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All-American podium as Wherry wins USPRO

With three men off the front of the field by more than one minute in the final kilometers of the USPRO Championships, held Sunday in Philadelphia, two truths had become self-evident: there would be an all-American podium, meaning one rider was going to win the race as well as the stars-and-stripes national champion’s jersey awarded to the first American across the line. Out of a dwindling 40-man breakaway that had gone clear early in the 156-mile race, Chris Horner (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Chris Wherry (Health Net-Maxxis) escaped on the last of 10 trips over the infamous Manayunk Wall,

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Health Net marks historic Wachovia sweep

By Neal Rogers

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

With three men off the front of the field by more than one minute in the final kilometers of the USPRO Championships, held Sunday in Philadelphia, two truths had become self-evident: there would be an all-American podium, meaning one rider was going to win the race as well as the stars-and-stripes national champion’s jersey awarded to the first American across the line.

Out of a dwindling 40-man breakaway that had gone clear early in the 156-mile race, Chris Horner (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Chris Wherry (Health Net-Maxxis) escaped on the last of 10 trips over the infamous Manayunk Wall, bridging across to a soloing Danny Pate (Jelly Belly-PoolGel). With only three smaller 3-mile laps remaining, the gap from the all-American trio to the field steadily grew to 1:30, and in the face of threats from European ProTour teams from Spain, Italy and Denmark, the partisan finish line crowd came to life at the prospect of the patriotic podium in the birthplace of American democracy.

The three finishing circuits presented only one significant opportunity to break the group up, a slight rise over Lemon Hill, and it was there, after repeated attacks by Horner, that Wherry flexed his legs. Horner and Pate momentarily looked to each other to take up the chase, and in that instant, the door was opened for the biggest win of Wherry’s career.

Horner was aggressive throughout

Horner was aggressive throughout

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

“It wasn’t really even an attack,” Wherry said. “I just honestly pulled through pretty hard and was going to pull over Lemon Hill because I was feeling a little crampy. I thought if I could get over Lemon Hill with these guys, at least I had a shot at the sprint. I know Chris is a better sprinter than I am, and Danny’s pretty quick as well. These guys just looked at each other, and that’s tactics, that’s bike racing. I happened to get the gap, and from then on it was everything I had.”

In the end, Wherry finished just a few bike lengths ahead of Pate, with Horner finishing third. All three were given the same finishing time, but Wherry was given something every American racer dream of: the stars and stripes jersey of the the country’s professional national champion. The win meant that not only is Health Net-Maxxis the first team to sweep the Wachovia Cycling Series of Lancaster, Trenton, and Philadelphia, but in Greg Henderson, Gord Fraser and Wherry, the team did it with three different riders.

The big break that could
Even at the start line, it was clear that the 21st running of the USPRO Championship was going to be a hot and sweaty affair. Temperatures were in the 80s shortly after the gun, and by afternoon had reached the 90s with near 90-percent humidity. It was a factor that would play into Wherry’s hands.

“In the heat it’s really hard,” Wherry said. “It definitely selects the best and strongest riders in the race. The past few years it’s been cool and it’s come down to a field sprint. This morning I was kind of thinking I don’t really like this race anymore, because it keeps on coming down to a field sprint, and I’m not a field sprinter.”

At 156 miles and nearly six hours long, with 10 trips up the 17-percent grade of the Manayunk Wall, the USPRO Championship is one of the hardest one-day events on North American soil. And with $142,000 in prize money, it’s also the richest, attracting ProTour teams such as Discovery Channel, CSC, Saunier Duval-Prodir, Liquigas, Lampre-Caffita and the Davitamon-Lotto team of defending national champion Fred Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was backed by 2005 Ghent-Wevelgem winner Nico Mattan and 2000 USPRO winner Henk Vogels, and though the former American champ made the day’s first significant breakaway of 35 riders, once that group was reeled in the second time over Manayunk, he missed the day’s decisive split of 40 riders that escaped on the second lap.

Notable riders in the move included: Vogels and a teammate; Discovery riders Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Ryder Hesjedal, Patrick McCarty and Fumyuki Beppu; Horner and Saunier Duval teammates Angel Gomez, Manuele Mori and 2004 USPRO winner Francisco Ventoso; Andy Schleck and three CSC teammates; Chris Baldwin and a pair of Navigators Insurance riders; Wherry and Health Net teammates Mike Sayers, Ivan Dominguez and Mike Jones; Pate and Jelly Belly teammates Ben Brooks, Caleb Manion and Matty Rice. Also missing from the bunch was another race favorite, CSC’s Bobby Julich.

