June 14, 2007
The big cheese, Philadelphia, Philly, Manayunk, the wall, US pro....call it what you like, it is 255km of flat stick, no "B.S" professional racing USA style. I am of course speaking of the final race in the series known as the "Triple Crown", three solid one day races culminating in the "big cheese". The Philadelphia International Championship. This race, more commonly known as "Philly" and previously called US Pro is renowned as the best, toughest, most glamorous one day race in the US of A. I was keen to see what all the fuss was about; surely it was just another bike race.....just a bit longer than normal.
The team had been on the road for quite some time and had endured mixed fortune, but we had made solid positive progression. Like men going to war we had been assigned our duties, a few of us were to shield our leaders, Willo, Cesar, and Neil. Matt Shriver was to be our key man for the early break.
As we rolled out of the start I was pondering what fortune my day may hold. I had eaten such a good breakfast I was still full, and feeling a little queazy, (there was no way I was going to crack from not eating enough) and as I was performing my pre race rituals I managed to drop my Tifosi sunglasses straight into the "porta potty". They just stared back at me, daring me to fish them out, (not a chance!) with a "do you feel lucky?" look. Dang it! Bad luck comes in three, and I realised after about 10k what that third factor of "luck" would be.....my legs felt like wood! Sweet, only 245km to go!
So we hit this climb, it's called Manayunk...I prefer to drop the "n".....Manayuk! Steep as heck and lined with East coast booze hounds, getting legless on a Sunday and smoking cigars. I was dragging my sorry ass up this thing in the 23 cog....I thought to myself "I only have to do it 9 more times". My race basically consisted of getting the boys drinks and food, helping them move up if I could and then make my way up the climb each lap as best I could.....it sure wasn't pretty....I was fighting it all day. So basically if you were to see the race through my eyes all you would have seen was the team car to get bottles, the back of the bunch, the side of the road as I moved up with 8 bottles stuffed up my jersey and then the meter of road in front of me as I snot my way up the "....yuk"!
I did this for the entire 255km. I would love to tell you about the race my team mates had, Shriver covering the early moves, Shirley nabbing the KOM jersey after smashing it up front, Big Evan, Tommy and Kingers helping Willo and Cesar up front. It was all unfolding; I just didn't have great seats to watch the show. Cesar and Willo both made the front group, a 30 rider split that occurred the last time up the wall. There was a big crash in the group with 300m to go and to pick your way through the melee was just pure good fortune. Neither Willo nor Cesar were able to show what a great day they had had. The war had ended and all the troops arrived safely back, albeit with a few stories, a few hardened faces and 10 years added to our lives...one year for each time we suffered up the "wall".
It was a great team effort and our whole team finished the entire 255km slog fest, which was run off at an amazing 44kph! Fastest ever in the races 23 year history....255km in 5 hours 45 minutes! It was great to be part of this race, and I now know what all the fuss was about...this is not "just another bike race". It was also great to see Neil Shirley up there on the podium, surrounded by T-Mobile and CSC. Not too shabby for a domestic team. This race is "bad ass", it would be nice to do more of these races on a regular basis.
I retired to my hotel bed, turned on the TV to watch yet another media scrum surrounding Paris Hilton and her "sentence".... I thought to myself as my punished body ached, "make the girl do Manayunk ten times, it might shut her up!" People, there are bigger issues going on in this world!
I am now due a bit of a break having been racing flat out since the season started. Catch you in a few weeks.