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SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA (September 9th, 2001)- While it wasn't the rider
that most Americans are familiar with, the U.S. Postal Service Professional
Cycling Team did indeed emerge victorious, as George Hincapie held off the
Saturn duo of Michael Barry and Trent Klasna to win the inaugural San
Francisco Grand Prix.

For Hincapie, the formula for success was deceptively simple: “When everyone
else started getting more and more tired going up the Fillmore hill (a
half-mile climb with an average gradient of nearly 18%), I stayed the same.
I didn’t feel super-great at the start, but I rode my way into the race,
thanks to the efforts of my teammates. They deserve this win every bit as
much as I do.”

Those teammates included three-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong,
whose well-documented battle with cancer and subsequent return to the top of
the sporting world has earned him worldwide attention and adulation. While
Armstrong wasn’t at his best today- “I’m still not 100% recovered from the
stomach bug I had earlier this week”- his efforts, as well as those of U.S.
Postal Services teammates like 2000 Olympic gold medalist Viatcheslav
Ekimov, put Hincapie in the position to win.

Of course, in the early going, it looked like U.S. Postal had been left
completely out in the cold, as a seven-man breakaway that contained three
Saturn riders- but not a single ‘Postman’- escaped the strong international
field just 13 miles into the 125-mile race. The group consistently gained
time on the rest, due largely to the efforts of Saturn rider Eric Wohlberg
(“He was driving at the front of the break like a freight train!” marveled
U.S. Postal team director Frankie Andreu). By the 55-mile mark, Saturn’s
efforts were shedding riders and amassing a lead of over two minutes. And
that’s when the sleeping giant, U.S. Postal Service, came to life.

With Armstrong and Ekimov forcing the pace, the field shattered, and a chase
group of 14 coalesced. After an eighteen-mile chase, the group had closed in
on the remaining leaders, and that’s when the race really began. A new
quartet formed, with holdover Klasna being joined by Barry, Hincapie, and,
for a time, Mark Walters (Navigators) in what looked to be the decisive
move. With the advantage of numbers, Saturn looked to be in the driver’s
seat- though Barry and Klasna were quick to dispel that illusion. “Even
though there were two of us in there, I was NEVER confident, “ said Barry
afterwards. That opinion was echoed by Klasna, who added that “I wouldn’t
have been confident unless we’d have dropped him on the last climb- and
maybe not even then!”

As it turned out, the Saturn duo was correct to be concerned, as, with just
two miles remaining, Hincapie decided to roll the dice and launched an
attack on the final climb. Barry and Klasna hesitated, and that was the
race. Though Barry managed to close to within a second at the finish line,
their efforts weren’t quite enough, as Hincapie held on for the victory.

Afterwards, all three men waxed enthusiastic about their first racing
experience in San Francisco, and about the crowds in particular. “It was
incredible, better than the World Championships”, said Barry. “To race in
front of a North American crowd this size, and for a North American team, it
was just incredible.” Klasna agreed: “Going up the climb, I was smiling
every time!” And so were the estimated 350,000 San Franciscans lining the
race course. When asked by race announcers whether they wanted the San
Francisco Grand Prix back in 2002, the answer was a resounding ‘YES!’

In the BMC Software Grand Prix standings, Vassili Davidenko moved into first
place overall as a result of his seventh-place finish. The BMC Software
Grand Prix series concludes on Sunday, September 16th, with the BMC Software
Tour of Houston.

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