One of the most decorated American cyclists of his generation, George Hincapie (Columbia-HTC) added a third Stars-and-Stripes jersey to his collection, winning the Greenville Hospital Systems USA Cycling Professional Road Race Championship in front of his hometown crowd.
Hincapie jumped on a late race break on the last climb over Paris Mountain and outsprinted Andrew Bajadali (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Jeff Louder (BMC Racing) to earn the Stars-and-Stripes following three finishing circuits in downtown Greenville on Sunday.
“This one is special because I haven’t raced in five weeks so I wasn’t really sure how I would feel,” Hincapie said. “It was a ton of pressure, but it was a very special day for my family and the city of Greenville.”
The trio out-sprinted five additional breakaway companions to the line in the final stretch of the 115-mile race. The only riders with teammates in the final break, BMC’s Brent Bookwalter finished fourth while Matthew Busche (Kelly Benefit Strategies) was fifth.
To the delight of the crowd in downtown Greenville, yesterday’s USA Cycling professional time trial national champion David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) made a break for it off the line leading the group through the three small opening downtown circuits. The only American to win a stage of all three Grand Tours grew his lead to nearly four minutes before being absorbed by the charging peloton nearly halfway through the 115-mile event.
After a bit of disorganisation, it was Chris Jones (Team Type I) who finally got away up the final of four ascents up Paris Mountain. He was soon however caught by several riders who worked together to take a small lead decending the mountain.
Despite a strong chase, the lead group of eight riders looked to be in control through the final three downtown circuits and after a surge by Ian McKissick (BMC Racing), “Big George” timed the sprint perfectly and grabbed his first national title since the debut of the event in Greenville in 2006.
Thousands of fans lined the course for the finish as well as all of the day’s festivities, including 750 charity riders participating in the Stars-and-Stripes Challenge, more than 150 in the kid’s race and dozens contesting the U.S. Handcycling Series criterium.
“Up on the climb, it was pretty amazing,” said Bajadali of the crowds. “It was super loud. It was kind of deafening in the finish circuits, right through the start/finish. It was like wow, this is awesome. There’s always a great crowd here, really supportive of the race. I love racing here, I love the South and it’s a great course.”
After four years in Greenville and the expiration of its commitment to hold its pro championships there, USA Cycling announced after the race that the event would return to the city in 2010.
“The support from the city and community of Greenville has been truly exceptional for the USA Cycling Professional Championships for four years. And we are truly excited to announce our return to Greenville for 2010,” added Steve Johnson, CEO of USA Cycling, Inc.
The announcement about the Championships returning to Greenville was made after the race by USA Cycling in partnership with Medalist Sports and The City of Greenville.
For a complete report with results and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.