Keep those pedals spinning,
The Philadelphia International Cycling Classic is one of the most historic races in the US. Since the inaugural race in 1985 it has changed names, distances, and courses but remains one of the most famous races on the calendar. Until 2005 it was also home to the US Pro Championships, where the top American in the race was given the stars and stripes. The famous run in and finishing climb up the Manyunk Wall are written into American cycling lore in a similar way that the Fleche Wallone finishing climb of the Mur de Huy is. All week I’d heard stories about past editions, the crazy crowds on Lemon Hill, the madness of the lead-in and climb up Manyunk, and how fun the race is. I was definitely looking forward to a great day of racing and the opportunity to experience this American Classic.
One of the big changes in Philly has been the shortening of the race, from its original distance of 251km (156 miles), to a mere 177km (110 miles) means the racing is on all day long. I finished the distance in just over 4 hours, averaging 27.5 mph (44kmh) for the circuit. I have to say I’d love to see it lengthen back out and finish later in the day when more people would be out watching. The event also hosts a Women’s World Cup, the main event for the day, but I have to imagine it’d be better to have the women finish at 6 or 7 o’clock for maximum rowdiness, just my $0.02.
Our race got started at 8:00 in the morning and the race got rolling real quickly. We went up Lemon hill with a pretty small crowd watching; then again it was 8:15am. The backside of Lemon always provided some tense moments as two hard right-handers strung the field out. We’d start flying back down Kelly drive toward Manyunk single file with gaps between little groups fighting to get back to bring everything together. Then as Kelly drive heads in to Manyunk teams start ripping it to position their riders at the front in case of any splits occur up the wall. This basic scenario played out for 9 laps.
Tom and I were working on getting in the break and for 3 laps I was in top 10 up Manyunk chasing a split that never came. On the 4th lap the elastic snapped for a group of 10 over Lemon Hill with both Evan and Chris up the road. I bridged to the break with 2 to go, mostly to ensure I was there on the last lap for Chad. Thomas did a leadout for Chad and Nicholae with 2 to go so they were positioned perfectly going in to the final lap.
The break got reeled in shortly after and teams began their positioning, with Mattheiu, Chris, and Myself there to support Chad and Nicholae. Leading in to Manyunk was wild! We were riding between 30 and 35mph teams as drilled it at the front to position their riders. First UHC took control, a little too early and running out of guys, Hincapie and Rally took over with Silber coming to the front as well. Matthieu did an amazing job floating just behind the main trains so we could go as late as possible. As we headed into Manyunk up a slight uphill (still 30+ mph), then I made a big mistake. Matthieu had done a ton of work already but as a gap opened to the left and I asked him to move over, but his legs were done (rightfully so), and I got caught on the wrong side of his wheel and took myself to the curb as he went backwards. Chris was quick and got off my wheel and took Chad up but he lost a ton of places and started the climb outside the top 20. He did an amazing ride to take 6th, but I’ll be frustrated for a while thinking what if. He had the legs to get to the podium for sure, just let him down in the run-up to the last corner before the climb.
At the end of the day, even with my mistake, it was a good day for the team. We had two in the break; Matthieu had an amazing ride from splitting the field, winning the sprint jersey, and did a great setup for the finish. Chad rode to 6th and Nicholae 13th, even with poor positioning. We were active, followed every move, and definitely played a roll in the race, we’re just waiting to get a little luck and get a win. Philly was another good opportunity to learn from mistakes and gel a little more as a team. Now we’re off to Canada for 2 stage races and more opportunities to get some results.
Keep those pedals spinning,