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USA Cycling Pro championships - CN

USA, August 30-31, 2008

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Race 2 - August 31: USA professional road race championships, 110 mi /177 km

US championship decided by the camera's eye

Hamilton edges out Caldwell for jersey

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Greenville, South Carolina

Tyler Hamilton (Rock Racing) takes victory
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

The United States professional championship race was without some of the top European-based professionals, such as defending champion Levi Leipheimer (Astana). But this actually made for better racing with a more team-oriented race and not the Europro 'collusion' of the past two years.

Similar to the past two editions the last climb up Paris Mountain was the deciding factor, with the field shattered by the top. A group of around 25 came together on the bottom with most of the big names, but out of this came an attack of five onto the finish circuits – three Garmin-Chipotle riders with Tyler Hamilton (Rock Racing) and Jeff Louder (BMC).

Here numbers should have benefited Garmin-Chipotle with Danny Pate, Blake Caldwell and Lucas Euser. Coming up to the final lap it was Caldwell who was able to get away, but not from Hamilton. The two rode the final lap with Hamilton forced to lead due to Caldwell playing the team card. Caldwell jumped Hamilton in the final turn at 250 meters, but that was an inch too early as Hamilton came back around him on the line, winning by just that distance.

"I knew I had a chance, that's why I took yesterday off with the time trial," said Hamilton about his decision to only contest the road race. "I am an Olympic champion in time trial but I decided to save my energy for today. I wanted to be a strong helper for Fred Rodriguez who has won this before or take a chance myself."

The 36 year-old, who served a two-year suspension for a positive blood test in 2004, said he almost retired after this very race last year. He showed up in Greenville last year riding as an independent while embroiled in a contract dispute with his then-team Tinkoff. Not racing for much of the season during the dispute meant his form was not on par and he suffered for it.

"Last year I thought the race in Greenville was the last of my career," he said. "Fortunately for me I got another chance. Michael Ball gave me another chance with Rock Racing and here I am. It's really special and a pretty emotional feeling for me."

Hamilton said that once he found himself with the lead group over the final climb he realized he could have a shot at the win. "I thought I could be in the mix, and once you are it just takes a little luck," he said.

It might have been luck but it also took some clever riding as he and Louder were quite outnumbered in the final laps. The luck came in the form of Pate cramping in the deciding moments, shifting the focus to the two younger Garmin riders.

"He just plain beat us all today," said Pate. "I think we rode really well but we suffered at the end from some little problems – I started to cramp and all the pressure went on Lucas and Blake.

"I was in the second group over the hill but we caught everyone in front and it came back together coming into the downtown area," added Pate. "We had numbers with six out of 25 guys and we tried to increase our odds by attacking."

"With two to go there was a group of five," said Caldwell. "At that point some of us were getting tired and we tried to get one of us away. I put in an attack and Tyler came with me."

During the start of that move Caldwell was working with Hamilton as Pate was cramping behind. The two built a 10 second lead which ended up keeping the two away for good.

"It was touch and go but I started working a little to get a gap but then started saving a little and not fully commit," he said. "It took some of the pressure off me and so I tried to be as fresh as I could for the sprint."

"It was just Garmin stacking it and some how they didn't win," a totally spent Louder said. "That's a little disappointing. They kept hitting me and hitting me... Danny was cramping and I was cramping and Euser was just glued to my wheel. We could see them the whole time and I was worried Tyler would win and I hoped those guys would do something."

The hometown favorite George Hincapie (Columbia) represented one of three ProTour riders in the race, along with his two young team-mates Craig Lewis and John Devine. But what benefited him the past two years was turned against him today.

"I rode a good race but it was pretty much everyone against me and it's tough to win under those circumstances," he said. "Craig did a great job today but we were disappointed. He was to cover the early move and then he had a good pace up the last climb with only five of us left at the top, but nobody wanted to work with me. As soon as 30 guys came back it was pretty much any move that I wasn't in was able to go."

