June 9, 2008
Hey Troops, Well I'm down in Philadelphia kicking back in the Crowne Plaza resting up for the Queen of all events in the USA when I bumped into the Cyclingnews gang lingering around the foyer. They've twisted my arm and so now I'll give you a quick up to date on what has been so far in the Commerce Bank Triple Crown.
First up was the newly anticipated Lehigh Valley Classic in Downtown Allentown, 137 kilometres around a twisting 11.4-kilometre circuit with some short little power climbs and a nasty 500-metre bump about 1.5 kilometres from the finish. As expected the pace was high and the breaks kept rolling off the front. We had tried on numerous occasions to force some moves but with no success. It wasn't until over half the race completed when a group of four riders had ridden clear and snuck out to over a minute before a couple of teams gave chase.
Just before that began though the bunch had been cruising along taking a break when of course a touch of wheels brought a number of riders down (we can race at ridiculous speeds all day, but when the bunch slows down that's when the spills happen, I guess guys just relax too much?). I had just started having a chat to one of my old Navigator team-mates, David O'Loughlin, who races out of Ireland with his Pezula Racing Team when this had happened, we both ended up doing a bit of off road riding through some grass, guide posts and trees. I rode past looking to see if no TT1 lads went down – all good there. But Trent Wilson looked like he'd had a bad landing holding his wrist. Turns out he has broken it but is still going to give Philly a crack – Hard as nails.
Back to the race. As the break was being reeled in with two laps to go I decided to have a go and went off the front across to the break, on doing this I caused a few more riders to launch and before we knew it we were a group of 10 with 30 seconds on the field and under 20 kilometres of racing left. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the break didn't work well. We were coming back fast to the field so I gave it one last shot up the climb before the finish to force the pace and maybe disrupt the bunch back behind us. However, it was all back together with just under one lap to go.
Matty jumped into a move through the park one last time and tried to foil the sprinters, but nearing the final kilometres it looked as though the quick men would have their day. The sprint was pretty disorganised and a CSC rider dangled out in front in the closing metres, but he was swallowed up as the sprint for the line swarmed in. The finale was slightly down hill into the line and showed as the sprint was done in the seat. Yuri Mitlushenko grabbed the win ahead of Karl Menzies. It turned out to be a photo finish as Yuri threw his hands a tad early and big Karl was storming home.
Race two was held in Reading and the same circuit as previous years, 119 kilometres around the streets of Reading, 10 laps in total, but the final three laps seeing us tackle Mount Penn at the top end of the circuit.
The race was on from the gun again, but a few riders had missed the start so the first lap ended up being run under a yellow flag and neutralised. Of course, once again, the slowing of the bunch caused a big pile up. Matty and Jonesy got taken out, but ended up okay; just a lot of tangled bikes and equipment.
With nine to go, we were away again; breaks were going away and coming back just as quick. The whole squad was being aggressive all day and making it into all the moves. The pace was on for young and old as we rode into the first of three runs up Mount Penn. I guess in total it was about 2.5 kilometres long with a few switch backs but not too steep, just the pace made it tougher. Moises launched across to a dangerous move that had most teams represented, but coming into the second run up the climb it was back together again. I decided to give it a go this time up. Eventually, a group of four thundered past me by the top, which included Moises again and Kobza; "good odds," I thought. I eased up to try and give them a gap and not drag anything across to them.
I had a front row seat for the final lap as I watched guys bury themselves on the front to try and bring back the four escapees. I never dropped back more than four spots, which was fine by me as I could imagine the scraps going on back behind me for position. Oscar Sevilla was up front with Kobza and Moises and tearing their legs off. On the last run up the climb, he was no where to be seen; Moises had done his job and Kobza still lingered out in front between Oscar and the peloton.
Just as we started the final climb, a High Road rider shot out of the field like a goddamn bullet which left most of us with thinking "what was that blur?" He'd jumped across to Kobza and then kept on going in pursuit of Sevilla. With about 1200 metres left on the climb and Kobza coming back, Matty yelled at me to go so I went as hard as I could solo and caught Kobza near the top. We were actually coming back up to the High Road lad, and another 500 metres and we would of had him, but once the climb was done it was pretty much a drag race back down to the finish line with a few sketchy corners. He was just there in front of us two, but we couldn't close it. With one kilometre to go, we were caught by the remnants of the field and a sprint for third was on. Sevilla got the win by six seconds to the High Road guy and the bunch was a further three seconds back.
We're animating a lot of things, but we just can't to close the deals.
The bunch kick was a bit wild in the closing corners and it showed after the line with a High Road rider getting angry with a Colavita rider. It was very loud and rough, but once the High Road guy realised that his sparring partner wasn't going to take it he took a back step himself and got outta there.
Tomorrow [Sunday] – the Philadelphia International – is a whole different story! Its 257 kilometres long, which is as long as the first and second races combined. 10 times up the infamous Manayunk climb, which will indeed crack a lot of souls and hearts. Oh and I forgot to mention how stinking damn hot it is here today, its supposed to be only 35°C/95°F today. but that's in the shade! Tomorrow, they are forecasting at least 38°C/100°F, which I can tell you out in the sun with the heat reflecting off the road we're looking at 40+/104+.
Time to kick the tires and light the fires! Nasty, Nasty Nasty :)