June 11, 2008
I'm currently sitting in the Team Type 1 van en route to St Georges for my fourth run at the Tour de Beauce, so what better time to reflect of the final race of the Commerce Bank Triple Crown, Philadelphia. It was my first time at the race and it was everything I expected it to be after hearing so much about the pinnacle of cycling races in the States! You name and it happened to me, punctures, crashes, cyclo-cross bike changes and even had time to drink a beer whilst in a break! But more on that later.
So here we were 9 AM on a Sunday morning, in downtown Philly with 251 kilometres ahead of us in searing temperatures! We were all sweating up a storm before the race had even started. I had poked a heap of ice cubes into the vents of my LAS Helmet before lining up and it worked a real treat for at least 10 minutes.
The trick for today was going to be hydrate, hydrate and - when you thought of it - hydrate some more. The course was basically 16 laps - three small ones around the start/finish line at the beginning (crowd pleasers) and then 10 big laps which included the infamous Manayunk wall. The climb is roughly one kilometre long with a nastily steep 300 metre section half way, also on the big laps were two smaller climbs one of which we raced over in the final three smaller laps (Lemon Hill)
The race started a little more casual than normal, but it wasn't too long before the first of 10 battles into the wall were about to commence. I played it casually on the first couple of runs up the wall, not trying to fight too much into it.
Small breaks were sliding off the front but nothing sticking as yet. Lap three saw a nasty spill right at the front of the field on Kelly Drive, taking down several riders. One CSC lad was heard talking on his radio to his team car "I have fallen really, really bad!" Can't be that bad mate if ya can talk still? But I guess he wanted to get his point across? I was only a few wheels behind the spill, but managed to bank a hard right and get around it.
A few riders had eventually rolled off the front in ones and twos and eventually formed a six rider break. The field was content for at least one lap to let it roll out a bit, allowing time for a bit of refueling and toilet breaks. After my pit stop I was rolling back up to the field when my rear wheel went flat. No matter, the bunch was cruising so a pretty well time mechanical. I'd started the day with front and rear Zipp 202s while everyone else had 404s, I chose them as I thought it would make the climbing a lot better. But now I had a rear 404 and front 202 an even better combo.
The break was out over eight minutes now, which sparked a chase by a few teams. We were entering our seventh run up the Manayunk wall and positioning was getting more and more important as we were getting closer to the business end.
I had been riding the left hand side of the bunch moving up into the climb but this time around I thought I'd try the right. Turned out it wasn't the best planned move, about 500 metres out from the bottom of the climb a Toyota and a Bissell rider came together and sprawled themselves all over the road. I thought I was safe but at the last minute one of the bikes slid further out in front of me leaving me with nowhere to go and with a commando roll to follow.
I smashed my knee pretty hard and had ripped a bit of skin off it with a heap of blood trickling out. I tried to get my bike going again but the chain was tangled good so I just licked my wounds for a bit and waited for Eric, one of our mechanics, to rush to my trusty steed's aid. Back on again and out the ass big time - I rode the climb as hard as I could to get back, diving in and out of the caravan that followed the race. I'd like to thank a couple of spectators that pointed out to me that I was coming last while I chased back on. Thanks guys, I hadn't realised.
I eventually got back on but I'd bent my rear derailleur so the gear changing wasn't going well, I had nearly launched myself over the bars a couple times with the odd chain slip! So next up was a bike change. I don't really like doing them as the spares are never the same as your race bike, no matter how close you can get the position. But I had no choice, I still wanted to race, so coming around through the feed zone with four big laps left Doug was waiting with the spare, I dove up the inside of the field locked up my bike, slid of the back and jumped onto the other one in one sweet motion. The bike felt pretty weird but had to deal with it.
The eighth run up the wall was going to be a faster one, so I tried moving up a fair bit and got myself into a good position into the climb but half way up the my chain jammed between the top cog (26) and the spokes. Strange but true! I managed to get the chain working again and Fabio just so happened to turn up just as I was trying to get going again and gave me a great push.
The bunch had split into two groups now, with me being in the back one and my gears weren't working the best and cracking me a bit. As my group came back to the front I saw two guys just off the front, with the momentum I carried I zipped around the outside of the peloton and jumped across to the front two riders.
Once there I saw it was Svein Tuft from Symetrics (strong as an Ox and great break away rider) and a Mexican from the Tecos Team (not so good in a break away, they'll try anything not to pull a turn!) The field let us ride off for a bit which was great having not to worry about fighting for position into the climb the final two times and being able to soak up the atmosphere of the crowds.
I joked to Eric the night before about grabbing a beer out of the crowd up the wall and on the second last run up there in the break opportunity beckoned! Out from the crowd came this shiny freshly cracked icy cold can of beer and I grabbed that sucker, which obviously pleased the crowd, they couldn't believe it. I necked half the can like in a commercial and launched the remains over the heads of some spectators further up who were equally surprised. It tasted great to be quite honest and refreshing to say the least! I didn't realise at the time, but out team car was behind and saw me grab it also and gave 'em a good laugh. They reckon if it was on film that it should of gotten the play of the week on ESPN. That would be a classic!
Anyway, we kept working out there but the time was coming down fast as the closing stages of the race were upon us. I guess we were caught with around 13 kilometres to go just over Lemon hill for the last time on the big laps. The field was still about 70 strong, one of the biggest groups ever to race into the finish of Philly.
The attacks just started flying with three small laps left, with the most substantial coming from our own Jonesy and Rory Sutherland. They dangled out in front of the field for almost a lap but it was defiantly too fast back in the field for anything to stick. With one to go it was all back together and teams were trying to set up their main men for one last kick. Coming around with 500 metres to go the field was spread across the road and it was everyman for them selves it seemed. Matti Breschel got the win and saved CSC's week nicely.
Moises had a good ride coming home in seventh with Choco having another good run finishing in the top 20 for his third time this week. I cruised in on the back of the field, feeling a bit baked and fried from the six hours and 20 minutes in the sun. By the end of the race I was sucking down and pouring up to four bottles [of water, rather than beer we presume - Ed.] a lap! In total I would have gone through at least 25 bottles in the entire race.
So now after an epic I'm now sitting in my hotel room in St Georges, Qubec, Canada. I'm off for a rub now, so catch you all soon.