"[Tyler] was with us at the top of the last climb and was able to get away in the breakaway," said Hincapie. "I think it was a big mistake for Garmin and the way they rode, but that is racing. [Tyler] has been through a lot and it's a good victory for him."

"This is a new experience for me," said Caldwell about being in the final moments on a stage as big as the national championships. "[Hamilton] wanted me to work and stay away but I had two teammates behind. If they came up it would have been ideal for me. We had the numbers there and it was up to me to finish it off but just came up short.

"I wanted to get a jump on the uphill but the finish was a long, downhill sprint and he had it better at the end," he added. "I had some left but 250 meters is a ways."

How it unfolded

Warm and sticky conditions greeted the riders in the third year of having the race in Greenville, South Carolina. But a different looking peloton toed the line, with many European-based professionals staying across the pond to contest the Vuelta a Espana and other races.

Only hometown favorites George Hincapie and Craig Lewis along with their Columbia team-mate John Devine made the start. But as usual, Garmin-Chipotle used its mostly-American team roster to field a huge team. This numbers advantage was obvious throughout the day and into the final kilometers.

Garmin-Chipotle wasted no time in putting threats up the road, including Dave Zabriskie and Steven Cozza. They were part of a 10 rider move that went approaching Paris Mountain for the first time. Also there was team-mate Lucas Euser, Brad Huff (Jelly Belly), Craig Lewis (Team Columbia), Jon Hamblen (Time Pro Cycling), Nick Waite (Kelly Benefit Strategies - Medifast), Michael Creed (Rock Racing), Jonathan Garcia and Jackson Stewart (BMC Racing Team), Tom Zirbel (Bissell Pro Cycling), Phil Zajicek (Health Net p/b Maxxis).

The next time up the climb a few riders had some problems, and the herd was thinned. The break had at most three minutes on the field and the third time up the climb the speeds starting picking up. The third time up left only five survivors: Cozza, Euser and Creed with Garcia and Huff able to rejoin near the top.

In between trips up Paris Mountain it was a literal feeding frenzy for the riders to get enough bottles from their team cars to battle the heat and stay hydrated.

The break disintegrated on the final ascent with only Euser and Garcia able to keep the flag flying at the front. Behind them riders in the break were being swallowed by the field one-by-one with the gap less than a minute. Even though Garmin had a rider up the road the writing was on the wall as Blake Caldwell attacked out of the field.

This let the fireworks begin and it was a race for the top to see who would emerge. And as expected the proverbial cream did rise with George Hincapie cresting the top with the likes of Andy Bajadali (Kelly Benefit Strategies - Medifast), Tyler Hamilton (Rock Racing), Christian Vande Velde and Blake Caldwell (Garmin-Chipotle).

But everyone was looking at Hincapie and the hesitation allowed the chasing groups behind to catch on the descent. On the bottom, as the race passed Hincapie's neighborhood, the group was around 25 strong.

Danny Pate was one of the first to shake things up as planned for his team to push their advantage. The rolling hills of Main Street caused a few to fall off the pace as Pate dangled ten seconds in front of the remaining lead group. The only riders able to reach Pate were his teammates Euser and Caldwell, along with Hamilton and Louder.

With three laps to go the five were chased by Tom Danielson (Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30), Craig Lewis (Team Columbia), Andrew Bajadali (Kelly Benefit Strategies - Medifast), Burke Swindlehurst (Bissell Pro Cycling) and Chris Jones (Team Type 1). But this is when Pate's day turned unlucky as cramps almost caused him to abandon. He was seen pounding his quads with his fist, trying to get them to release.

The result was that the two younger Garmin riders would have to shoulder the responsibility. Taking turns attacking it was finally Caldwell who got away, but with Hamilton on his wheel. The two worked for a few moments, until Caldwell realized he could play the team card to his advantage. For most of the final finishing lap he forced Hamilton to lead. Behind Louder was sandwiched between Euser and Pate, with no where to go and the win ten seconds up the road.