... and neither was Julich.

… and neither was Julich.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

With all the major teams represented, the group was given the green light, and with Horner’s teammates Gomez and Ventoso at the front, it quickly opened a three-minute gap on lap 3 that ballooned to 5:00 by lap 5 and 7:05 at the end of lap 6.

“My two guys drove it away,” Horner said. “What Fred didn’t understand is that the first group didn’t succeed because there was only me and one other teammate. But the second time we went around, there were four of us, and I told them ‘Go to the front, and drive that break for as long and hard as you possibly can.’”

With only four 14.4-mile circuits remaining, followed by the three closing circuits, the chase came to life, but it proved to be too little, too late. Driven by Davitamon-Lotto, Jittery Joe’s, CSC and Discovery, the gap came down to three minutes on lap 9, and as the breakaway passed the field entering the start/finish area at Logan Circle, it seemed as though the life of the break had been extinguished and the race would come together for an inevitable field sprint.

But that was the moment Pate decided to leap from the lead group on what appeared to be a suicidal solo breakaway with 25 miles remaining.

Pate takes a gamble....

Pate takes a gamble….

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

“It was a little far, but not too far,” Pate said. “[Jelly Belly team director] Danny [Van Haute] had told me that [the break] had sat up a bit and a lot of the organization was gone. Some of [Horner’s] teammates and my teammates were burned up a bit. I had a little bit of a gap, and I figured if I made it over the top [on the final trip up Manayunk] by myself I would make it into the front group.”

And Pate did make it over the top of Manayunk, with a 25-second advantage over the disintegrating remnants of sweltering lead group.

... as Horner and Wherry give chase.

… as Horner and Wherry give chase.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

Heading up Manayunk for the last time, Vogels was the first to attack, but was quickly caught by Horner, who jumped out of the field to go after Pate. Wherry was the only oneto follow.

“I followed Horner up Manayunk the last time and thought, ‘Oh my God, this guy is so strong,’” Wherry said. “I had to fixate on his rear hub and I never looked up the whole time.”

“Wherry and Horner were the two best in the group by far,” Vogels said. “Mori tried to go and match their pace, and so did one of the Discovery boys and Dominguez, but they blew. I had to ride my own pace up there. Both Horner and Wherry can go uphill extremely quickly. I tried 25 times to get away, but I was chased down by either a CSC or a Discovery or a Liquigas or a Saunier Duval. I had good legs, but not good enough to follow Wherry.”

A few miles later, Horner and Wherry caught Pate, and the trio headed into the closing circuits with a 40-second lead.

The final circuits
With CSC and Discovery leading the chase, Horner, Wherry and Pate rotated through in the countdown to the finish. Absent from the first chase group were either Rodriguez or Julich.

“It was one lap to go and we needed to have that gap down so we could jump across to that big group,” Rodriguez said. “Even though those three guys were gone, with 20km to go it would have been doable. My team didn’t do a good job of keeping the gap down, and then CSC and Discovery waited too long.”

With the knowledge that this would be only the third time in history that the race had ended with an all-American podium — most recently in 2001, when Rodriguez, Trent Klasna and George Hincapie swept the top spots — speculation began on which rider might be strongest out of the trio. Conventional wisdom would point to Horner, but the three-time NRC overall winner was racing in only his third race in months after breaking a hip in March.

And, Horner pointed out, Pate was not contributing equally to the break. “

Wherry and I gave so much coming into this when we caught Danny,” Horner said, “and we drove so hard coming into the smaller laps. I put in five or six attacks trying to get rid of Pate, and I couldn’t, so you’ve got to believe he’s got good form. And he’s got more rest than what Wherry and I were going on in the small circuits. Not taking away from Danny, he did his rotations, but Wherry and I were pulling 5-10km an hour faster and two or three times longer.”

With Horner’s repeated attacks proving ineffective, Wherry took it upon himself to take a chance on the day’s final pitch, the smallish Lemon Hill. Horner and Pate looked to each other to lead the chase, and in that instant, Wherry’s race was made.

“I took a pull and these guys played a little waiting game, and it gave me a gap,” Wherry said. “I didn’t really feel that great going over Lemon Hill, so I just hammered it and figured I’d take my chances. Once we got back on the flats the legs came back a little bit.”

