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Wachovia Cycling Series
USA, May 31-June 5, 2005
USPRO - June 5: USPRO Championship, Philadelphia, PA, 250km
Health Net leads American domination in Philly
Wherry takes stars and stripes and $40K win
By Mark Zalewski in Philadelphia, PA
Every year American pros and fans talk about how the USPRO Championship in Philadelphia is their best chance to show the euro-pros that yanks can race. But in recent years, it has been the euros taking the wins in Philly with the US champion being decided behind. Not this year. Coming off a dominating spring, and an equally dominating Wachovia Series in Lancaster and Trenton, Health Net/Maxxis put the final stamp of authority in America, thanks to Chris Wherry.
Wherry attacked on the final climb up Lemon Hill to put a gap on his two breakaway partners, Chris Horner (Suanier Duval-Prodir) and Danny Pate (Jelly Belly-Pool Gel) and held his advantage the rest of the way home. "I just went -- I was pulling in to Lemon Hill so I wouldn't get dropped," Wherry said rolling to a stop after the line. "I didn't get dropped -- I freaking won! Woo hoo!"
Most of Wherry's teammates, already done with their work for the day, watched and cheered as he made his way past the feed zone the final times and again after he crossed the line. "My team is unbelievable -- they are so strong right now," said Wherry afterwards. "Health Net-Maxxis is just on. We said we were going to win every race here -- I thought it was a little high hopes, but we did it!"
Just as impressive as the performances by Wherry and Health Net was that of the U.S. riders, particularly Pate and Horner. Pate was responsible for the final selection thanks to a strong effort on the way out for the final large lap to Manayunk. "There were some attacks going on, and I just ended up by myself off the front," Pate explained. "I figured exactly what did happen would happen -- a group would come up and I would make the selection. Only two guys made it, and they were a little fresher than me, but they would have been fresher even if I had made it with them."
Horner also rode strongly, especially considering he has only been on the bike for three weeks since recovering from a broken leg. The veteran domestic racer, riding in Europe in 2005, knew he needed a strong performance here to even have a shot at making the Tour de France team for Suanier Duval-Prodir. Even though Horner did not win the stars and stripes, his performance here has given him confidence as he heads back to Europe. "I don't think we're seeing the form at it's best yet -- this is only my third race so it's impossible that it's my best," said Horner. "It will get sharper at Tour de Suisse and we'll see what happens there."
Health Net/Maxxis director Jeff Corbett, already riding high from the season so far, could hardly even dream of this result. "This is even better than Georgia last year," he said. "You go into a week like this or Georgia and you set your expectations, but last year was a dream that we never thought was in the cards. And coming here we knew we were riding well -- I saw at our mini-camp before this that we had good legs for this, but we didn't know how we would fare against the euros -- we were cautiously optimistic, but never..."
Defending USPRO champion Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon-Lotto) failed to make the early selection along with other race favorite Bobby Julich (CSC) and never saw the front again. Fast Freddy managed to take the field sprint forty-four seconds behind the winner for fourth place, and was still content with his performance. "It's tactics of the race," said Rodriguez. "Fifty guys went... I had no choice. Most of my guys didn't have the power to bring it back. I think I had my strongest USPRO, but that's the luck.
Rodriguez rode over to Wherry after the race to give his congratulations to the new USPRO champion, who was busy stating the obvious to the local press. When asked by a local reporter if it was his biggest win, Wherry replied, "Are you kidding me, oh my God! I won a race for my dad a few years ago and this is just another one for him. I always think about him -- he's always with me. My mom is going to be so pissed off because I told her not to come -- my sister is getting married -- oh man, she is going to kill me."
Wherry continued to take congratulations from his teammates and fans while explaining his plans for the coming week. "I'm just going to go home and relax -- let it sink in. It's going to be a week or so before it does... I'm going to sleep in this jersey every night until I feel it!"
How it unfolded
The twenty-first edition of the Wachovia USPRO Championship finally broke from the recent tradition of small breaks and field sprints. Over the Manayunk Wall the first time the field was strung out with Health Net/Maxxis setting the pace, led by Mike Jones. This caused a large break to form on the "fall off the wall" with thirty riders gaining a gap.
But the combination of riders, amazingly, wasn't to the liking of the peloton. Jittery Joe's-Kalahari, Discovery Channel and Health Net/Maxxis all worked together to reel-in the break. More attacks were attempted by smaller teams, but none grew a big enough lead. The only beneficiary of these breaks was Seasilver's Adam Livingston, who racked-up numerous KOM points early in the race. Livingston knows the Manayunk Wall well, having won the KOM classification in 2000 and finishing second last year. "I love that climb, I live for it!" exclaimed Livingston. And Seasilver should love the result too. "We had the owner of Seasilver out here, and his wife -- so I think they'll be pretty happy with how the day went, with guys up in the break too."
