The Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling will kick off on June 3rd with the first new course in years - the Allentown "showdown", Lehigh Valley Classic. 25 teams will tackle the 12-lap, 85-mile course around Pennsylvania's third largest city. The details of the route were announced Thursday.
The course will begin its rectangular path from downtown Allentown, across the Lehigh River, and up the scenic and rolling Lehigh Parkway before returning downtown via West Hamilton Street. While by no means a climber's course, this 7.1-mile circuit will test riders with a steady stream of punchy, leg-sapping rollers. But barring the unforeseen, the endgame will likely belong to the sprinters.
"There are some hills to be sure, but I don't think it will be enough to completely break up the race," predicted Robin Zellner, the race's technical director. "If the right breakaway combination forms, then maybe something could stay away to the finish. But the course definitely favors the sprinters. The run in to the finish is dead straight for about two miles, so they'll have plenty of time to get in position."
The crux of the race will likely be the gradual rise that comes near the end of that long finishing run down West Hamilton Street. "If teams can get their sprinters to the top of that hill in one piece then it will be a drag race," added Zellner, former team director of the Kodak Gallery-Sierra Nevada cycling team. "But the last trip up that hill could definitely break things up a little. It will be all big chainring, but they won't be able to stay in the hardest gear the whole way. That could open it up to some of the crafty guys who don't rely on a big lead-out train to get them to the line."
Before the final fireworks, spectators will have ample viewing opportunities during the race that's expected to last about three hours. Look for lap times in the 20-25-minute range, making it possible for the savvy fan to catch the riders in numerous places along the course. One of the best bets will be right before the feedzone on Lehigh Parkway North, an area chock full of small climbs that will guarantee plenty of action.