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2007 USA Cycling Professional Road Race Championship
By Lyne Lamoureux
Date: 9/4/2007
2007 USA Cycling Professional Road Race Championship

Levi Leipheimer soloed to victory and became the US Pro Road Race Champion capping off a great season. George Hincapie and Neil Shirley finished second and third in a race of attrition.

Levi Leipheimer, of the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team, launched from a select group of riders the third time up Paris Mountain and soloed to win the US Pro Road National Championship, topping off a great season for him.

Levi Leipheimer comes home solo to take the win
Photos © Kurt Jambretz/Action Images

"2007 has been a dream come true for me, I'm at a lost for words really." said an emotional Leipheimer. "Tour of California, I dreamed about that all winter, and I trained harder than I ever had before. And then to go to Europe, help a rising young star win Paris-Nice, and to see that guy later on win the Tour de France, Alberto Contador, and for myself to stand on the podium in Paris and to win a stage at the Tour de France, that was a dream for me since I was 13 years old and first saw the Tour. Then to come here to Greenville and be the US Champion, it was much more than I dreamed of."

Leipheimer never looked back when he attacked and didn't need to as his teammate, the defending champion, George Hincapie covered his back.

"Today you saw the professionalism of George Hincapie," said Leipheimer about his teammate. "This is his hometown, I was out there by myself and he was behind chasing all the moves and blocking everybody, and that is unbelievable true professionalism and hats off."

George Hincapie (Discovery) guards the front for his teammate
Photos © Kurt Jambretz/Action Images

Greenville resident and favorite, Hincapie jumped away in the final lap to take second place, giving the Discovery Channel team a first and second place on the podium. Hincapie praised the professionalism of his squad.

"The team is disbanding but we are all under contract until December 31, 2007, we're professional riders and we're going to do our job till the last day." said Hincapie when asked about the team disbanding. "We've been through a lot together and like Levi said we had to race aggressive and I had to play my cards in the back, there wasn't much cooperation. The team worked together great today, we couldn't have asked for anything more."

The Jittery Joe's-Zero Gravity Pro Cycling Team's Neil Shirley rounded off the podium and edged out the three-times USA Cycling Pro Road Race Champion 'Fast' Freddie Rodriguez (Predictor-Lotto) by four seconds. In a familiar refrain this year, the 29-year old Shirley is still without a contract for next year.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself to do the best that I can, but in the back of your mind there's always the team part of it. I'm expecting a baby in November, all of a sudden you have to think about your family that you're providing for." said Shirley when asked about his placing improving his negotiation strength. "This definitely helps negotiation. I really hoping to stay where I'm at, the team has been great to me, we'll see what happens."

podium (left to right) Shirley Neil (Jittery Joe's), Levi Leipheimer (Discovery), and George Hincapie
Photos © Kurt Jambretz/Action Images

Levi Leipheimer, the strongest man in the field, soloed away for the win

A field of 114 riders representing the best and brightest of the nation's male cyclists lined up for the start of the 2007 USA Cycling Professional Road Race Championship under sunny skies and mid-80 temperatures.

At 110 miles (177 km), the road race was slightly shorter than last year's version. The riders were challenged by three start 3.7-mile (6.1 km) circuits, new for this year, in downtown Greenville, followed by four full 21.8-mile (35.2 km) including the climb up Paris Mountain and ended with three finishing laps around the same short circuit as the start.

The 2006 version of the road race was a race of attrition when an alliance of ProTour riders put the pressure on and set a high pace up Paris Mountain that few men could match and follow. The strategy for the day seemed pretty simple and universal for most of the domestic riders, and summarized by Phil Zajicek of the Navigators Insurance Cycling Team, "It's just a matter of following ProTour guys, it's pretty simple."

"I'm going to play it conservative, it's kind of an attrition race, luckily it's not so hot today so it's not going to be so bad," said Andy Bajadali (Jelly-Belly) about his strategy. "I'm just really going to watch the big players, and play off them. Everyone is going to be watching everyone, it's going to be very tactical today."

"It will be a little less explosive than last year, because I think those (ProTour) guys will wait a little later because they don't have the guys to expend, you'll see them wait maybe one lap longer and than the same scenario." said Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United) when asked to predict the dynamics of the racing. He then continued prophetically "I think Levi can ride that climb four times by himself and still be there, cause the selection and be in the selection."

Attacks were launched immediately after the start on the first lap of the three smaller circuits with the 14-man strong Slipstream squad playing the numbers game and making sure that they were represented in every break. On the third lap, after some thirty minutes of racing, the correct combination of teams and riders was found and a breakaway was finally established, and the group got a one minute and forty seconds gap to the field before hitting the bottom of the first Paris Mountain climb of the day. The seven-man break consisted of Doug Ollerenshaw (Health Net-Maxxis), Jonny Sundt (Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast), Josh Thornton (Kodak Gallery-Sierra Nevada), Tyler Wren (Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Home), Jackson Stewart (BMC) and teammates Mike Friedman and Pat McCarty (Slipstream-Chipotle).

