By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
The last time the triple crown concept was in place for the Philly week of races, a guy named Lance defied the odds and took home $1 million and a national championship for his efforts. A lot has changed since then - Lance is now retired, a new title sponsor has stepped in, the USPRO championship is no longer available to the first American across the line in Philly and a triple crown winner will drive away in a new car instead of as a millionaire.
But regardless of these changes, the conventional wisdom is that it is good to see Philly Week still up and running after a year of uncertainty and races such as San Francisco falling off the calendar. Will it compare to the races of the past two decades, such as Lance's win or last year's all-American podium? Only time will tell.
Another noticeable change this year is the lack of some ProTour squads, who previously made the trip in an effort to allow their American riders a chance to win their national championship. Without this incentive, most ProTour teams like Discovery Channel are spending their first week of June in Europe, preparing for the pre-Tour races. CSC is the only ProTour squad to make the trip, mostly to support their own race the Saturday before in Arlington, Virginia.
This does increase the chances for the usual contingent of top American teams. In addition, with more room on the starting line, a few more American teams will get the chance to start and gain valuable exposure for their sponsors as well as experience for their younger riders..
A positive change to the racing this week is the increase in professional women's racing opportunities. In addition to the Liberty Classic, the women will be racing criteriums that coincide with the men's racing in Lancaster and Reading. In a time that is seeing the shrinking of the professional women's calendar, the addition of races is a good sign no matter where and how they come.