Tyler Hamilton Wins USA National Pro Championship
One of the most decorated American cyclists of his generation, Tyler Hamilton (Boulder, Colorado/Rock Racing) can now add the title of USA Cycling Professional Champion to a résumé that also boasts an Olympic TT gold medal and a 2003 Tour de France stage win. Hamilton even rode the whole 2003 Tour de France with a fractured collarbone after crashing in stage 1 of the race.
The 37-year-old pro on the verge of retirement outsprinted Blake Caldwell (Boulder, Colorado/Garmin-Chipotle) in an extremely close photo finish, claiming the Stars-and-Stripes jersey by mere centimeters after 177 kilometers of racing on Sunday. Although both were credited with the same finishing time - 4 hours, 38 minutes and 19 seconds - replays showed Hamilton crossed the line .002 of a second ahead of Caldwell.
“It was so close, either it was a tie, or I got it,” Tyler Hamilton told Roadcycling.com after the finish. “I wish there was another five feet before the finish line ... the finish came up really fast."
Hamilton said he drew additional motivation for going after his third win of the season from the recent death of his grandmother who was very old when she passed away. “She was 102,” Hamilton said. “My dad has been pretty down, and I was like, ‘I want to do this for her.’ I felt something special over the past couple of days.”
Danny Pate (Colorado Springs/Garmin-Chipotle) rounded out the podium, finishing four seconds behind the leading pair, while Lucas Euser (Napa, California/Garmin-Chipotle) was fourth and Jeffery Louder (Salt Lake City, Utah/Team BMC) fifth at five and six seconds respectively.
On a course that was defined by four ascents up Paris Mountain, Hamilton took the win as one of four riders to mark a late race attack by Pate. After cresting the race's signature climb for the final time, 25 riders were still in contention for the win when Pate escaped from the field. Hamilton gave chase along with Louder, Caldwell and Euser as the quartet eventually made contact with Pate in the closing miles. With numbers on his side, Caldwell then made the next attack and Hamilton responded. The pair held its lead throughout the final two finishing circuits in downtown Greenville as Caldwell appeared to take the sprint until a well-timed bike throw by Hamilton in the final dash to the line proved to be the difference. The race was too close to call by the naked eye as officials later declared Hamilton the winner after reviewing images of the finish.
Pate's third-place finish marked the fifth time he's placed in the top five in the last seven years of the USA Cycling Professional Championships. He was fifth in 2007 after a pair of second-place efforts in 2006 and 2005. He also placed third in 2002.
Team BMC's Jeff Louder felt himself being caught between a Rock and three Garmins.
“I knew that I would have the advantage if the race came down to a sprint, but so did the other guys, so with three Garmins there to attack, attack, attack, I was really caught between a Rock and three Garmins!,” said Louder. With the Garmin riders to contend with, Louder and Hamilton had to make a temporary truce. “I don’t think Tyler and I were racing against each other since we knew that it was basically us against them,” Louder said. “When he got away with Blake, I had to tread the fine line between chasing, and dragging the other two Garmin riders up to take the victory.”
Racing with the two Garmin anchors attached to his back wheel, Louder was faced with the unenviable choice of pulling one of two Garmin riders to victory or watching Hamilton and Caldwell fight it out 5 seconds up the road. “I wish the scenario had played out differently, but they just kept hitting me and in the end I was spent,” Louder added after the finish.