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August 31, 2007

US Pro Championships preview

The US Pro Championships return to Greenville, South Carolina this weekend. It's a fantastic course in a lovely small-town setting, with a terrific river park less than 300 yards from the finish, sidewalk cafés, barbecue, and top-notch bike racing.

Levi LeipheimerRace organizers took half my advice, shifting the little-attended time trial from Friday to Saturday, but left the road race on Sunday, so the likelihood of an already-difficult double national champion seems even a little more remote. For Southeastern fans, though, it means you can see both races for the cost of a single night's hotel room, and still get home for Labor Day.

I've always pulled for Levi Leipheimer, but I've never really believed in him. After this year's Tour, I believe. He was the strongest rider in last year's USPro road race, this year's Tour de Georgia, and the strongest American at the Tour de France. He's my favorite to take the Stars and Stripes to his new team, whatever it may be.

Last year, I felt Leipheimer's support was critical for George Hincapie, who will look to repeat as US champion and carry the Stars and Stripes to the T-Mobile team as Team Discovery Channel ends its successful run.

On the other hand, you can bet Team Slipstream would love to kick off its reign as the top US team with the US title onboard. Danny Pate was 3rd last year, while his teammates packed the top 15. A win for Dave Zabriskie is a win for Slipstream, as he transfers to the Argyles after this season.

And Bobby Julich has suggested wearing the Stars and Stripes at 35 would be a great career capper, and one thing he's yet to achieve in a very successful career:

“I'd like to try to win a national jersey finally. Either the time trial or the road race, I don't care. I'd take anything,” Julich said. “It would be fun to have the jersey in the last year of my career. I've never had it.”

Zabriskie at 3k to rideIn the time trial, the course has been slightly altered from last year, getting cut off before the hard right-hander in this photo. Last year, that led up to a twisty last 3 kilometers, where 2005 TT champion Chris Baldwin, neck and neck with Zabriskie, went into a ditch, and lost at least 30 seconds getting back up to steam. If Zabriskie's knee is back in racing shape after his forced withdrawal from this year's Tour, this is his race to lose: Nobody without a funny accent TTs faster than Z.

Dalton, Georgia's Saul Raisin returns to competition, just like he said he would, with a ride in the ITT Saturday. Also expected to return to competition (in both events) is Tyler Hamilton, whose team has kept him from racing since the Tour de Georgia in April.

There are 99 riders scheduled to start Sunday's road race. Missing this year? Christian Vande Velde, Freddie Rodriguez, Tom Danielson, Jason McCartney, and Aaron Olson.

I'll be there, so look for race updates and photos as soon as I can post them.

Also:

2007 USPro Championship Time Trial riders (34) | Road Race riders (99)

Course Maps and Profiles

GoUpstate.com | Battle for the stars and stripes, or just admire

ThePaceline.com (free reg. req.) | The Mehlting Pot: The Last Dance

From last year's race:

Flickr.com | US Pro Championships pool | My road race set | My TT set

Posted by Frank Steele on August 31, 2007 in Bobby Julich, Dave Zabriskie, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Saul Raisin, Top Stories, Tyler Freaking Hamilton | Permalink

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Comments

I am looking forward to a great weekend of riding and racing. I'll be loading my race pictures to Flickr as soon as I can.

Posted by: James at Aug 31, 2007 1:48:25 PM

Toyota-United has a nice six-page PDF preview of the championships on its blog site:
www.toyota-united.blogspot.com

Posted by: CyclingGuy at Aug 31, 2007 11:10:26 PM

Frank, you saw this I hope: http://www.theonion.com/content/node/65841

Posted by: Jarrett at Sep 2, 2007 9:36:53 PM

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