Then the race outdid itself. An unprecedented break formed on the front and hit the gas. More than forty riders, with almost every major team represented, rode away from the field, gaining minutes per lap. With so many teams having multiple riders, the field sat back and watched the race, with favorites Julich and Rodriguez stuck with the fuzzy end of the lollipop. Only Jittery Joe's was left out of the mix and was left to do the chasing.
Contained in the break were Chris Horner and 2004 winner Francisco Ventoso, along with Saunier Duval-Prodir teammate Manuele Mori. "The guys rode great, Ventoso and [Mori] were the guys that drove the break," explained Horner. "I just told those guys to hop on the front and drive that thing as far away as you can. It was perfect because there was no stress for me getting over the climb. Fred and Bobby... well, you live by the drift you die by the drift."
Nearing the half-way mark of the race the gap was fast approaching seven minutes, with many riders taking turns at driving. In both the break and the field, weaker riders were getting dropping off on the climbs. With around 90km to the finish the break, now about as large as the "field" behind them, started getting twitchy. Coming off the Wall, Mike Sayers (Health Net/Maxxis) drove the pace even higher to combat the falling time gap, creating an advantage. Eventually Jurgen Vandenbroeck (Discovery Channel) joined him up Lemon Hill.
Jelly Belly-Pool Gel and Saunier Duval-Prodir moved to the front to chase down the pair. Back in the field, CSC (with only one rider in the break now) pushed the pace, while up front, defending champion Ventoso (Saunier Duval-Prodir) sat-up on the approach to the wall, having done his work for Horner. The two leaders were caught and the break set up the Wall again, shedding even more riders as the temperatures rose to the upper 80's.
The lead group shrank even further with the bigger engines pushing the pace. Now only twenty-one riders made-up the leading group, and only twenty-eight in the main field. The lead group began to attack itself as riders began to realize that the moment of truth was upon them. Henk Vogels (Davitamon-Lotto), alone in the break with teammate Fred Rodriguez effectively out of the picture for the win, became very active. However, the well-known Aussie sprinter was unable to get away from the break.
Seeing one final large lap to Manayunk through the finish line, Danny Pate set-off on his decisive ride. The former U23 time trial world champion took his small gap and increased it to thirty seconds into Manayunk. Behind, the big players in the break were all trying to get away in order to join Pate on the front. Vogels, Horner, Ivan Dominguez (Health Net/Maxxis), Aaron Olsen (Colavita Olive Oil/Sutter Home), Carlström (Liquigas-Bianchi) all tried to get away in various combinations along Kelly Drive, but the snaking pack kept responding to each attempt. These efforts grew the lead to the field to more than two minutes, effectively neutralizing the race behind.
On top of Manayunk for the final time, Pate held a thirty-five second advantage. Behind Pate, team director Danny Van Haute was on the radio. "[He said] that it looked good -- that everyone was sitting up and I had a good gap," said Pate. "If I had had ten seconds I would have sat up because it would have been a waste of energy, getting over the climb. It assured me to be in the front group [over the climb.] "
More than that, Pate took his lead off the Wall, while a bridge attempt finally formed with Wherry and Horner. On the return to the finish, the two caught and passed Pate who was able to hook on and recover.
Into the finishing circuits, the trio of Americans had a minute to play with on the now chasers. Making the right turn onto Lemon Hill, three of Wherry's teammates had pulled out of the peloton to watch the final, and shouted with excitement upon seeing their comrade. With two to go, Horner made the first move on the way up Lemon Hill. Pate and Wherry matched it and the strategy began. Pate then gave an effort, again matched by the other two. "I tried to go at a good moment a couple of times, because Chris Horner really was a little more powerful than the two of us in the climbs, and we had to pick good times to go," explained Pate.
All three made multiple moves that were all covered, until the final lap. Approaching the right turn to climb Lemon Hill, Wherry advanced to get a good position over the final climb, knowing that he would be fine on the flats -- while Horner and Pate looked on. "[It was] all I could do," said Wherry. "I was going to pull on to Lemon Hill and just gun it over the top, save myself to get to the finish -- and those guys played around and they messed up. They let me go and I had some power on the flats. I was hurting over the climb but as soon as I got on the flat I didn't."
