw is leading the group and keeping an even tempo but several riders are in and out of the saddle.

13:48 EDT   
getting close to the top of the climb - into the steeper pitches - Jackson Stewart (BMC) is leading the group. Friedman has fallen back 25-seconds.

13:52 EDT   
The leaders are at the top of the climb. The peloton is on the climb and already riders are starting to fall off the back of the main group.

13:58 EDT   
The gap to the field is 1:20.

14:04 EDT   
The gap is still 1:20 but the front of the peloton is active and a chase appears to be imminent. As soon as we have rider numbers, we'll let you know who is on their way.

14:07 EDT   
The break is working well together. The chase is comprised of three riders. It appears that Mike Sayers (BMC) and Michael Lange (Slipstream) are two of the riders.

14:14 EDT   
The leaders are working their way back across town before they head out for the second of four open-road circuits and their second ascent of Paris Mountain. In town, there are good crowds but the roads are narrow and a little tricky so there's no rest for the break.

Back in the main field, Discovery Channel jerseys are prominent near the front of the group. Besides Hincapie and Leipheimer, Brad White and John Devine are in the race for Discovery.

14:20 EDT   
The leaders are through the start/finish. The gap is 1:20 to the chase and 2:20 to the peloton.

Thanks to the Mavic neutral support car for picking up our race reporter and giving us a ride on this lap.

14:25 EDT    57km/120km to go
The gaps are stable as the race winds it's way back to Paris Mountain; 1:40 from the leaders to the chase and 2:20 from the leaders back to the main group.

14:29 EDT   
Pat McCarty of Slipstream has been calling for his team car for a while now signaling a possible mechanical problem with his bike but when it rolled up, he simply took on a number of water bottles. It is getting warm in Greenville so McCarty is smart to top up now while his group is still on the flat land and the pace is stable.

14:31 EDT    62km/115km to go
Members of team BMC are active at the front of the peloton now. With the gap to the two-man chase containing Mike Sayers of BMC making no ground on the leaders, Sayer's teammates must have decided to lend a hand in keeping the break under control.

14:33 EDT   
The leaders are one mile from the start of the climb up Paris Mountain.

14:37 EDT    65km/112km to go
the leaders have made the right turn that leads them onto the Paris Mountain climb. The chase is two minutes behind and the peloton is three minutes behind.

14:38 EDT   
Johnny Sundt is dropping off the lead group in just the first 500 meters of the climb but is fighting hard to stay with the leaders. Doug Ollerenshaw and Pat McCarty are at the front. Wren and Thorton are struggling as wel.

14:43 EDT    68km/109km to go
McCarty is taking turns at the front with Ollerenshaw. Jackson Stewart is the only other breakaway rider remaining at the front; the others have dropped away. Discovery is driving the peloton and they are about to start the climb. The chase has been absorbed by the field.

14:46 EDT    69km/108km to go
The three leaders are still together onto the final steeper pitch (12%) of the climb. Pat McCarty was first over the top.

14:52 EDT   
The leaders are on the bottom of the climb. The peloton is over the top. In the gap, the three riders dropped from the break up the climb are beginning to work together.

14:54 EDT    75km/102km to go
The gap to the main group from the leaders is 2:15. The word is that the three riders dropped from the break have been caught by the main group now so McCarty, Stewart and Ollerenshaw are on their own for the third climb up Paris Mountain.

14:57 EDT   
The gap has extended a little - to 240. Daniel Ramsay (Successfulliving.com) is making an attempt to start up a chase. Tyler Wren, from the original break, is with him.

15:04 EDT    82km/95km to go
A second chase has been initiated. This one contains Wil Frischkorn (Slipstream), Ian MacGregor (Slipstream) and Roman Kilum (Health Net). As soon as we have split times, we'll report them.

15:07 EDT   
The leaders are entering the feed zone. Discovery Channel (which also has Tony Cruz in the race - I forgot to mention him earlier) is driving the main field.

15:09 EDT    86km/91km to go
The two chase groups have come together and are cooperating. If they can gain footing over the main group and bridge up, Slipstream would have three riders in the break less than half a race to go.

15:13 EDT    88km/89km to go
The leaers are through the start/finish and off on their third of four open-road circuits before the race finishes on three short circuits in downtown Greenville. The leaders are trading pulles and working well together as they head for Paris Mountain once again.

Tyler Wren has lost contact with the chase so it now contains four riders. The main field is 3:05 behind the leaders.

15:15 EDT   
Discovery riders (right now Tony Cruz) are driving the main group along with Health Net riders.

15:19 EDT    92km/85km to go
The gap from the lead riders to the main field is up to 3:48 now. The gap to the chase is at 3:10.

15:23 EDT    95km/82km to go
Discovery and Toyota-United are now setting pace in the main group. Health Net riders are staying close to the front.

15:27 EDT   
The peloton is estimated to contain only 52 riders of the original 108 now so some attrition has occurred. The leaders are 3-kilometers from the base of the climb up Paris Mountain.