Wherry opened a gap of seven seconds with little over a kilometer remaining. Horner led the chase, but as it grew clear in the final 500 meters that Wherry would likely stay away, Pate came around Horner and within four bike lengths of a fading Wherry, who had just enough time to throw his arms in the air.

“It was everything, absolutely everything all the way to the line,” Wherry said. “I looked back with 500m to go, and they were coming, and I put it in my 11 [-tooth cog] and my legs just cramped. And I put it back in the 13 and just gave it absolutely everything to the line.”

Wherry gives it a shot.

Wherry gives it a shot.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

Horner was quick to congratulate his former Mercury teammate. “Danny and I played a little bit of games a little too late, and Wherry had fantastic form and rode away with it, so hat’s off to him,” Horner said. “If it couldn’t be me, I’m glad it was Chris. I’ve known him for a long time. He’s a fantastic guy and he’s worked for me many times over the years.”

Pate was also philosophical over his second-place finish. “Of course it’s a little bit of a disappointment to take second,” he said. “If I had been second and first American, then great. Second could be seen as kind of a bummer, but it’s definitely a good result. You’ve got to take a positive look at it. It was a really good ride.”

But the best ride went to Wherry. It was the biggest win yet for the 31-year-old from Boulder, Colorado, whose career has seen a renaissance this year after a move to Durango, Colorado, stemming, in part, from a late-night attack while camping in Mexico with former Health Net teammate Walker Ferguson.

“It was a pretty scary situation,” Wherry said, “and it made me reassess my life after we came out of it fairly unscathed. It just made me really happy that I have some great family, great friends, and I love my job, I love what I do. It refocused my career, and apparently it worked, so thanks to those guys that beat me up in Mexico.

“I completely refocused my career I moved down to Durango [Colorado] last winter. My coach Rick Crawford lives down there. It gave me an opportunity to move down there. I was born and raised in Boulder, but it was just a stagnant situation for me. It was tough to leave my family, but I’m not that far away, and it’s been really good for me to refocus my career.”

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

RESULTS
1. Chris Wherry (USA/Health Net-Maxxis), 250km in 6:01:16
2. Danny Pate (USA), Jelly Belly-Pool Gel s.t.
3. Chris Horner (USA) Saunier Duval s.t.
4. Fred Rodriguez (USA)Davitamon-Lotto, at 0:44
5. Kirk O’Bee (USA), Navigators s.t.Others:
36. Bobby Julich (USA), CSC, at 0:56FULL RESULTS