The thought of being three kilometers from the finish must have helped the pain, as Wherry held on to his slight lead. Coming on to the finish circuit, Pate and Horner were glued to each other, with Pate feeling the effect of a hot and humid day. Pate punched himself in the right quadriceps in an effort to release the cramped muscle. "I just cramped right at the end," said Pate. "I was trying to release it -- I heard [punching it] works. It pretty much worked -- it didn't affect me."
With Wherry 250 meters ahead, the pair tried to manage the gap and each other at the same time. "Wherry was strong all day," said Horner. "That was kind of my tactic... Wherry, myself and Pate are all good friends and I was more worried about Danny because he was sitting on so much. I really made the kid work. So I thought if Wherry got out there, Danny would be forced to work with me and we could work even and I could beat him in the sprint. Danny wasn't sitting on but he was doing less work."
"Horner was definitely stronger than me," Pate admitted. "I wanted to make him pull me back up to Chris, because I was going to have to trick Horner to beat him. If I could have gone fifteen feet farther, it would have been perfect."
But the line always comes too soon for someone, and this time it was Pate and Horner. Wherry looked back, saw he had the win, and threw his arms in the air screaming. "Oh man, that was a hard day, a very hard day," said Wherry. "I never knew, never knew."
Of course, Wherry could not stop mentioning his team as being instrumental to his win. "They are the best -- we are so tight. They are my best friends, my family on the road. You can't ask for anything more, we are just going to keep doing it and doing it."
With this result, it is clear that U.S. racing is up to par, as Jeff Corbett explained. "I think these guys can tell you better, Horner and Freddy... Freddy said it the other day that he was getting top three in Europe and that we were riding well enough that if we were there we would be doing it too. I hope it sends a message to everybody that racing in the U.S. isn't second class, that we can be competitive with anybody."
And with this performance, some may wonder if this will punch the ticket to bigger places for Health Net/Maxxis. "We hope so, but as much as we'd like to go over and test ourselves, we never want to abandon U.S. racing," said Corbett. "We love it here and we want to help grow the sport, we always want to be present at these U.S. events, and make it grow to the point that the Europeans know how good it is and want to come over and see how good the Americans are... and not be surprised when we are!"
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us
Images by Russ and Nancy Wright/www.abbiorca.com
Images by Mitch Friedman/www.mitchophoto.com
Images by Daniel McMahon
Images by Don Varley/www.cquad.com
Images by Todd Leister
Images by Celia Cole/www.sportsshooter.com/celiacole
1 Chris Wherry (USA) Health Net - Maxxis 6.01.16 2 Danny Pate (USA) Jelly Belly-Pool Gel 3 Chris Horner (USA) Saunier Duval - Prodir 4 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Davitamon Lotto 0.44 5 Kirk O'Bee (USA) Navigators Insurance 6 Max Vanheeswijk (Ned) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 7 Mark McCormack (USA) Colavita / Sutter Home 8 Lars Michaelsen (Den) Team CSC 9 Greg Henderson (NZl) Health Net - Maxxis 10 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre Caffita 11 Manuele Mori (Ita) Saunier Duval - Prodir 12 Marco Pinotti (Ita) Saunier Duval - Prodir 13 Ivan Stevic (Scg) Aerospace Engineering 14 Roger Hammond (GBr) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 15 Ivan Dominguez (Cub) Health Net - Maxxis 16 Kjell