As part of Philly Week (Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling), we’ve enjoyed the tasty morsels of the Lehigh Classic and the Reading Classic, and now it’s time for the spicy main dish, the Philadelphia International Championship, and for the women, the Commerce Bank Liberty Classic. Finally, both the men and the women race on the same course, a 14.4-mile circuit through Philadelphia that includes climbs up the grueling Manayunk Wall.
On Sunday, more than 200 of the world’s top male professional cyclists, divided into 25 teams, will race in the longest running and most important single-day cycling road race in the United States. The 156-mile (251 km) course includes 10 laps of a 14.4-mile (23 km) circuit, which means that they will face the climb up the 17% grade Manayunk Wall on each lap, and a finishing circuit of 3 laps of Lemon Hill and Logan Circle.
The women’s Commerce Bank Liberty Classic race consists of 4 laps of a 14.4-mile circuit through Philadelphia with 4 steep climbs up the grueling Manayunk Wall, and is raced at the same time as the men’s race. The men start at 9am and the women at 9:10am.
Historically, the men’s race has followed a certain pattern, an early break goes off and collects KOM points, is gobbled up by the main field just before the finishing circuits, and the race ends in a bunch sprint. But, not that long ago, in 2005 to be exact, Toyota-United Chris Wherry then riding for Health Net-Maxxis bucked tradition by creating a 3-man break after attacking on the final climb up Lemon Hill and outsprinting his beakmates to win. In 2002, Team RACE’s Mark Walters then riding for Navigators also broke away from a 3-man break in the last 2 miles. And Fast Freddie Rodriguez also rode away from his 5-man break in the final half mile to win in 2001.
What does this mean? It means that the attacks will be non-stop during the race, with riders focused on the KOM, such as Neil Shirley (Jittery Joe’s), Doug Ollerenshaw (Rock Racing) attacking to initiate the early break. The sprinter’s team will let the break dangle in front and time the catch in the final long lap with the goal of having a bunch sprint. The breakaway artists and opportunistic riders, such as Pennsylvania native Scott Zwizanksi (Bissell), Jeff Louder (BMC), Aaron Tuckerman (Jelly Belly) and Glen Chadwick (Team Type 1) will also be animating the race. And Reading winner Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing) is flying according to his teammates and is a threat every time the road goes up.
However the major factor is the race will be the heat. The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning for the area with projected high of 97°F (36°C) and humidity over 50%.
Riders and teams to watch. In its 24 year history, no rider has even won the Philly race more than once, and a few cyclists are hoping to change that fact, such as 2006 winner Greg Henderson (High Road) and 2001 winner Fred Rodriguez (Rock Racing). The man that everyone will be watching is the 2008 Giro Sprint jersey winner Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) racing for the first time in Philly. High Road’s combination of Henderson, last year’s Triple Crown winner Bernard Eisel and Edvald Boasson Hagen is a dangerous trio. Toyota-United’s Dominique Rollin, fifth in 2007, and Ivan Dominguez, second in 2006, and Colavita/Sutter Home Alejandro Borrajo, fourth in 2007 are all hoping to make it to the top step. Rory Sutherland (Health Net-Maxxis) is coming off a very strong sprint with multiple wins. And the list of fast men present in Philly is long and it is impossible to name all of them…. Tyler Farrar (Slipstream), Brad Huff (Jelly Belly), Charles Dionne (Successful Living), Francois Parisien (Team RACE)….(Men’s starlist)
The women‘s race has also typically finished in a bunch sprint, and German Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (High Road) is the woman to watch. She won the first 2 previous races with any teammates and for the final race, will be joined by her teammates who are just coming in from winning the Tour du Grand Montreal. And the High Road is directed by Petra Rossner, 7-time winner of the Liberty Classic. Tough combination to beat.
Regina Schleicher (Nuernberger), 2006 winner, is hoping to break Teuternberg’s streak. Other women to watch include 2007 KOM winner Kristin Armstrong (Cervelo-Lifeforce), Alex Wrubleski (Webcor), Kat Carroll (Aarons), Laura Van Gilder (Cheerwine) and Tina Pic (Colavita/Sutter Home). Frankie Andreu is joining the Proiman team as the Directeur Sportif and Shelley Olds is definitely a threat. (Women’s startlist)
If German Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (High Road) wins the Liberty Classic, she will accomplish a feat that has never been done, by either a male or female cyclist, which is win the 3 races in the Triple Crown twice. Only two cyclists have ever accomplished the hat trick: in 1993, Lance Armstrong in then-named CoreStates Championship, and he won 1 million dollars for his win; in 2007, Teutenberg repeated the feat, and won a car. Teutenberg raced her first Liberty Classic in 96, and since them she has been on the winning team everytime but once.