Friedman got into difficulty on the climb and dropped off from the group, and Stewart, Ollerenshaw and McCarty hit the gas and were away, working well together, at the front until 40 miles to go in the race.

Photos © Kurt Jambretz/Action Images
Leipheimer attacked out of the charging field on the third time up the climb and only Baldwin was able to keep his wheel.

"He (Leipheimer) just put it in the big ring and went and I had told (teammate) Chris Wherry on the previous lap that I would cover anything." said Baldwin who alternated between a 53-19 and a 53-21 on the climb when he was following Leipheimer. "By the time I reacted and realized what it was, I was committed."

"He is so small that it's like riding behind a 90-pound motorbike. Thereís no draft at all. After we went over the top, I just sat on and sat on until I felt like I had recovered. We didnít catch them (the breakaway) until we came into town." continued Baldwin. The duo worked together to catch the group up the road, and a few riders including Bajadali and Frank Pipp (Health Net-Maxxis) bridged up from the shrinking peloton.

On the fourth and final climb, Leipheimer attacked again and only Bajadali was able to stay with him for awhile, until at about two-thirds up the hill and then Leipheimer was off by himself, never looked back, and time-trialed to the finish.

"I honestly thought that we were going to go over the top together and I thought he was being conservative and then he got dropped." said Leipheimer when asked about the cooperation with Bajadali. "At that moment I thought ' this is a long ways to go' but I was committed."

Photos © Kurt Jambretz/Action Images

Behind Leipheimer, a decimated field followed with a gap of more than one minute entering the first of the final three small circuits in Greenville.

Bobby Julich (CSC) attacked solo and dangled in front of the small group over the next lap before being gobbled up. With two laps to go there was not much organization in the charging group and Leipheimer's gap never wavered staying above one minute. Hincapie attacked, Burke Swindlehurst (Toyota-United) followed his wheel and under this impetus, caught Julich up the road. A small group of riders managed to catch the Hincapie group and Swindlehurst followed up with four attacks but each time Julich chased and brought him back..

One lap to go and Levi Leipheimer is off the front alone
Photos © Kurt Jambretz/Action Images

Fast Freddie Rodriguez (Predictor-Lotto)
Photos © Kurt Jambretz/Action Images
With one short lap to go, three more riders bridged to the group chasing Leipheimer to stand between Leipheimer and a disappearing peloton. This select group of riders included, Hincapie, Julich, Swindlehurst, Danny Pate (Slipstream-Chipotle), Shirley, Rodriguez, Health Net-Maxxis' teammates Shawn Milne, Kirk O'Bee and Jeff Louder, Tyler Hamilton (Tinkoff) and Christopher Jones (Nerac).

Hincapie was finally able to jump ahead and Rodriguez and Shirley were the only two riders to actively give chase.

"The field was down to 25 or 30 guys, and it was pretty fast going into the last 3 circuits, you could tell that the guys were getting tired and it was just really aggressive, there was constant attacking." said Shirley about the final laps. "I was the only Jittery Joe's rider left so I just marked the main contenders, George was the main one and went with him a few times, and with one lap to go, I went with George and Fred and it was obviously the right move."

In the final feet to the line, Leipheimer took the time to zip up his jersey and enjoy his victory as he crossed the line after being in the saddle for four hours and twenty-minutes. Hincapie followed one minute and eleven seconds later to claim the second prize, and Shirley crossed the line third at one minute and fourteen seconds behind the winner.

The rest of the riders continued coming in with only thirty-riders finishing the race out of the original 114 strong field.

"Levi was going to hit hard and he did," said 2005 US Pro Road Race Champion, Chris Wherry (Toyota-United) in a quick summary after crossing the finish line. "Levi was the strongest guy in the field, he went up the climb with 2 climbs to go and just kept on going, it was unbelievable."

"We had to play it be ear." said Leipheimer when asked about his team's plan. "We had Tony (Cruz) and John (Devine) and they really stepped up and they did a great job today. John is a neo-pro, he showed that he's a big talent for the future, he led up the climb a couple of times and had it strung out. Tony was the consummate professional, he sacrificed everything today. We're all most likely going in separate directions next year and he had no problem working for the team. And George and I kind of played by ear and helped to direct the team as things played out."

"This year was a lot more negative racing." said a subdued Hincapie when asked to compare to last year's race. "When Levi went up the road, it was up to the other teams to chase and they just kind of sat there and watched everybody else. If I would try to go, they would come after. Last year was a lot faster, more aggressive racing, harder because you had 5 times up the mountain."