Carlström (Fin) Liquigas-Bianchi 17 Garret Peltonen (USA) Advantage Endeavour 18 Dominique Perras (Can) Kodak Sierra Nevada 19 Chad Hartley (USA) TIAA CREF 20 Lars Bak (Den) Team CSC 21 Mark Walters (Can) Navigators Insurance 22 Andreas Matzbacher (Aut) Lampre Caffita 23 Aaron Olsen (USA) Colavita / Sutter Home 24 Henk Vogels (Aus) Davitamon Lotto 25 Jurgen Vandenbroeck (Bel) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 26 Fumyuki Beppu (Jpn) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 27 John Lieswyn (USA) Health Net - Maxxis 28 Ben Brooks (Aus) Jelly Belly-Pool Gel 29 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC 30 Eddy Hilger (USA) Advantage Endeavour 31 Neil Shirley (USA) Team Seasilver 32 Tyler Wren (USA) Colavita / Sutter Home 33 Ciaran Power (Irl) Navigators Insurance 34 Patrick Mccarty (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 35 Thomas Bruun Eriksen (Den) Team CSC 36 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC 0.56 37 Jeff Louder (USA) Navigators Insurance 2.51 38 Matej Mugerli (Slo) Liquigas-Bianchi 3.28 39 Daniele Colli (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 5.54 40 Emile Abraham (Tri) Team Monex 41 Ben Jacques Maynes (USA) Kodak Sierra Nevada 42 Marco Marzano (Ita) Lampre Caffita 43 Glen Mitchell (NZl) Kodak Sierra Nevada 44 Charles Dionne (Can) Webcor Cycling Team 45 Geoff Kabush (Can) Jittery Joe's-Kalahari 46 Allan Johansen (Den) Team CSC 47 Antonio Cruz (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 48 Alex Candelario (USA) Jelly Belly-Pool Gel 49 Juan Jose Haedo (Arg) Colavita / Sutter Home 50 Matty Rice (Aus) Jelly Belly-Pool Gel 51 Tim Johnson (USA) Jittery Joe's-Kalahari 11.17 52 Bernard Van Ulden (USA) Webcor Cycling Team 53 Gord Fraser (Can) Health Net - Maxxis 13.04 54 James Mattis (USA) Webcor Cycling Team 55 Cameron Hughes (Aus) Subway-Express 56 Ben Haldeman (USA) Webcor Cycling Team 57 Chris Frederick (USA) Aerospace Engineering 58 Matt Dubberley (USA) McGuire Pro Cycling 59 Peter Baker (USA) Snow Valley - Seal On 60 Timothy Duggan (USA) TIAA CREF 14.19 61 Will Frischkorn (USA) TIAA CREF 62 Erik Saunders (USA) McGuire Pro Cycling 63 Russell Downing (GBr) MG-XPower Litespeed 64 Paul Manning (GBr) MG-XPower Litespeed 65 Davide Frattini (Ita) Colavita / Sutter Home 66 Kyle Gritters (USA) Team Seasilver 67 Doug Ollerenshaw (USA) Health Net - Maxxis 68 Mike Sayers (USA) Health Net - Maxxis 69 Tyler Farrar (USA) Health Net - Maxxis 70 Adam Livingston (USA) Team Seasilver 71 Lucas Euser (USA) Webcor Cycling Team 72 Nathan Miller (USA) Team Monex 73 Burke Swindlehurst (USA) Team Seasilver 74 Vassili Davidenko (Rus) Navigators Insurance 75 Evan Oliphant (GBr) MG-XPower Litespeed 76 Michael Lange (USA) TIAA CREF 77 Jason Bausch (USA) Team Seasilver 78 Hayden Godfrey (NZl) Kodak Sierra Nevada 79 Marco Righetto (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi DNF Kirk Albers (USA) Jelly Belly-Pool Gel DNF Sebastian Alexandre (Arg) Colavita / Sutter Home DNF Jason Allen (NZl) McGuire Pro Cycling DNF Gustavo Artacho (Arg) Colavita / Sutter Home DNF Rashaan Bahati (USA) McGuire Pro Cycling DNF Chris Baldwin (USA) Navigators Insurance DNF Stefano Barberi (Bra) TIAA CREF DNF Colin Beardsley (USA) McGuire Pro Cycling DNF Micheal Beers (USA) Snow Valley - Seal On DNF Brent Bookwalter (USA) Advantage Endeavour DNF Dan Bowman (USA) TIAA CREF DNF Matti Breschel (Den) Team CSC DNF Aaron Brown (USA) Nerac.com DNF Josh Carter (USA) Subway-Express DNF Clemente Cavaliere (Ita) Aerospace Engineering DNF David Clinger (USA) Webcor Cycling Team DNF Marc Collard (USA) Webcor Cycling Team DNF Nathanial Cornelius (USA) Subway-Express DNF Todd Cornelius (USA) Subway-Express DNF Michael Creed (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team DNF Ari De Wilde (USA) Nerac.com DNF John Delong (USA) Snow Valley - Seal On DNF Christopher Deluise (USA) Aerospace Engineering DNF Wim Devocht (Bel) Davitamon Lotto DNF Ryan Dewald (USA) Snow Valley - Seal On DNF Bart Dockx (Bel) Davitamon Lotto DNF Thad Dulin (USA) Jittery Joe's-Kalahari DNF Pat Dunaway (USA) McGuire Pro Cycling DNF Evan Elken (USA) Jittery Joe's-Kalahari DNF Richard England (Aus) Advantage Endeavour DNF Glenn Fant (USA) Team Monex DNF Mariano Friedick (USA) Jelly Belly-Pool Gel DNF Roberto Gaggioli (Ita) Team Monex DNF Stuart Gillespie (USA) TIAA CREF DNF Gerrit Glomser (Aut) Lampre Caffita DNF Angel Gomez (Esp) Saunier Duval - Prodir DNF Josh Goodwin (USA) Team Monex DNF Ben Greenwood (GBr) MG-XPower Litespeed DNF Oleg Grichkine (Rus) Navigators Insurance DNF Curtis Gunn (USA) Team Seasilver DNF Russell Hamby (USA) Kodak Sierra Nevada DNF John Hanson (USA) Nerac.com DNF Rob Hayles (GBr) MG-XPower Litespeed DNF Christopher Herby (USA) Snow Valley - Seal On DNF Todd Herriott (USA) Colavita / Sutter Home DNF Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team DNF Adam Hodges Meyerson (USA) Nerac.com DNF Jeff Hopkins (Aus) Jittery Joe's-Kalahari DNF Lief Hoste (Bel) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team DNF Ted Huang (USA) Webcor Cycling Team DNF Andy Jacques Maynes (USA) Webcor Cycling Team DNF Brice Jones (USA) Jelly Belly-Pool Gel DNF Mike Jones (USA) Health Net - Maxxis DNF Roman Kilun (USA) McGuire Pro Cycling DNF Russell Langley (USA) Snow Valley - Seal On DNF Bruno Langlois (Can) Jittery Joe's-Kalahari DNF Tim Larkin (USA) Kodak Sierra Nevada DNF Jesse Lawler (USA) Jittery Joe's-Kalahari DNF Victor Laza (Scg) Aerospace Engineering DNF Craig Lewis (USA) TIAA CREF DNF Ruben Lobato (Esp) Saunier Duval - Prodir DNF Giovanni Lombardi (Ita) Team CSC DNF Pete Lopinto (USA) Kodak Sierra Nevada DNF Trent Lowe (Aus) Jittery Joe's-Kalahari DNF Sterling Magnell (USA) Team Monex DNF Caleb Mannion (Aus) Jelly Belly-Pool Gel DNF Samuele Marzoli (Ita) Lampre Caffita DNF Nico Mattan (Bel) Davitamon Lotto DNF Ryan Mckenzie (Can) Subway-Express DNF Remi Mcmanus (USA) Subway-Express DNF Karl Menzies (Aus) Advantage Endeavour DNF Hugh Moran (USA) Aerospace Engineering DNF Eric Murphy (USA) Aerospace Engineering DNF Mike Norton (USA) Nerac.com DNF David O'loughlin (Irl) Navigators Insurance DNF Nathan O'neil (Aus) Navigators Insurance DNF Jonathan Page (USA) Colavita / Sutter Home DNF Luciano Pagliarini (Bra) Liquigas-Bianchi DNF Dario Pieri (Ita) Lampre Caffita DNF Oscar Pineda (Gua) Nerac.com DNF Frank Pipp (USA) Advantage Endeavour DNF Cody Powell (USA) Nerac.com DNF Jeremy Powers (USA) Jelly Belly-Pool Gel DNF Daniel Ramsey (USA) Team Seasilver DNF Ivan Ravaioli (Ita) Saunier Duval - Prodir DNF David Richter (USA) Subway-Express DNF Jake Rytlewski (USA) Advantage Endeavour DNF Dan Schmatz (USA) Kodak Sierra Nevada DNF Brian Sheedy (USA) Advantage Endeavour DNF Bryan Smith (USA) TIAA CREF DNF Shaun Snodden (GBr) MG-XPower Litespeed DNF Gert Steegmans (Bel) Davitamon Lotto DNF Jonny Sundt (USA) Jittery Joe's-Kalahari DNF Joshua Taylor (USA) Snow Valley - Seal On DNF Kevin Vanes (USA) Subway-Express DNF Carlos Vargas (Col) Team Monex DNF Francisco Ventoso (Esp) Saunier Duval - Prodir DNF Devon Vigus (USA) McGuire Pro Cycling DNF Zach Walker (USA) McGuire Pro Cycling DNF Kyle Wamsley (USA) Snow Valley - Seal On DNF David Werling (USA) Nerac.com DNF Jonathan Wirsing (USA) Snow Valley - Seal On DNF Ryan Yee (USA) Team Seasilver DNF Robbie Yost (USA) Subway-Express DNF Marco Zanotti (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi DNF Scott Zwizanski (USA) Kodak Sierra Nevada