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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor
The earliest predictor came courtesy of the local weathermen. While it rained all day Saturday, the forecast for Sunday’s USPRO Championship in Philadelphia was for a cool but dry day. Just the kind of conditions that would make for a relatively easy trip during the 156-mile race held on a primarily flat circuit in the City of Brotherly Love. And while no one could have been feeling particularly fresh after this near-six-hour effort, 44 riders were still in play on the race’s long finishing stretch down Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
That left both the race outcome and the U.S. national title in the hands of the sprinters, and two of the world’s fastest, Spaniard Francisco Ventoso and American Fred Rodriguez, walked away with the biggest prizes. Bolstered by the confidence of a bunch-sprint win five days earlier in Lancaster, Ventoso burst from the field in Philly to take the 20th running of this prestigious race. Meanwhile, Rodriguez slipped across the line in fourth, grabbing the stars-and-stripes jersey as the top American finisher.
It was the second year in a row that the top American had finished fourth in Philly. Last year’s winner, Mark McCormack, settled for 12th on this day.
As for Rodriguez, the sprint didn’t go exactly as planned, but things still worked out. “I was too far back with about 1km to go,” said Rodriguez (Acqua & Sapone), who still managed to take his third U.S. title in five years. “I had to crank it up with about 800 meters to go, and I just didn’t have100 percent left when I needed it.”
Instead it was the 22-year-old neo-pro Ventoso (Prodir-Saunier Duval) holding off Saeco’s Antonio Bucciero and Canadian Gord Fraser (Health Net-Maxxis). Rodriguez was next, five spots ahead of Kirk O’Bee (Navigators) in the chase for the U.S. crown.
The pair of Americans were out front early in the sprint in what Rodriguez called a “straight-up drag race.” But with both being unprotected for so long, it was Ventoso, Bucciero and Fraser swarming by them at the end
“My legs did not feel so good on the climb,” said Ventoso of the race’s 10 trips up the famed 17-percent Manayunk Wall. “But with the help of my team I was able to hang on and move up at the right time. At 250 meters I went and felt really strong.”
Besides his two big results during the three-race Wachovia Cycling Series (second at Lancaster, first at Philly), Ventoso also won a stage at the early-season Tour of Qatar, solidifying his status as one to watch.
“He’s obviously a really talented guy,” conceded Rodriguez. “He’s someone you can’t let get on your wheel.”
With low, gray clouds hanging just above the skyscrapers in downtown Philadelphia, a field of 165 rolled off the startline at 9 a.m. The race began with three ceremonial parade laps before heading out Kelly Drive along the Schuylkill River for the first of 10 14.4-mile laps out to Manayunk, up the “Wall” and back into town. Each lap included just 429 feet of climbing, 285 up Manayunk and another 175 split between Strawberry Hill and Lemon Hill.
Despite the long day ahead, it took all of half a lap before the race’s first and most serious break rolled off the front. American Danny Pate was among the group that would eventually swell to 30, and with four of Pate’s Health Net teammates also making the initial selection, the top U.S. domestic team found itself on the offensive early.
“We were really happy with the move,” said Health Net’s Chris Wherry, who was able to sit on in the peloton, with Pate, Mike Sayers, Mike Jones, Scott Moninger and Greg Henderson all up the road. “If Postal and CSC had just had another guy or two up there, it could have worked.”
But that was the problem. Mike Creed and Michael Barry were the only Postal riders that had made the cut, while CSC had just one rider, Dane Jimi Madsen, in the move. Rodriguez’s squad also wasn’t well represented, with only Alessandro Donati in the breakaway.
That didn’t stop the move from gaining a huge chunk of time, though. With Pate and Sayers doing most of the work up front, and an uninterested peloton coasting along in cruise control behind, the break saw its advantage grow rapidly during the ensuing two laps, cresting near nine minutes.
“I think everyone was a little nervous when it got that high,” said Aussie Henk Vogels (Navigators). “There was one stage where I thought that’s it, but that’s when Postal and CSC went to work.”
With the two Euro’ powerhouse squads working hard at the front during the mid-portion of the race, the gap slowly began to come down. It was five minutes at the end of lap six, and all the way to 1:39 at the beginning of lap 9. That left only two more trips up Manayunk, meaning the remainder of the work had to be completed soon.
That’s just what happened on the ensuing ascent up the Wall. The break was reeled in, with the likes of Sayers and Pate getting shot out the back. Neither would finish the race.
