Editor’s note: VeloNews.com is presenting selections from the January 2012 issue of Velo, the magazine’s 24th annual awards issue. It’s only a sampler — so if you want the full scoop, pick up a copy of the January 2012 edition of Velo.
When a four-man breakaway made its way toward downtown Greenville, South Carolina, for the finale of the USA Cycling Professional National Championship road race in May, RadioShack’s Matt Busche faced long odds.
The second-year pro was up against the godfather of Greenville cycling, George Hincapie, and two capable pros with significant results on their palmarès. The foursome came to the line after 115 miles in 90-plus-degree heat that saw the race blow apart on the final climb of Paris Mountain.
Tejay van Garderen forced the final selection and would surely attack early on the ramps southeast of town. He couldn’t hope to win a sprint against Hincapie. If he didn’t escape, Ted King was on top form and would try to beat Hincapie with a well-timed surge a few kilometers from the line. Both suffered from cramps, however, and neither man attacked until the final kilometer.
A week after pulling Chris Horner to overall victory at the Amgen Tour of California, Busche sat patiently, showing the resolve of a rider years his senior. Finally Busche burst out of the group around King and led through the final corner.
Hincapie leapt out in pursuit onto the downhill finish straight, exposed in the final 250 meters to the line. Twice a winner in Greenville, Hincapie passed Busche, taking the point; he would surely make it three hometown titles in six years.
But Busche did not fade, and instead clung to Hincapie’s wheel. The former collegiate cross-country runner surged a second time, coming onto Hincapie’s left shoulder, and threw his bike for the line.
In the most improbable scenario, Busche pipped the BMC veteran — and hometown favorite — by a tire width. The domestique was the new U.S. champion and for the second year in a row, Greenville delivered a must-see finale.
Coming Wednesday: 2011’s Most Dramatic Day.