Photo Gallery

Results

Wachovia USPRO championship-Results
1. Chris WHERRY, Health Net-Maxxis 6:01:16

2. Danny PATE, Jelly Belly-Pool Gel

3. Chris HORNER, Suanier Duval-Prodir, both s.t.

4. Fred RODRIGUEZ, Davitamon Lotto, at 0:44

5. Kirk O'BEE, Navigators Insurance

6. Max VANHEESWIJK (Nl), Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team

7. Mark MCCORMACK, Colavita-Sutter Home

8. Lars MICHAELSEN (Dk), Team CSC

9. Greg HENDERSON (NZ), Health Net-Maxxis

10. Alessandro BALLAN (I), Lampre Caffita

11. Manuele MORI (I), Suanier Duval-Prodir

12. Marco PINOTTI (I), Suanier Duval-Prodir

13. Ivan STEVIC SCG Aerospace Engineering

14. Roger HAMMOND (GB), Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team

15. Ivan DOMINGUEZ (Cub), Health Net-Maxxis

16. Kjell CARLSTON FIN Liquigas-Bianchi

17. Garret PELTONEN, Advantage Endeavour

18. Domenique PERRAS (Can), Kodak Sierra Nevada

19. Chad HARTLEY, TIAA CREF

20. Lars BAK (Dk), Team CSC

21. Mark WALTERS (Can), Navigators Insurance

22. Andreas MATZBACHER AUT Lampre Caffita

23. Aaron OLSEN, Colavita-Sutter Home

24. Henk VOGELS (Aus), Davitamon Lotto

25. Jurgen VANDENBROECK (B), Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team

26. Fumyuki BEPPU (Jp), Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team

27. John LIESWYN, Health Net-Maxxis

28. Ben BROOKS (Aus), Jelly Belly-Pool Gel

29. Andy SCHLECK LUX Team CSC

30. Eddy HILGER, Advantage Endeavour

31. Neil SHIRLEY, Team Seasilver

32. Tyler WREN, Colavita-Sutter Home

33. Ciaran POWER IRL Navigators Insurance

34. Patrick MCCARTY, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team

35. Thomas BRUUN ERIKSEN (Dk), Team CSC, all s.t.

36. Bobby JULICH, Team CSC, at 0:56

37. Jeff LOUDER, Navigators Insurance, at 2:51

38. Matej MUGERLI (Slo), Liquigas-Bianchi, at 3:28

39. DAniele COLLI (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, at 5:54

40. Emile ABRAHAM TRI Team Monex

41. Ben JACQUES MAYNES, Kodak Sierra Nevada

42. Marco MARZANO (I), Lampre Caffita

43. Glen MITCHELL (NZ), Kodak Sierra Nevada

44. Charles DIONNE (Can), Webcor Cycling Team

45. Geoff KABUSH (Can), Jittery Joe's

46. Allan JOHANSEN (Dk), Team CSC

47. Antonio CRUZ, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team

48. Alex CANDELARIO, Jelly Belly-Pool Gel

49. Juan Jose HAEDO (Arg), Colavita-Sutter Home

50. Matty RICE (Aus), Jelly Belly-Pool Gel, all s.t.

51. Tim JOHNSON, Jittery Joe's, at 11:17

52. Bernard VAN ULDEN, Webcor Cycling Team, both s.t.

53. Gordon FRASER (Can), Health Net-Maxxis, at 13:04

54. James MATTIS, Webcor Cycling Team

55. Cameron HUGHES (Aus), Subway-Express

56. Ben HALDEMAN, Webcor Cycling Team

57. Chris FREDERICK, Aerospace Engineering

58. Matt DUBBERLEY, McGuire Pro Cycling

59. Peter BAKER, Snow Valley-Seal On, all s.t.

60. Timothy DUGGAN, TIAA CREF, at 14:19

61. Will FRISCHKORN, TIAA CREF

62. Erik SAUNDERS, McGuire Pro Cycling

63. Russell DOWNING (GB), MG-XPower Litespeed

64. Paul MANNING (GB), MG-XPower Litespeed

65. Davide FRATTINI (I), Colavita-Sutter Home

66. Kyle GRITTERS, Team Seasilver

67. Doug OLLERENSHAW, Health Net-Maxxis

68. Mike SAYERS, Health Net-Maxxis

69. Tyler FARRAR, Health Net-Maxxis

70. Adam LIVINGSTON, Team Seasilver

71. Lucas EUSER, Webcor Cycling Team

72. Nathan MILLER, Team Monex

73. Burke SWINDLEHURST, Team Seasilver

74. Vassili DAVIDENKO (Rus), Navigators Insurance

75. Evan OLIPHANT (GB), MG-XPower Litespeed

76. Michael LANGE, TIAA CREF

77. Jason BAUSCH, Team Seasilver

78. Hayden GODFREY (NZ), Kodak Sierra Nevada

79. Marco RIGHETTO (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, all s.t.

Did Not Finish

Kirk ALBERS, Jelly Belly-Pool Gel-

Sebastian ALEXANDRE (Arg), Colavita-Sutter Home-

