Travis McCabe (Holowesko-Citadel) could almost taste victory at the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic but ended up a disappointing second place behind winner Eduard Prades (Caja Rural Seguros-RGA). After riding into the day's breakaway, which the main field caught on the last lap, the American sprinter was simply out of bullets in the final sprint to the top of Manayunk Wall.
"I'm disappointed with second but at the same time I'm happy too," McCabe told Cyclingnews. "I don't mind losing when I give it 100 per cent."
In past years, a breakaway in the men's race has taken off early, sometimes on the first lap. On Sunday, however, it took four of the nine laps for the breakaway to finally develop. The move was large with more than 15 riders, and McCabe was a slightly late addition, joining the leaders after bridging across on Lemon Hill.
McCabe's teammate Robbie Squire was also in the move, and the pair worked tirelessly to secure him the KOM points on Lemon Hill and Manayunk Wall on each lap. When Squire picked up all the points he needed to win the jersey, McCabe turned his attention to the finishing sprint.
"I was in the breakaway all day, helping Rob Squire get the KOM jersey, which is what he was going for," McCabe said.
"I saw a chance to get into the breakaway, and I made the jump. It was a risky move. I bridged up to it on Lemon Hill. It was a 15-guy breakaway, and the riders were committed to working. I pulled through occasionally, but I knew that I was saving it for the end."
The peloton caught the breakaway on Manayunk with one to go. The end of the race came in the form of a Holowesko-led peloton up Main Street Manayunk and through the chicane into the base of the final climb up the unforgivingly steep wall.
McCabe was still there. When he's fresh, he's one of the toughest riders to beat in the US right now, but after being in the breakaway, his sprint was uncertain. His teammate Oscar Clarke got him to the base of the climb in the third wheel and then pulled off as the sprint ensued.
"One of the Academy riders went all-out to the base of the steep part, and I was on his wheel," McCabe said. "When he pulled off, I looked around, and I had a five-metre gap. I was riding well, and I felt good so I just committed to attacking up the climb. I went right into the base of the steep part, went all-out, went a little early."
Macro Canola (UnitedHealthcare) closed the ground to McCabe on the steepest section and momentarily passed him, but McCabe used his last bullet to pass the Italian back and saw a clear shot at victory. But as the climb levelled off with 100 metres to go, Caja Rural's Prades launched himself off McCabe's wheel and took the win by roughly five bike lengths. McCabe finished second and Canola third.
Asked if he felt like he spent that last bullet earlier in the race during the breakaway, McCabe said, "Maybe. There were definitely a couple of times where I spent a few bullets when I didn't need to, but we raced aggressively.
"I went early in the last sprint on Manayunk, earlier then I initially planned. I took a chance and I committed. It would have been great to win – maybe next year."