15:30 EDT   
As the leaders are about to make the turn to start the climb, race radio is reporting that 82 riders remain in the race. 52 are in the peloton. The two lead groups contain seven. So 23 riders are off the back of the peloton but still racing.

15:32 EDT   
The leaders are on the climb and are sticking together so far.

Ian McGregor has fallen out of the chase group.

15:36 EDT   
The three leaders are taking turns setting pace but look comfortable and well in control on the climb. Each of them know it makes more sense to stay with the others for the help they can offer each other with so many miles remaining in the race.

15:38 EDT   
A correction to that previous post - Jackson Stewart (BMC) is doing the majority of the pacesetting and seems content to do it.

15:41 EDT   
Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United) and Levi Leiphiemer (Discovery Channel) have attacked the peloton on the climb.

15:42 EDT   
And Jackson Stewart, who moments ago was the pacesetter in the three-man lead group, has paid for his efforts and been dropped by McCarty and Ollerenshaw.

15:43 EDT   
Baldwin and Leipheimer are on the descent and making up ground on the chase group.

15:43 EDT   
Baldwin is behind Leipheimer.

15:53 EDT    111km/66km to go
The situation on the road has changed dramatically. Stewart has hooked up with Baldwin and Leipheimer and the original chase group has fallen back into the main group (they may have been absorbed by the peloton before Baldwin and Leipheimer attacked and we missed it). The gap to the chase is only 30 seconds now and the leaders distance to the main group is one minute.

15:54 EDT    114km/63km to go
The chasers have caught the leaders now so there are five riders together for the final ascent up Paris Mountain.

15:59 EDT    116km/61km to go
Jackson Stewart has fallen off the lead group. The gap is only 30 seconds so the main group is alive with attacks; Slipstream, Jelly Belly, Priority Health all have riders making moves to get to that lead group.

16:00 EDT   
The main field has the break in sight now. With something like seven kilometers to the start of the climb, it may all come together for the final ascent of Paris Mountain.

16:03 EDT   
The peloton is down to only 38 riders now; the pace is super high as the main group attempts to get together with the leaders.

16:09 EDT   
Three riders have bridged to the lead including Andrew Badjadali (Jelly Belly) who told us at the start of the race that he wanted to be part of the action, not following wheels hoping to hang on. It should be an interesting final climb with the presence of Leipheimer who decimated the field last year with his pacesetting up Paris Mountain.

16:12 EDT    126km/51km to go
The lead group of seven is a little over 30 seconds ahead of the main group and headed for the base of the climb.

16:16 EDT   
Timmy Duggan (Slipstream) is driving the main group at the moment. Duggan set the early fastest time in yesterday's US Pro Time Trial Championships. His time held up to all but two riders; winner Dave Zabriske (Team CSC) and teammate Danny Pate.

16:17 EDT    130km/47km to go
Duggan sat up and is back in the field. At the front, there are actually only six riders, not seven as reported. The break continues to work together and will likely enter the climb still with a lead.

16:21 EDT    132km/45km to go
With 3-kilometers to go to the climb, the riders in the lead are loading up with bottles and mostly letting Levi Leipheimer sit at the front. Their gap has grown again - to 1:20.

16:22 EDT   
Leipheimer has upped the pace leading to the base of the climb and three of the breakaway riders in trouble. But they've clawed back on and the group is together with 1-kilometer to the climb.

16:25 EDT   
Doug Ollerenshaw has fallen off the lead group right at the base of the climb. Chris Baldwin is having trouble as well. As expected, Leipheimer is setting pace.

16:25 EDT   
A Slipstream rider is setting pace back in the main field.

16:26 EDT    136km/41km to go
Badjadali is pulling through to share the work up Paris Mountain with Levi. Baldwin and Ollerenshaw have hooked up a little further down the climb and will try to control the damage.

16:28 EDT   
Levi and Badjadali are alone at the front now having dropped Pipp and McCarty. The gaps are not huge - ten and fifteen seconds - but the gap is there.

There are now only 50 riders left in the race. And they are spread all over the course.

16:30 EDT   
Leipheimer has dropped Badjadali about two thirds the way up the climb.

16:32 EDT   
Liepheiemer is almost at the top of the climb. He is still alone.

16:34 EDT   
Leipheimer has a 30-second advantage over Badjadali. There are 0:55 seconds to the main field. It's going to take a little while to figure out who's left in the gap from the lead group that started the climb together.

16:38 EDT   
What remains ahead of Leipheimer now is a relatively tricky downhill and three finishing circuits in downtown Greenville. After last year's finish, where Leipheimer appeared to put himself in service of George Hincapie, he seems to be willing to accept nothing short of the win for himself this year. Can he make it the rest of the way alone? We'll soon see.

16:39 EDT   
Leipheimer is descending at greater than 50 miles per hour; in a full tuck and with the experience of all the worlds fastest and scariest descents behind him.