Not all of the initial escapees were cooked, though, and a new move of a dozen riders reformed just as the bunch crested Manayunk. Among the survivors were 10 riders from the first move: Creed, Donati, Madsen, Moninger, Jones, Vassili Davidenko (Navigators), Tim Johnson (Prodir-Saunier Duval), Ernesto Lechuga (Jelly Belly-Aramark), Glen Mitchell and Ben Jaques-Maynes (both Sierra Nevada). The two newcomers were CSC’s Bobby Julich and Angel Gomez (Prodir-Saunier Duval).
“When we caught the big group I went across through the break,” explained Julich. “I felt really strong, but without Rodriguez or Chris Horner in there, you knew that wasn’t going to stick either.”
Instead the race came back together once more during the next trip up Manayunk. That gruppo compacto would be short lived, though, as Horner decided it was his turn to give it a go. With Rodriguez, Postal’s Barry and O’Bee in tow, the Webcor rider put his head down and took his shot on the race’s last full lap.
“What else was I gonna do,” he said. “I could sit in and maybe get lucky or I could go for the win. I race to win, so I tried to take destiny into my own hands.”
But the move simply didn’t have the horsepower, with Barry content to sit on and Rodriguez saying he’d pull through but not burry himself. Forty seconds was its biggest advantage, and the break would be all over the end of the last main lap.
That left just three short laps (three miles with only the two slight climbs), all but guaranteeing a bunch sprint finish. Horner would take one last shot on the second-to-last trip up Lemon Hill, but he was quickly brought back before the beginning of the final lap.
That left the endgame in the hands of the sprinters, with Ventoso taking his big win ahead of Bucciero and Fraser.
“I was completely surrounded,” said Fraser, who called the three-race series one of the most frustrating of his career, after finishing second at the CSC Invitational, second in Trenton and third at Philly. “In a week I lost three races by a bike length. In this one I was just caught in the middle watching.”
What he saw was the birth of a new young star and the crowning of a great American champion.
“The jersey was the No. 1 priority,” said Rodriguez, who was greeted by applause when he walked through the doors of the host hotel lobby, following the post race press conference. “Maybe I spent too much time following Horner on the last climb up Manayunk, but I still got what I wanted.”
Full results are posted.To see how today’s race unfolded, simply open our LIVE UPDATE window.
Wachovia USPRO Championship
1. Francisco Jose Ventoso Alberdi (Sp), Prodir Saunier Duval 250km in 5:53:13
2. Antonio Bucciero (I), Saeco
3. Gordon Fraser (CAN), Health Net
4. Fred Rodriguez (USA), Acqua & Sapone
5. Plamen Stoyanov (BUL), Hoop CCC-Polsat
6. Alberto Loddo (I), Prodir Saunier Duval
7. Piotr Chmielewski (Pol), Action-ATI
8. Lars Michaelsen (Dk), CSC
9. Kirk O’Bee (USA), Navigators
10. Russell Hamby (USA), Sierra Nevada Cycling
11. Arkadiusz Wojtas (Pol), Hoop CCC-Polsat
12. Mark Mccormack (USA), Colavita
13. Benjamin Brooks (Aus), Jelly Belly
14. Alex Candelario (USA), Jelly Belly
15. Brice Jones (USA), Health Net
16. Radoslaw Romanik (Pol), Hoop CCC-Polsat
17. Chris Wherry (USA), Health Net