Entering the final kilometers Hamilton tried to get Caldwell to share the work. Inside of one kilometer he swung far to the barriers to keep an eye on the young rider. But Caldwell stuck to Hamilton's wheel the entire time. Hitting the rise towards the final turn at 250 meters Caldwell eyed the attack, hoping that the slight uphill would give him a jump.

Approaching the turn he jumped and gained a gap on Hamilton. But the downhill after the turn negated some of his advantage. Hamilton was able to regain Caldwell's rear wheel and used the slipstream (pun intended) to slingshot around him on the line for a win by .002 seconds.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Phoenix Sports Technology

Images by Jonathan Devich/

Images by Mark Zalewski/Cyclingnews.com


1 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Rock Racing                        4.38.19 (38.163 km/h)
2 Blake Caldwell (USA) Garmin/Chipotle p/b H3O                   
3 Danny Pate (USA) Garmin/Chipotle p/b H3O                   0.04
4 Lucas Euser (USA) Garmin/Chipotle p/b H3O                  0.05
5 Jeffry Louder (USA) BMC Pro Cycling Team                   0.06
6 Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin/Chipotle p/b H3O             1.05
7 Andrew Bajadali (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast        
8 Christopher Jones (USA) Team Type 1                        1.09
9 Craig Lewis (USA) Team Columbia                            1.11
10 Burke Swindlehurst (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling Team         1.19
11 Justin England (USA) Toyota-United                        2.45
12 Jared Barrilleaux (USA) Jittery Joe's Pro Cycling Team    3.12
13 Frank Pipp (USA) Team Health Net p/b Maxxis               3.42
14 Thomas Peterson (USA) Garmin/Chipotle p/b H3O             3.43
15 Anthony Colby (USA) Colavita Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light    
16 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Pro Cycling Team               3.44
17 Kiel Reijnen (USA) Jelly Belly                                
18 Michael Grabinger (USA) Successful Living p/b Parkpre         
19 Jonathan Garcia (USA) BMC Pro Cycling Team                    
20 Christopher Baldwin (USA) Toyota-United                   3.45
21 Alex Hagman (USA) TOSHIBA-Santo p/b Herbalife                 
22 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia                       3.47
23 Christian Vandevelde (USA) Garmin/Chipotle p/b H3O        3.48
24 Jonathan Patrick Mc Carty (USA) Garmin/Chipotle p/b H3O       
25 Corney Collier (USA) Team Health Net p/b Maxxis          11.07
26 Daniel Holt (USA) Team Type 1                                 
27 Timothy Johnson (USA) Team Health Net p/b Maxxis              
28 Michael Sayers (USA) BMC Pro Cycling Team                     
29 Neil Shirley (USA) Jittery Joe's Pro Cycling Team             
30 Chris Wherry (USA) Toyota-United                              
31 Doug Ollerenshaw (USA) Rock Racing                            
32 Tyler Wren (USA) Colavita Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light       
33 Jackson Stewart (USA) BMC Pro Cycling Team                    
34 Andy Guptill (USA) Colavita Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light     
35 Aaron Olson (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling Team                    
36 Thad Dulin (USA) DLP Racing                                   
37 Macgregor Ian (USA) Team Type 1                               
38 Shawn Milne (USA) Team Type 1                                 
39 Matt Cooke (USA) Team Health Net p/b Maxxis                   
40 Daniel Ramsey (USA) TIME Pro Cycling                          
41 Justin Spinelli (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast       
42 Scott Jackson (USA) DLP Racing                                
43 Michael Norton (USA) Calyon Pro Cycling Team             11.08
44 Roman Kilun (USA) Team Health Net p/b Maxxis                  
DNF John Devine (USA) Team Columbia                              
DNF Graham Howard (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling Team                 
DNF Scott Zwizanski (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling Team               
DNF Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling Team            
