For the third, and possibly final year (of a three-year contract,) most of the top professionals of US cycling will race in Greenville, South Carolina for the honour of wearing the stars and stripes for an entire year as the US national champion of the time trial or road race. The word most is used here because a few key players will not be on the start line, most notably defending road race champion Levi Leipheimer. He and his Astana team will be busy in Spain contesting the Vuelta a España, so there will definitely be a new national road race champion.
But not necessarily for the time trial as defending champion Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Chipotle) will try to preserve his injury-laden season with another year in the jersey. A twelfth place at the Olympics was a good sign that his rehabilitation is progressing, but there will be 48 other starters looking to capitalize on his condition. Thirteen of those will be his own team-mates including Christian Vande Velde, who pulled off a top five overall at the Tour de France and finished fourth in its final individual time trial. Another Garmin-Chipotle rider, Danny Pate, finished 14th.
On the domestic front for the time trial, Tom Zirbel (Bissell) has shown good talent in the discipline, with a high finish in the Tour of California and recently winning the Tour of Utah time trial. His team-mate Ben Jacques-Maynes is notably absent from the preliminary start list, as are any starters from the BMC and Toyota-United teams. Other contenders include Phil Zajizek (Health Net-Maxxis) and Reid Mumford (Kelly Benefits Strategies-Medifast).
Team Columbia's George Hincapie, also known as Greenville's favourite son when it comes to cycling, finished tenth in the final Tour time trial. And he could be focusing on the time trial since he has already won a road title here in 2006. Another interesting point is that Hincapie is also the only one of two ProTour riders on the start list for both the road race and time trial, with his team-mate Craig Lewis as the other. This means that the criticism of the two previous editions, that the European-based pros on various ProTour teams colluded to take the jersey, will not be possible this year.
For the complete preview, visit Cyclingnews.com.