The heat was the major factor at today’s Philadelphia International Championship, the culmination of the 3-race Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling series. With temperatures soaring to the low 100s and humidity hovering around 80 percent, riders had to combat heat strokes and make sure that they took in enough (but not too much) hydration to survive the 156-mile (251 km) race that climbed 10-times up the 17% grade Manayunk Wall. It was already 79 degrees when the race started just after 9 a.m, and the thermostat came on going up for the next 6 hours, 14 minutes and 47 seconds, the slowest time for the race in history.
The race followed the typical pattern of early breaks reeled in by the 3 short finishing circuits and the race ends with a bunch sprint. After over 6 hours in the saddle, the reduced field charged chaotically to the line, and CSC’ Matti Breschel pulled out a victory outsprinting Kirk O’Bee (Health Net-Maxxis) for the win. Fred Rodriguez (Rock Racing) came in third.
“I was all by myself on the last lap,” explained Breschel, who did not have the benefit of a full lead-out train like some of his competitors. “But I got myself in a good position going through [Logan Circle] and was able to make a long sprint to the finish.”
On the third of the 10 long laps, a break of 7-riders finally managed to escape and included Davide Frattini (Colavita/Sutter Home), Teddy King (Bissell), Brian Jensen (Team Successfulliving), Dan Ramsay (Time), Ben Kneller (Jittery Joe’s), Richard Geng (Rite Aid) and Tyler Hamilton (Rock Racing). The gap went up to over 8 minutes before the group was reeled in with 5 laps to go, and that sounded the bell for the next move to go. Glen Chadwick (Team Type 1), Svein Tuft (Symmetrics) and Francisco Matamoros (Tecos-Trek) were off but with Chaddy and Tuft doing most if not all of the work, the trio was doomed, and Tuft gave it one last unsuccessful gasp to try and survive when the field caught them in the final long lap.
And the remaining 68 riders out of 190 riders at the start charged into the final 3 short laps, jostling for position for the final sprint, but not before one final Hail Mary break of Chris Jones (Team Type 1) and Rory Sutherland (Health Net-Maxxis). The duo’s attack disrupted any organization and it was a mad dash to the line and the 23-year old ex-model Breschel came out victorious.
“It was a crazy last lap,” explained O’Bee, who was contesting his eighth Philadelphia race. “As soon as I exited the last round-about, my teammate John Murphy led me up the left side and took me all the way to the 200-meter-to-go sign. I took it from there and almost had it, but I probably went a little early and Breschel was able to come over the top of me.”
“This is one of those races where you have to bide your time and try and play your cards right,” Rodriguez said. “As I came into the last lap, I felt good and I knew I had to be in the right place at the right time.”
“I hit the infamous pothole that’s been there every year since I started doing this race and it threw me off balance for the finish,” Rodriguez explained about losing momentum when he rode over a steel grate at the 150-meter mark on the final stretch of Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
“I took a bad decision in the final sprint and that made me miss the podium. I found myself blocked in by other riders and I didn’t find a way out.” said a disappointed pre-race Dominique Rollin (Toyota-United) who finished eighth. “Despite the heat and fatigue, I had good legs. After starting my sprint, I passed 20 or 25 riders but I took the outside line and I should have chosen the inside.”
Breschel also won the overall Triple Crown, and a $10K bonus.
“I was too much in the wind at the end,” said last year’s Tripe Crown winner Bernard Eisel (High Road). “I just didn’t have enough left after such a long day in the heat.”