DNF Tom Zirbel (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling Team                    
DNF Garrett Peltonen (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling Team              
DNF Omer Kem (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling Team                      
DNF Edward King (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling Team                   
DNF Morgan Schmitt (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling Team                
DNF Antonio Cruz (USA) BMC Pro Cycling Team                      
DNF Nathan Miller (USA) BMC Pro Cycling Team                     
DNF Ian Mckissick (USA) BMC Pro Cycling Team                     
DNF David Galvin (USA) BMC Pro Cycling Team                      
DNF Kyle Wamsley (USA) Colavita Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light    
DNF Joseph Coddington (USA) DLP Racing                           
DNF Boyd Johnson (USA) DLP Racing                                
DNF Charles Pendry (USA) DLP Racing                              
DNF Owen Nielsen (USA) DLP Racing                                
DNF Matthew Howe (USA) DLP Racing                                
DNF Spencer Beamer (USA) DLP Racing                              
DNF David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin/Chipotle p/b H3O                
DNF Steven Cozza (USA) Garmin/Chipotle p/b H3O                   
DNF Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin/Chipotle p/b H3O                   
DNF Charles Bradley Huff (USA) Jelly Belly                       
DNF Bernard Van Ulden (USA) Jelly Belly                          
DNF Nick Reistad (USA) Jelly Belly                               
DNF Jeremy Powers (USA) Jelly Belly                              
DNF Evan Elken (USA) Jittery Joe's Pro Cycling Team              
DNF Matt Shriver (USA) Jittery Joe's Pro Cycling Team            
DNF Timothy Henry (USA) Jittery Joe's Pro Cycling Team           
DNF Ben Kneller (USA) Jittery Joe's Pro Cycling Team             
DNF Jonathan Sundt (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast       
DNF Alex Candelario (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast      
DNF Benjamin King (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast        
DNF Reid Mumford (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast         
DNF Dan Bowman (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast           
DNF Nick Waite (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast           
DNF Jake Rytlewski (USA) Rite Aid pb Shebell & Shebell           
DNF Robbie King (USA) Rite Aid pb Shebell & Shebell              
DNF Erdelyi Jonathan (USA) Rite Aid pb Shebell & Shebell         
DNF Clayton Barrows (USA) Rite Aid pb Shebell & Shebell          
DNF Fred Rodriguez (USA) Rock Racing                             
DNF Kayle Leogrande (USA) Rock Racing                            
DNF Michael Creed (USA) Rock Racing                              
DNF Jeremiah Wiscovitch (USA) Rock Racing                        
DNF Sergio Hernandez (USA) Rock Racing                           
DNF Adam Switters (USA) Rock Racing                              
DNF Matthew Crane (USA) Team Health Net p/b Maxxis               
DNF Kirk O'bee (USA) Team Health Net p/b Maxxis                  
DNF Phil Zajicek (USA) Team Health Net p/b Maxxis                
DNF Kyle Gritters (USA) Team Health Net p/b Maxxis               
DNF John Murphy (USA) Team Health Net p/b Maxxis                 
DNF Joe Eldridge (USA) Team Type 1                               
DNF Phil Southerland (USA) Team Type 1                           
DNF Jonathan Hamblen (USA) TIME Pro Cycling                      
DNF Thomas Soladay (USA) TIME Pro Cycling                        
DNF Michael Stoop (USA) TIME Pro Cycling                         
DNF Andy Baker (USA) TIME Pro Cycling                            
DNF Nick Frey (USA) TIME Pro Cycling                             
DNF Mark Hekman (USA) TOSHIBA-Santo p/b Herbalife                
DNF Daniel Vaillancourt (USA) TOSHIBA-Santo p/b Herbalife        
DNF Robert Sweeting (USA) TOSHIBA-Santo p/b Herbalife            
DNF Eric Bennett (USA) Successful Living p/b Parkpre             
DNF Bradley White (USA) Successful Living p/b Parkpre            

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