cycling utah July 1999
By Dave Iltis
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Marty Jemison (U. S. Postal Service) of Park City became the new U.S. Professional Champion June 6th in Philadelphia, PA. The 34-year-old placed fifth and first American in the 156-mile First Union USPRO Championship and added the USPRO title to his 1993 U.S. amateur win.
This year, according to Marty, "the team was riding for George (Hincapie) and only George. I was to be super domestique. The objective of the team was to keep the jersey. I felt confident that we would keep it, we had the strongest team in the race." He felt good before the race, "twice before the start, I had had strong feelings that the day would be mine. I had shrugged it off though."
The course is a 14.4-mile circuit that the riders would do 10 times plus three times around a 3-mile finishing loop. The highlight of the course is the 17 percent Manayunk Wall where breaks are often launched.
The 10-lap race began with an early flier by Nutra-Fig's Alex Gardner of Boise, Idaho. This was swallowed up soon after and the first five laps were "too easy," according to Jemison.
Things were just getting going, "on the 6th George asked me to give it a go, to try and make a selection. From the bottom to the top of the wall I led with George on my wheel, we went over the top, 10 riders in tow, but on the descent the group would come together."
The Postal boys would try again and again, "The 7th time up the wall, we would try again. Frankie (Andreu) started at the bottom and later half way up I took over. I felt like I was going even harder, but this time at the top I looked back and the group was intact, a strung out line, but none-the-less...there." Others were aware of Jemison's good form, "On the 8th time up the wall Saeco had approached me and said that they were going to give it a go...and they did."
Later that lap with 25 miles to go the decisive selection began to form. A group of 17 included former Utah rider Levi Leipheimer of Saturn, Jemison, Hincapie, and eventual race winner Jacob Piil of Acceptcard.
Jemison's hard work at the front was about to pay off as the crucial moment in the race arrived, "I saw two riders (Sonne and Jansen) blast from behind and get a very good gap. I had to go very deep to bridge. I made contact and the two continued to take pulls. I sat. Brian Walton was now on my wheel, the 4th rider of the break. The two riders wanted me to ride, but I mentioned George's name." The break was now four, Jemison, Brian Walton of Saturn, Morten Sonne of Acceptcard, and Harm Jansen. Pill would soon bridge a 30-second gap to make it five. This proved the decisive move of the day.
With his teammate up the road, Hincapie sat back and waited to see if the remaining chasers would work together to catch the lead five, but the group never chased. Jemison was working hard knowing that Hincapie was there if anything went wrong. With 12 km to go, Walton launched an attack that was short-lived, as Jemison had to dig deep to stay with him. The five would regroup until the last 3 kms; "I was taking it in rhythm at this point. I could see the chasers and Fred Rodriguez of Mapei in-between. I knew I was going to win the jersey and now thought of the race. I wanted to win it as well."
Rolling towards the finish, Marty felt confident, "Going into the sprint, I was relaxed in the rear. I already felt like the winner. Feeling very strong, I launched the sprint from around 250 meters...but in my wind up I pulled my right foot out of my pedal." Walton jumped at the same time as Jemison with Piil on his wheel. Piil took the sprint and the win, but ever upbeat, Marty added, "I would roll in for 5th but also as the new US Professional Champion. I am proud to wear the jersey. It is a nice prize for all the hard work I've put in, most of which has been as a domestique. George is happy for me." All of Utah is happy for Jemison as well.
Note: At press time, Jemison had not been picked to ride his third Tour de France but will instead wear his new champion's jersey in the Tour of Spain and at the World Championships.
1999 USPRO CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Jacob Piil, Acceptcard; 156-miles in 6:04:34; 2. Brian Walton, Saturn; s.t.; 3. Harm Jansen, Composite; s.t.; 4. Morten Sonne, Acceptcard; s.t.; 5. Marty Jemison, U.S. Postal Service; at :03.