16:41 EDT    146km/31km to go
The field is single file down the descent trying to at best bring Leipheimer back and at worst keep the gap at the one-minute mark. Badjadali is still in the gap.

16:43 EDT   
The peloton is off the climb now. Leipheimer managed to add 25 seconds to his lead while they were descending and now holds 1:20 over the main pack. Badjadali is only 20 seconds ahead of the peloton and stranded in no-man's land.

16:44 EDT    149km/28km to go
Leipheimer is gritting his teeth as he works.

16:47 EDT    150km/27km to go
As Levi works his way back through Greenville to enter the final three circuits, he is holding his gap to Badjadali at 1;10 and to the main field at 1:25. Even though the main field seems to be cooperating in the attempt to pull Leipheimer back, they are not getting any closer right now.

16:51 EDT   
Badjadali has been caught. Slipstream, HealthNet and Toyota-United riders are working the front of the main group but Levi is working just as hard - constantly alternating between driving out the saddle and sitting in a time trial tuck. his gap is holding at 1:25 and not weakening at all.

16:53 EDT    154km/23km to go
Bobby Julich (CSC) has attacked out of the peloton. The gap is still 1:15.

16:55 EDT   
Slipstream has put a couple of riders at the front to control the Julich move.

The race is entering the feed zone for the last time and once they pass through the start/finish line there will only be three short circuits remaining.

16:57 EDT   
The gap is back to 1:20. A group of eight is trying to peel away from the front of the main group but the peloton seems intent to hold everything together.

17:00 EDT    160km/17km to go
Levi is on the circuit and continuing to ride with an aggressive, almost angry style. His team car is right behind him and yelling support and instruction.

Julich is still off the main pack; he has an 18-second lead over the peloton.

17:02 EDT   
Discovery riders appear to be covering attacks out of the main group signaling that they believe Levi has the legs to take the win from his solo break.

17:04 EDT    163km/14km to go
Freddy Rodriguez has tried to launch an attack out of the main pack but a Discovery rider is immediately on his wheel. A Toyota-United riders also attacked only to be covered by Levi's teammates.

17:06 EDT   
George Hincapie himself is covering attacks out of the main group; marking another attack by Freddy Rodriguez.

17:08 EDT   
There are a handful of riders trying to get out of the main group as the peloton passes by the start/finish line for the second-to-last lap. Levi's gap is at 1:40 to the field and 1:30 to Julich (who has now been joined by Hincapie).

17:10 EDT   
Danny Pate (Slipstream), Neil Shirley and Burke Swindlehurst (Toyota-United) have bridged to Hincapie and Julich.

17:12 EDT   
We don't know if this means that there is a mechanical problem with Leipheimer's bike or if this is just a precaution but the Discovery mechanic is unlashing a bike mounted on top of the team car.

17:12 EDT   
Levi is 1 kilometer from the start/finish line and will have one short lap to go to win the US Pro National Road Race Championships.

17:13 EDT    169km/8km to go
Levi is on the final lap and still has a gap of over one minute.

17:15 EDT   
There are two active chases but neither are making up ground on Leipheimer yet.

17:15 EDT   
Kirk O'Bee and Tyler Hamilton are in the second chase.

17:16 EDT   
Hamilton and O'Bee have caught the Hincapie chase group so there are nine riders on the road between Leipheimer and the peloton.

17:17 EDT   
Rodriguez, Hincapie and Shirley (who is on the Jittery Joe's team) have attacked the break.

17:18 EDT    172km/5km to go
Leipheimer is jumping out of the turns like he is racing a crit right now and only three kilometers from the finish.

17:20 EDT   
Leipheimer is approximately 1.5-kilometers from the finish and has zipped up his jersey. He is in and out of the saddle; taking no chances.

17:21 EDT    176km/1km to go
Under the one kilometer to go, the team car has moved up beside him to, we guess, cheer him for his amazing show of strength.

17:21 EDT    176km/1km to go
500 meters.

17:22 EDT    177km/0km to go
Leipheimer has done it - after a daring solo breakaway up the final time over Paris Mountain and thirty kilometers on his own, Levi Leipheimer is the 2007 US Pro Road Race Champion.

17:23 EDT   
He rolled across the finish with his fist in the air and a glorious grin on his face. A brilliant move and a deserving champion.

17:25 EDT   
The chase group has sprinted for second place. Hincapie takes it ahead of Neil Shirley, Freddy Rodriguez and Danny Pate.

17:30 EDT   
That concludes out live coverage of the 2007 US Pro Road Racing Championships. Thanks for tuning in - we appreciate your readership and support of the work we do. Don't forget to come back September 8th for our live coverage of the Univest Grand Prix and live coverage from every stage of the Tour of Missouri later in September.

Oh, and there's a Grand Tour on in Spain through the 23rd. Visit live.cyclingnews.com daily for play-by-play from the Vuelta a Espana.

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