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Jeff Louder moves closer to the stars and stripes jersey with 3rd place in Greenville (foto by Tim Waele)
Jeff Louder moves closer to the stars and stripes jersey with 3rd place in Greenville (foto by Tim Waele)

Jeff Louder and Brent Bookwalter ride fantastically at US Pro, finish 3rd and 4th, respectively

31. August 2009


Coming off very good performances in the Tour of Utah, the American riders on the BMC Racing Team felt as though they had the form and tactical acumen to have a very good chance at winning the Stars and Stripes jersey for the road race. 

Though the Nationals road race is tactically often as hard to figure out as a Rubik's Cube, BMC was well prepared having brought a strong team of seven riders.  The difficult course around Greenville, South Carolina, has proved to be tough enough that only very strong climbers with a fast finish have been able realistically to dream of victory.  A breakaway of eight riders containing Jeff Louder and Brent Bookwalter formed over the final pass of the Paris Mountain.  Winning for the second time in four years, local favourite George Hincapie out-sprinted BMC's Jeff Louder after Louder had put in a beautiful solo attack three kilometers from the finish.  Brent Bookwalter finished fourth winning the sprint of the remaining four riders. 

Long, difficult course

"The race is long and hard, so it started off a little slow," Directeur Sportif Mike Sayers said.  "But it certainly got exciting near the finish."  Though the racing on the flats was perhaps a little slower than usual, that made the climbs that much harder.  "It was not a formulaic day of racing at all and there was a lot of coasting on the flats," Louder said.  "That meant guys were hitting the climbs fresher which made the racing that much harder and better for us."  After an endless stream of breakaway attempts, the real fireworks started on the final climb up the Paris Mountain when a group of eight separated itself and gained 20 seconds by the top of the climb.  "Jeff and Brent were in the move as was Hincapie, McCarty from Ouch, and Bajadali from Kelly Benefits," Sayers reported.  Louder was quick to point to the hard work his teammates did as a big factor in his success today.  "Brent and I were protected, but the other five guys did an amazing job covering all the moves and making it possible for us to relax until the final push," he explained. 

Lighting up the final climb

"Coming to the base of the final climb, Ian McKissick chased the break and just set an amazing tempo," Louder said.  "I was right on his wheel so was in perfect position at the base of the climb."  Hincapie's Columbia teammate, Craig Lewis set a blistering pace up the climb which only Louder, Bookwalter, Hincapie and a few others were able to match.  "Over the top of Paris, there were only about eight of us left and that was the selection," Louder said.  "We had to work together since there was a group of nine riders close behind us that we didn't want to catch up to us."  The group of eight worked well together until the final few kilometers.  "With Brent and Jeff up front, I told them just to keep rolling through to make sure the break stayed away since I didn't want them to get caught by the next group and lose their numerical advantage," Sayers said.  Garmin had missed the split and were desperately riding to get their men back into contention.  "Until the split happened on Paris Mountain, Garmin had basically been in pole position," Sayers explained.  "But when they missed the split Pate and Donald had to chase and then just blew, so they were out of it."

Louder goes for broke

With Hincapie to contend with in the breakaway, waiting for the sprint finish was hardly an attractive option.  "There's no way you're going to beat George Hincapie in a sprint," Sayers said.  "It's just not going to happen: not today, not tomorrow, not five years ago, not five years from now."  With this in mind, Jeff Louder knew that his best chance was to try and take the race from a solo break.  "It was obvious that George was super strong and motivated today, so it was inevitable that if we all went to the line together that he would win the sprint," Louder explained.  "Knowing that I had Brent right there, I picked a spot and decided to go for it."  Attacking with several kilometers to go, Louder still managed to hold his advantage until the final few hundred meters to the finish line.  "Jeff went with 3 kilometers to go, and stayed away until 300 meters from the finish," Sayers said.  "He timed it absolutely perfectly, and I really thought he had it. But that's bike racing and that's why it is so cool."  Though Sayers believed the team had a very good chance to win the race today, he understands that losing to George Hincapie is nothing to be ashamed of.  "Hincapie is one of the best American racers ever," Sayers reasoned.  "It is not disappointing to lose to him and I have to say that Jeff just hit everything perfectly and we have to be proud of that."  Louder, though sorry not to have taken the stars and stripes jersey, can feel satisfied knowing that he rode his best. "Coming so close, it is hard not to be a little disappointed to have missed the win," he said.  "But I can sleep knowing that I tried my best and can feel proud of the team since everyone raced with a lot of heart and no one held anything back."