- Tom Peterson buried himself on the front of the break all day. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com
- Tyler Wren climbed into the first-ever KOM jersey. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com
- Busche and Duggan made the final group. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com
- To the victor... Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com
- A fitting jersey for a classy champion. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com
- Kiel Reijnen (l) lands on the podium for the second time in three years, behind veteran Frank Pipp (r) and Duggan. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com
GREENVILLE, South Carolina (VN) — Timmy Duggan (Liquigas-Cannondale) won the USA Cycling Professional National Championship road race Monday after attacking solo from the breakaway inside 15 miles from the finish. Frank Pipp (Bissell) took out the chase group sprint for second, with Kiel Reijnen (Team Type 1) third.
“It’s one of the most satisfying days of my career,” said Duggan. “It’s incredible… I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and it’s exactly how it happened.”
The racing has been unpredictable each one of the seven years the championships have run in Greenville. Two years ago, Ben King attacked almost from the gun and rode solo for 40 miles to win the title in his first pro championship. Last year, King’s RadioShack teammate Matthew Busche beat out hometown favorite George Hincapie (BMC Racing) in a four-man sprint. This year was no exception and the peloton split on the first lap of the four-lap, 112-mile race, with 28 riders making the front group. The final selection from that split would go on to make the race.
“We kind of caused a field split. I was just trying to bring the bunch back together because a dangerous group had gone away,” said BMC Racing’s Tejay van Garderen. “So I was just closing it down when I looked back and saw there had been a pretty big split. So I just tried to sit on and save as much energy until the last lap.”
The ungainly breakaway dropped riders on the second and third ascents of Paris Mountain. With a minute advantage over the peloton, van Garderen attacked the thinned-out group low on the final climb and blew the race apart. Tom Danielson (Garmin-Barracuda) came over the top of the BMC rider just ahead of the summit and defending champ Matthew Busche (RadioShack-Nissan) came across a half-mile into the descent to make it a three-man lead group.
Reijnen was among the breakaway riders caught out by the attacks.
“I just rode steady on the climb,” he said. “We chased really hard for a long time.”
Duggan and Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) came across the gap low on the descent and the leaders took an advantage of 1:10 into the edge of town for the final three circuits around downtown Greenville. Danielson attacked, but couldn’t get away. Busche, Duggan and Danielson forced the pace at the front of the group, and when the efforts resulted in a stalemate, the leaders began to look at one another.
“I went from the bottom (of Paris Mountain),” said van Garderen. “Once we got over the top, I looked around and thought we had a pretty good group because no one had any teammates. So I thought there weren’t going to be a whole lot of tactics. But straight away, once we got off the descent, Tom Danielson started attacking. I thought we needed to work together and roll until we got to the circuits. But then I heard George (Hincapie) was bridging up. From there, a tactical game started. People were upset I wasn’t working and that Tom was attacking. So it turned into a bit of a stupid game.”
Seemingly sensing a lull, Duggan rolled easily off the front of the group shortly before the start of the first of the three 3.8-mile closing circuits. He took a quick gap, put his head down and worked his way into a 25-second advantage with two laps remaining.
“When the moment’s right, you go all out,” said Duggan. “You can’t look back. It’s kind of simple… You don’t have room for error or mistakes.”
Duggan made none.
Behind the Liquigas man, the four chasers — van Garderen, Danielson, Busche and Jacques-Maynes — gave chase at 35 seconds with nine miles remaining. Behind them, an eight-man chase group formed at one minute down that included Reijnen, Pipp, Ken Hanson (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies), Tyler Wren (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Mike Olheiser (Competitive Cyclist).
“Once (Duggan) got a pretty [good] gap, we got together and started working,” said van Garderen. “But by that time, it was too late.”
The eight chasers trailed the four-man group by just 10 seconds inside the penultimate finish circuit, 30 seconds behind Duggan. At the front of the race, Duggan was in the drops, churning out a consistent pace as he rode into the final, 3.8-mile lap. He carried 35 seconds into the second half of the final circuit, but with inside two miles to go, Duggan’s advantage was just 16 seconds.
The eight-man second chase group made contact with the first four chasers inside the final mile, just 15 seconds behind the Liquigas man, but it was too little, too late. Duggan rode comfortably up the finish straight in downtown Greenville and pumped both arms over his head in celebration.
“For everything to fall into place, especially for me, I’m not going to win a 60-man sprint or anything,” said Duggan. “I just took this race kilometer-by-kilometer, didn’t think too much and took it how it was.”
A handful of seconds later, Pipp blasted across the line ahead of Reijnen and said the result was a uniquely satisfying second-place.
“Normally I might be disappointed with second, but I had nothing to do with Timmy going away today,” he said. “He was impressive and I’m happy with second.”
Editor’s Note: Keep your browser pointed to VeloNews.com for more from the USA Cycling Professional National Championship road race.