Road Race Results

1. Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team) 4.22.19
2. George Hincapie (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team) 1.11
3. Neil Shirley (The Jittery Joe's-Zero Gravity Pro Cycling Team) 1.14
4. Freddie Rodiguez (Predictor-Lotto) 1.18
5. Danny Pate (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle) 1.29
6. Shawn Milne (HealthNet p/w Maxxis) 1.56
7. Kirk O'bee (HealthNet p/w Maxxis) 2.00
8. Bobby Julich (Team CSC)
9. Christopher Jones (Nerac Pro Cycling Team)
10. Burke Swindlehurst (Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team) 2.04
11. Jeff Louder (HealthNet p/w Maxxis) 2.08
12. Tyler Hamilton (Tinkoff Credit Systems) 2.11
13. Dan Bowman (Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast) 2.59
14. Frank Pipp (HealthNet p/w Maxxis) 3.04
15. Ben Jacques-Maynes (Priority Health p/w Bissell Pro Cycling Team)
16. Michael Grabinger ( p/w Parkpre) 3.06
17. Jake Rytlewski (Rite Aid Pro Cycling Team)
18. Phil Zajicek (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team) 3.07
19. Andrew Bajadali (Jelly Belly Cycling Team) 3.14
20. Chris Wherry (Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team)
21. Blake Caldwell (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle) 3.20
22. Michael Creed (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle) 3.32
23. Jonathan Patrick Mccarty (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle) 6.28
24. David Rodriguez (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team) 7.23
25. Doug Ollerenshaw (HealthNet p/w Maxxis) 9.38
26. Edward King (Priority Health p/w Bissell Pro Cycling Team)
27. Jonathan Garcia (BMC Pro Cycling Team)
28. Justin England (Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team)
29. Jackson Stewart (BMC Pro Cycling Team) 10.01
30. Daniel Vaillancourt (Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Home)
DNF Tony Cruz (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team)
DNF John Devine (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Winston David (AEG Toshiba-Jetnetwork Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Alex Hagman (AEG Toshiba-Jetnetwork Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Bobby Sweeting (AEG Toshiba-Jetnetwork Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Eric Keim (AEG Toshiba-Jetnetwork Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Keith Norris (AEG Toshiba-Jetnetwork Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Scottie Weiss (AEG Toshiba-Jetnetwork Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Todd Henriksen (AEG Toshiba-Jetnetwork Pro Cycling Team)
DNF David Galvin (BMC Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Ken Hanson (BMC Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Chad Hartley (BMC Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Ian Mckissick (BMC Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Nathan Miller (BMC Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Scott Moninger (BMC Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Scott Nydam (BMC Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Jacob Rosenbarger (BMC Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Mike Sayers (BMC Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Adam Bergman (Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Home)
DNF Anthony Colby (Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Home)
DNF Andy Guptill (Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Home)
DNF Tyler Wren (Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Home)
DNF David Zabriskie (Team CSC)
DNF Bradley White (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Matthew Crane (HealthNet p/w Maxxis)
DNF Timothy Johnson (HealthNet p/w Maxxis)
DNF Roman Kilun (HealthNet p/w Maxxis)
DNF John Murphy (HealthNet p/w Maxxis)
DNF Alex Candelario (Jelly Belly Cycling Team)
DNF Michael Cody (Jelly Belly Cycling Team)
DNF Brian Dziewa (Jelly Belly Cycling Team)
DNF Brice Jones (Jelly Belly Cycling Team)
DNF Michael Jones (Jelly Belly Cycling Team)
DNF Bryce Mead (Jelly Belly Cycling Team)
DNF Jeremy Powers (Jelly Belly Cycling Team)
DNF Nick Reistad (Jelly Belly Cycling Team)
DNF Timothy Henry The Jittery Joe's-Zero Gravity Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Matt Shriver The Jittery Joe's-Zero Gravity Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Thad Dulin The Jittery Joe's-Zero Gravity Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Reid Mumford (Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast)
DNF Jonathan Sundt (Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast)
DNF Jesse Anthony (Kodak Gallery Pro Cycling Team p/w Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.)
DNF Ben Raby (Kodak Gallery Pro Cycling Team p/w Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.)
DNF Joshua Thornton (Kodak Gallery Pro Cycling Team p/w Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.)
DNF Dan Timmerman (Kodak Gallery Pro Cycling Team p/w Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.)
DNF Matt Cooke (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team)
DNF Bernard Van Ulden (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team)
DNF Kyle Wamsley (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team)
DNF Michael Wolf (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team)
DNF Aidan Charles (Nerac Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Daniel Holt (Nerac Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Todd Yezefski (Nerac Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Graham Howard (Priority Health p/w Bissell Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Omer Kem (Priority Health p/w Bissell Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Robbie King (Priority Health p/w Bissell Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Garrett Peltonen (Priority Health p/w Bissell Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Morgan Schmitt (Priority Health p/w Bissell Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Brian Sheedy (Priority Health p/w Bissell Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Tom Zirbel (Priority Health p/w Bissell Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Scott Zwizanski (Priority Health p/w Bissell Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Clayton Barrows (Rite Aid Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Ryan Dewald (Rite Aid Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Michael Norton (Rite Aid Pro Cycling Team)
DNF Curtis Gunn ( p/w Parkpre)
DNF Daniel Ramsay ( p/w Parkpre)
DNF Steven Cozza (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle)
DNF Jason Donald (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle)
DNF Timothy Duggan (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle)
DNF Lucas Euser (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle)
DNF Michael Friedman (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle)
DNF William Frischkorn (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle)
DNF Charles Bradley Huff (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle)
DNF Michael Lange (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle)
DNF Ian Macgregor (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle)
DNF Thomas Peterson (Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle)
DNF Christopher Baldwin (Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team)

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2007 USA Cycling Professional Championships
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