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Commerce Bank Triple Crown

USA, June 4-11, 2006

Philly Week 2006: Triple Crown Instead of Stars and Stripes

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

Chris Wherry (Health Net) wins Philly in 2005
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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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.

The Races

Ina Teutenberg (T-Mobile) takes the 2005 Liberty Classic
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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Philly week is truly now a week with the move of Lancaster to the Sunday before. The course is the same as in previous editions, which means it will be fast from the start. A small winding and narrow climb through Central Park on the back of the course does not look like much, but will slowly affect the riders after they climb it thirteen times over ninety-one miles. This is also the best viewing spot for spectators as it serves as the feed zone and KOM. While a large break did stay away last year, it was made up of mostly sprinters with Health Net-Maxxis' Greg Henderson finishing first.

The riders get an extended rest before heading to the only new race in Reading on Thursday -- and they will likely need it. No longer will the sprinters have their day on the flat and fast course in Trenton. The Reading course is seventy-five miles over ten trips between downtown and Mount Penn with a final one-mile climb added on the last lap.

Sunday in Philadelphia still means Manayunk, as in the Manayunk Wall. With 156 miles and ten times up the 17% climb for the men and 57 miles with five ascents for the women, the course will make the selection process painful for many riders. Ina Teutenberg (T-Mobile) and Chris Wherry (Toyota-United Pro) are both back to defend their titles, and for the first time ever the stars and stipes will be worn during the race.