18. Kazimierz Stafiej (Pol), Action-ATI
19. Dennis Kraft (G), Action-ATI
20. Eric Wohlberg (CAN), Sierra Nevada Cycling
21. Erik Saunders (USA), Ofoto
22. Chris Horner (USA), Webcor Builders
23. Antonio Cruz (USA), U.S. Postal
24. Henk Vogels (Aus), Navigators
25. Jonathan Page (USA), Hoop CCC-Polsat
26. Charles Dionne (CAN), Webcor Builders
27. Michael Barry (CAN), U.S. Postal
28. Max Van Heeswijk (Nl), U.S. Postal
29. Damon Kluck (USA), U.S. Postal
30. Brian Sheedy (USA), Seasilver
31. William Frischkorn (USA), Colavita
32. Tim Larkin (USA), Ofoto
33. Steven Cate (USA), Sharper Image-Mathis Bros
34. Bobby Julich (USA), CSC
35. Dominique Perras (CAN), Ofoto
36. Ruggero Marzoli (I), Acqua & Sapone
37. Manuele Mori (I), Prodir Saunier Duval
38. Mark Walters (CAN), Navigators
39. Jakob Piil (Dk), CSC
40. Jason Bausch (USA), Ofoto
41. Vikor Rapinski (Blr), Navigators
42. Tristan Hoffman (Nl), CSC
43. Bo Hamburger (Dk), Acqua & Sapone
44. Rinaldo Nocentini (I), Acqua & Sapone
45. Ciaran Power (IRL), Navigators, at 0:07
46. Adam Bergman (USA), Jelly Belly
47. David Mc Kenzie (Aus), Navigators
48. Rubens Bertogliati (Swi), Prodir Saunier Duval, at 0:11
49. Aaron Olson (USA), Colavita, 0:14
50. Juan Fuentes Angullo (Sp), Saeco
51. Davide Frattini (I), Monex, at 0:28
52. John Lieswyn (USA), Health Net
53. Guennadi Mikhailov (Rus), U.S. Postal
54. Christopher Baldwin (USA), Navigators, at 0:35
55. Jason Mccartney (USA), Health Net, at 0:46
56. Caleb Manion (Aus), Jelly Belly
57. David Loosli (Swi), Saeco
58. Jeff Louder (USA), Navigators, at 1:24
59. Vassili Davidenko (Rus), Navigators, at 5:36
60. James Mattis (USA), Webcor Builders
61. Michael Creed (USA), U.S. Postal
62. Glen Mitchell (NZl), Sierra Nevada Cycling
63. Neil Shirley (USA), Seasilver
64. Jonathan Erdelyi (USA), Ofoto
65. John Hygelund (USA), Sierra Nevada Cycling
66. Juan Jose Haedo (ARG), Colavita
67. Scottie Weiss (USA), Subway Express
68. Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA), Sierra Nevada Cycling
69. Cameron Hughes (Aus), Subway Express
70. Imanol Ayestaran Odriozola (Sp), Webcor Builders
71. Doug Ollerenshaw (USA), Jelly Belly
72. Tim Johnson (USA), Prodir Saunier Duval
73. Kyle Gritters (USA), Monex
74. Jaroslaw Zarebski (Pol), Hoop CCC-Polsat
75. Jonathan Patrick Mc Carty (USA), U.S. Postal
76. David Wenger (USA), Sharper Image-Mathis Bros
77. Frank Hoj (Dk), CSC
78. Jimmi Madsen (Dk), CSC
79. Peter Knudsen (USA), Seasilver
80. Angel Gomez (Sp), Prodir Saunier Duval
81. Adam Wadecki (Pol), Action-ATI
82. Kirk Albers (USA), Jelly Belly
83. Juan Gomis Lopez (Sp), Prodir Saunier Duval
84. Cesar Grajales Calle (Col), Jittery Joe’s
85. Jesse Lawler (USA), Jittery Joe’s
86. Seweryn Kohut (Pol), Hoop CCC-Polsat
87. Ernesto Lechuga (MEX), Jelly Belly
88. Thad Dulin (USA), Colavita
89. Jacob Erker (CAN), Seasilver
90. Adam Livingston (USA), Seasilver
91. Jackson Stewart (USA), Ofoto
92. Scott Moninger (USA), Health Net
93. Andy Bajadali (USA), Ofoto
94. Michael Jones (USA), Health Net
95. Ivan Dominguez (CUB), Colavita
96. Giosu Bonomi (I), Saeco
97. Gordon Mccauley (NZl), Monex
98. Alessandro Donati (I), Acqua & Sapone
99. Roman Kilun (USA), McGuire Pro Cycling, at 9:00
100. Todd Herriott (USA), Colavita
101. Justin England (USA), Webcor Builders
102. Burke Swindlehurst (USA), Navigators