Jason ALLEN (NZ), McGuire Pro Cycling-

Gustavo ARTACHO (Arg), Colavita-Sutter Home-

Rashaan BAHATI, McGuire Pro Cycling-

Chris BALDWIN, Navigators Insurance-

Stefano BARBERI (Brz), TIAA CREF-

Colin BEARDSLEY, McGuire Pro Cycling-

Micheal BEERS, Snow Valley-Seal On-

Brent BOOKWALTER, Advantage Endeavour-

Dan BOWMAN, TIAA CREF-

Matti BRESCHEL (Dk), Team CSC-

Aaron BROWN, NERAC.COM-

Josh CARTER, Subway-Express-

Clemente CAVALIERE (I), Aerospace Engineering-

David CLINGER, Webcor Cycling Team-

Marc COLLARD, Webcor Cycling Team-

Nathanial CORNELIUS, Subway-Express-

Todd CORNELIUS, Subway-Express-

Michael CREED, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team-

Ari DE WILDE, NERAC.COM-

John DELONG, Snow Valley-Seal On-

Christopher DELUISE, Aerospace Engineering-

Wim DEVOCHT (B), Davitamon Lotto-

Ryan DEWALD, Snow Valley-Seal On-

Bart DOCKX (B), Davitamon Lotto-

Thad DULIN, Jittery Joe's-

Pat DUNAWAY, McGuire Pro Cycling-

Evan ELKEN, Jittery Joe's-

Richard ENGLAND (Aus), Advantage Endeavour-

Glenn FANT, Team Monex-

Mariano FRIEDICK, Jelly Belly-Pool Gel-

Roberto GAGGIOLI (I), Team Monex-

Stuart GILLESPIE, TIAA CREF-

Gerrit GLOMSER AUT Lampre Caffita-

Angel GOMEZ ESP Suanier Duval-Prodir-

Josh GOODWIN, Team Monex-

Ben GREENWOOD (GB), MG-XPower Litespeed-

Oleg GRICHKINE (Rus), Navigators Insurance-

Curtis GUNN, Team Seasilver-

Russell HAMBY, Kodak Sierra Nevada-

John HANSON, NERAC.COM-

Rob HAYLES (GB), MG-XPower Litespeed-

Christopher HERBY, Snow Valley-Seal On-

Todd HERRIOTT, Colavita-Sutter Home-

Ryder HESJEDAL (Can), Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team-

Adam HODGES MEYERSON, NERAC.COM-

Jeff HOPKINS (Aus), Jittery Joe's-

Lief HOSTE (B), Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team-

Ted HUANG, Webcor Cycling Team-

Andy JACQUES MAYNES, Webcor Cycling Team-

Brice JONES, Jelly Belly-Pool Gel-

Mike JONES, Health Net-Maxxis-

Roman KILUN, McGuire Pro Cycling-

Russell LANGLEY, Snow Valley-Seal On-

Bruno LANGLOIS (Can), Jittery Joe's-

Tim LARKIN, Kodak Sierra Nevada-

Jesse LAWLER, Jittery Joe's-

Victor LAZA SCG Aerospace Engineering-

Craig LEWIS, TIAA CREF-

Ruben LOBATO ESP Suanier Duval-Prodir-

Giovanni LOMBARDI (I), Team CSC-

Pete LOPINTO, Kodak Sierra Nevada-

Trent LOWE (Aus), Jittery Joe's-

Sterling MAGNELL, Team Monex-

Caleb MANNION (Aus), Jelly Belly-Pool Gel-

Samuele MARZOLI (I), Lampre Caffita-

Nico MATTAN (B), Davitamon Lotto-

Ryan MCKENZIE (Can), Subway-Express-

Remi MCMANUS, Subway-Express-

Karl MENZIES (Aus), Advantage Endeavour-

Hugh MORAN, Aerospace Engineering-

Eric MURPHY, Aerospace Engineering-

Mike NORTON, NERAC.COM-

David O'LOUGHLIN IRL Navigators Insurance-

Nathan O'NEIL (Aus), Navigators Insurance-

Jonathan PAGE, Colavita-Sutter Home-

Luciano PAGLIARINI (Brz), Liquigas-Bianchi-

Dario PIERI (I), Lampre Caffita-

Oscar PINEDA GUA NERAC.COM-

Frank PIPP, Advantage Endeavour-

Cody POWELL, NERAC.COM-

Jeremy POWERS, Jelly Belly-Pool Gel-

Daniel RAMSEY, Team Seasilver-

Ivan RAVAIOLI (I), Suanier Duval-Prodir-

David RICHTER, Subway-Express-

Jake RYTLEWSKI, Advantage Endeavour-

Dan SCHMATZ, Kodak Sierra Nevada-

Brian SHEEDY, Advantage Endeavour-

Bryan SMITH, TIAA CREF-

Shaun SNODDEN (GB), MG-XPower Litespeed-

Gert STEEGMANS (B), Davitamon Lotto-

Jonny SUNDT, Jittery Joe's-

Joshua TAYLOR, Snow Valley-Seal On-

Kevin VANES, Subway-Express-

Carlos VARGAS COL Team Monex-

Francisco VENTOSO ESP Suanier Duval-Prodir-

Devon VIGUS, McGuire Pro Cycling-

Zach WALKER, McGuire Pro Cycling-

Kyle WAMSLEY, Snow Valley-Seal On-

David WERLING, NERAC.COM-

Jonathan WIRSING, Snow Valley-Seal On-

Ryan YEE, Team Seasilver-

Robbie YOST, Subway-Express-

Marco ZANOTTI (I), Liquigas-Bianchi-

Scott ZWIZANSKI, Kodak Sierra Nevada