The sharp end of the USA Cycling Pro National road race.
All preliminaries over, jokers tossed, bullshit sent packing,
Big George Hincapie bridging up to the break on his backroads — nobody knows this course like Hincapie and he looks like he means business. Not like Hincapie Sportswear business, no, the stars and stripes jersey kind.
Tom Zirbel, who stormed the time trial days ago chasing and you don’t want a six foot four guy with thighs that size hunting you down. Only Zirbel dies and never makes the catch.
Tejay Van Garderen up front, confident, aggressive, making his plans crystal clear. Sure, he talked big at the Tour of California, made some mistake, but still pulled out a 5th overall. He still had his sights set all the way up.
Matthew Busche, who tore up the Tour of California for his captains Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner showing he has both legs at full power. Levi and Chris skipped Greenville so that meant the super domestic, the MVP of Baldy, was riding his own race. And his Shack pal Jason McCartney was also there ready to do damage.
Timothy Duggan and Ted King, the Liquigas kids from the states, were both in the nine man break and looking ready to do the lime green proud. Is King gonna be crowned today and make it two years in a row that a King wins the US Pro National road race? What sounds better — his marketing line “I am Ted King” or “I am the mac daddy, boss man, national champ King?”
There’s 15k to go and everyone in hot and humid Greenville, South Carolina is going nuts like maybe it was a Nascar car race or like a crop duster bi-plane is about to drop thousand dollar bills.
Ted King, Van Garderen, Hincapie and Busche are off the front and a minute ahead.
Is this the final checkmate move on all chasers? Is it down to four and Russian roulette time — does Busche have a sprint, will Hincapie benefit from his years of race experience, is Tejay going to time trial away, is King saying prayers of hope that he can somehow catch them off guard?
Two laps and a minute to spare. Four guys calculating the odds, reserves, tactics, taking a fast and desperate assessment of what they’ve still got in their bodies that they might convert to energy.
Is it possible the screaming hometown fans can simply will local boy Hincapie to the win and one final glory before his impending retirement? A sweet story-book ending with three ambitious and talented and hungry riders in his way. It ain’t gonna be easy for the old man.
The final lap, make or break, judgement day for the Greenville four with stars and stripes hanging in the balance. This was good, better than Mount Baldy, maybe as good as a Giro mountain stage.
Jeff Louder (BMC) and Lucas Euser (Spidertech) attack out of the peloton. A great idea a half hour ago. Too little, too late is the guess and quickly there’s a definite answer: both.
It comes down to a sprint, Hincapie and Busche, old man and young gun and is so often the case, Hincapie takes a disappointing second. He’s happy and proud and generous in defeat but there’s still a groan from his long time supporters.
It’s 26 year old Matthew Busche that scores the new wardrobe and business card: US National Road Race champion.