103. John Kelly (USA), Webcor Builders
104. Jacob Rosenbarger (USA), Jittery Joe’s
105. Michael Kehrberg (USA), Subway Express
106. Matt Dubberley (USA), Sierra Nevada Cycling
107. Karl Bordine (USA), Monex
108. Steve Larsen (USA), Webcor Builders
109. Benjamin Haldeman (USA), Webcor Builders
110. Michael Lange (USA), Sharper Image-Mathis Bros
111. Mike Taylor (USA), McGuire Pro Cycling
112. Gustavo Artacho (ARG), Colavita
113. David Richter (USA), Subway Express
Did Not Finish
Emil Abraham (TRI), Monex
Gabriele Balducci (I), Saeco
Colin Beardsley (USA), McGuire Pro Cycling
Denis Bertolini (I), Acqua & Sapone
Nieko Biskner (USA), Ofoto
Thomas Bruun Eriksen (Dk), CSC
Jonas Carney (USA), Jelly Belly
Patrick Carro (USA), Monex
Mirko Celestino (I), Saeco
Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Sp), Prodir Saunier Duval
Nathaniel Cornelius (USA), Subway Express
Tracy Cundiff (USA), Spo
Jamiel Danesh (USA), McGuire Pro Cycling
Drew Deters (USA), Seasilver
Patrick Dunaway (USA), McGuire Pro Cycling
Paul Ellis (USA), Jelly Belly
Dario Falquier (USA), Webcor Builders
Chris Foster (USA), Subway Express
Christian Foster (USA), Subway Express
Matthew Gilbert (NZl), Monex
Josh Goodwin (USA), Monex
Chad Hartley (USA), Jittery Joe’s
Greg Henderson (NZl), Health Net
Mike Herdman (USA), Monex
Mike House (USA), Sharper Image-Mathis Bros
Omer Kem (USA), Subway Express
Nicklaus Kiernan (USA), Sharper Image-Mathis Bros
Trent Klasna (USA), Sierra Nevada Cycling
Jason Klikna (USA), Sierra Nevada Cycling
Aleksandra Klimenko (Ukr), Action-ATI
Peter Lopinto (USA), Ofoto
David Mccook (USA), McGuire Pro Cycling
Remi Mcmanus (USA), Subway Express
Adam Myerson (USA), Sharper Image-Mathis Bros
Nathan O’Neill (Aus), Colavita
Danny Pate (USA), Health Net
Lawrence Perera (USA), Sharper Image-Mathis Bros
Christopher Pic (USA), Jittery Joe’s
Jeremy Powers (USA), Jelly Belly
Matthew Sadauckas (USA), Seasilver
Mike Sayers (USA), Health Net
Aaron Smathers (USA), Sharper Image-Mathis Bros
Ben Stafford (USA), Webcor Builders
Jonathan Sundt (USA), Jittery Joe’s
Robbie Ventura (USA), U.S. Postal
Devon Vigus (USA), McGuire Pro Cycling
Eugen Wacker (KGZ), Action-ATI
Jason Waddell (USA), Sharper Image-Mathis Bros
Nichole Wangsgard (USA), Bas
Troy White (USA), Sierra Nevada Cycling
Tyler Wren (USA), Colavita
Robert Yost (USA), Subway Express
David Zabriskie (USA), U.S. Postal
Overall series standings
1. Fred Rodriguez, 90 Pts.
2. Max Van Heeswijk, 60 Pts.
3. Lars Michaelsen, 56 Pts.
4. Francisco Jos Ventoso Alberdi, 46 Pts.
5. Gordon Fraser, 45 Pts.
6. Michael Barry, 36 Pts.
7. Benjamin Brooks, 29 Pts.
8. Alberto Loddo, 26 Pts.
9. Ciaran Power, 22 Pts.
10. Bo Hamburger, 20 Pts.
11. Gordon Mccauley, 18 Pts.
12. Jonas Carney, 18 Pts.
13. Antonio Cruz, 16 Pts.
14. Juan Jose Haedo, 14 Pts.
15. Guennadi Mikhailov, 14 Pts.
16. Charles Dionne, 13 Pts.
17. Jakob Piil, 12 Pts.
18. Jaroslaw Zarebski, 12 Pts.
19. Denis Bertolini, 11 Pts.
20. Plamen Stoyanov, 10 Pts.
21. Tristan Hoffman, 10 Pts.
22. Adam Wadecki, 9 Pts.
23. Ivan Dominguez, 8 Pts.
24. Dennis Kraft, 8 Pts.
25. Dan Schmatz, 5 Pts.
26. Kirk O’Bee, 4 Pts.
27. Chad Hartley, 4 Pts.
28. Kazimierz Stafiej, 3 Pts.
29. Brian Sheedy, 3 Pts.
30. Caleb Manion, 2 Pts.
31. John Lieswyn, 1 Pts.
32. Jason Waddell, 1 Pts.