The US Pro Road Race took place in Greenville, South Carolina this past weekend and it was an awesome event to watch. The race started at 1 in the afternoon, which gave my dad and I time in the morning to ride to course. The pros would ride four 25 mile loops with 2 short circuits before and 3 circuits after. I already knew I wanted to shoot from somewhere near the top of Paris Mountain, which was the main climb on the 25 mile loop, but riding the course gave me the ability to really figure out where the action would be and where the hill really turns steep. The climb is about 2.2 miles with an average gradient of 6.9% and a steepest gradient of about 12% (all of this info from my garmin).
The race started out fast with a main breakaway of 3 riders up on the peloton by about 15 minutes. The break consisted of riders from three different teams, including the eventual winner of the race, Ben King of Trek Livestrong. On the first ascent of the hill all of the riders looked pretty comfortable, but none more than Ben. He looked calm and relaxed on the very same section of the mountain that I was out of the saddle pounding away, going much slower than he only hours before.
As the race progressed I made my way around a few different sections of the climb. We had roughly 45 minutes between passes of the peloton which was filled with finding a new spot to shoot from, talking to other people on the mountain, and watching the party grow. The spectators were all cooking, eating, and drinking beer as if we all were on the grassy sections of Auburn’s campus on a Saturday game day.
As Ben made his way up the mountain on the third lap, he dropped his other two breakaway partners to go the rest of the race completely solo. My family was set up near the feed zone for Ben’s team, Trek Livestrong, and Team Radioshack. Ben was told by his directors to wait for the other breakaway riders but that advice went in one ear and out the other as he crested the peak and attacked the downhill section of the climb.
On the fourth and final lap things really got interesting. As Ben poured every ounce of energy he had left into the pedals to make it up the mountain for the final time you could since the urgency. The main field was gaining on him and he was fading, or so we thought. The main field was widdled down to only 15 riders and was lead by many big riders of the sport; George Hincapie(defending national champion), Levi Leipheimer, and Chris Horner.
In the end all the effort Ben put in paid off as he crossed the finish line with a lead of a little over 2 minutes. It was a truly inspiring performance, and one to go down in the history books. He was in the breakaway all day and managed to come home with the victory, something very few riders are capable of doing.
I loved every minute of the race, and getting the chance to see many of my favorite riders. To see riders like Levi, George, Chris, Steven Cozza, Danny Pate, and all the other big name american cyclist that raced the event was just awesome. It makes me realize how much I miss the Tour de Georgia and how much I want it to come back. Good news is the US Pro Nationals are going to be in Greenville for the next 2 years and I plan on returning to the event as long as it is there.
Here are my images from the road race to enjoy. Please go check out my images from the US Pro Time Trial as well.