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Commerce Bank Triple Crown - 1.HC
USA, June 3-8, 2008
Race 5 - June 8: Philadelphia International Championship, 251.0km/156mi
Breschel's patience pays off in hot sprint
By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
CSC repeats Philly win, Breschel wins triple crown
The expected sizzling temperatures forecast for today's Philadelphia International Championship did not disappoint, as the mercury rose from the low 80s (30 Celsius) in the beginning of the race to 98 degrees (36 Celsius) by the finish more than six hours and 156 miles (251km) later. This resulted in one of the slowest races in the 24 year history and seemed to doom any breakaway from surviving.
Back in the peloton the CSC team kept their cool - both literally and figuratively - making sure their riders were topped off with fluids and not working too hard, gambling that it would be a field sprint. And the plan worked, as the young Matti Breschel was set-up ideally coming into the long final straightaway. The 23 year-old Danish rider held-off his sprint until the perfect moment, keeping Kirk O'Bee (Health Net-Maxxis) and Freddie Rodriguez (Rock Racing) from coming around him on the line.
"We only had six riders and not such a strong team," said Breschel about his team's strategy for the day. "We know this distance from racing in Europe and we know to take care of ourselves - and wait, wait, wait the whole time. In the end we put one guy in front to pull with the other teams but otherwise everybody took in easy."
"It's a really hard sprint, and it's not my style to wait the whole day," Breschel continued. "I tried it out a couple of times on the wall but I knew when we went on the three last laps it was coming down to a sprint, so I took it easy and prepared myself. I was by myself on the last lap and I didn't have a good position over Lemon Hill, so I struggled to get a good position before the roundabout. I got a good position on the right side and took it easy for a few meters."
From there it was only Health Net-Maxxis able to have any organized effort with John Murphy leading-out the US criterium champion Kirk O'Bee. "Going into the last kilometre I saw him [in front] but he was on the left and I was on the right," Murphy told Cyclingnews. But as soon as we hit the fountain he got to the outside and I said, 'Let's go!' It was awesome, I don't know if he saw me or what, because as soon as we connected I took him all the way."
But the infamous finish stretch in Philly is deceivingly long and with a stiff headwind Health Net was one rider too few, and with 200 meters to go Murphy's thermostat redlined. "We were going and I think [Kirk] was waiting but I started to die. The CSC guy jumped us and then [Kirk] went, but I was tunnel-vision at that point!"
Despite coming up just a few meters too short, O'Bee was all praises for his team's efforts. "I was in the totally wrong position until 1km to go. I was just sitting at the back conserving [at 3km] but luckily Frank [Pipp] was back there with. Frank took me up Lemon Hill all the way into the roundabout. Then Murphy was behind me and gave me a perfect lead-out! He was a little bit short by like 50 meters but the CSC jumped with a strong jump, so what can you do?"
In third was former winner Freddie Rodriguez. The veteran champ got an easy rider early in the race with teammate Tyler Hamilton in the first break. But coming into the final time up Manayunk and into the finish, he knew from experience he had to be clever on the front. "With 2km to go over Lemon HIll we got a gap with about five guys and I had to make sure I was there. I did that and then coming into the last kilometre it is always a little sketchy, but once you hit the corner it always is smoother."
"Health Net did a good job in the lead-out for O'Bee. But it bogged down, understandably, in the final 200 meters because of the headwind that was really strong, and CSC played it right to come from behind with speed. Kirk had good legs today and we both were just on the front too early. I hit the famous pothole on the street and almost lost it, and I just came off O'Bee's wheel. It's been there since we started racing and I think over the years it is settling more and more!"
Earning the title king of the wall was Davide Frattini (Colavita-Sutter Home who gained his lead by virtue of being in the main break of the day. The Italian rider said he was not planning on going for the points, but was trying to take the pressure off his protected teammates such as Sebastian Haedo.
"When CSC and High Road wasn't there I knew it would be difficult, so I had to try and save the legs for my teammates," he said. "I was to help Alejandro Barrajo and [Sebastian] Haedo, but unfortunately we lost [Haedo] in a crash. I wasn't going for the KOM but I set the tempo on the climb. The first two or three [laps] the Jittery Joe's guys passed me so I told him to go for the KOM but on the next lap he wasn't there anymore. So I thought yeah, okay, now I am going for it!"
The heat, which by some thermometers on course hit 100 F (38C), was definitely a factor all day, but also in the field sprint. Big names such as former winners Greg Henderson (High Road) and Henk Vogels (Toyota-United) were not there, nor speedsters like Ivan Dominguez (Toyota-United) or Daniele Bennati (Liquigas).
"It was just a really tough day, that was a survival sprint!" said sixth place Tyler Farrar (Slipstream-Chipotle-H30). "I saw Eisel moving up so I followed him but the legs were just locking up in final 100 meters."
Teams were doing just about anything to beat the heat, in addition to the huge amounts of cool liquids. "We were getting socks full of ice every lap, sticking them down the back," said Farrar. "I don't even know how many bottles I drank today - I don't remember the last time I raced in weather this hot."
The sixth place was even more impressive for Farrar who had recently been sidelined by an infection. "This was the first week of racing I have done since Georgia. I was supposed to to Picardie and Catalonia, but I got this really weird infection in my saliva glands and spent four days in the hospital. I was already on a two week break and it turned into four weeks off the bike. But my speed is coming back fast and this might set me up well for July if the team decides to take me to the Tour."
Breschel's win here was much bigger in context, as the Dane had suffered a horrible crash in early 2006, nearly ending his career as he entered his twenties. For him, the prestige that this race has garnered over the years made the win his biggest yet. "I had some nice victories but this is the biggest, that is for sure," he said. "They know the race over there. There is a lot of prestige in the race - it used to be the American championship so they know Philadelphia over there."
How it unfolded
The opening kilometres were much slower than usual for the 190 starters, likely due to the expected temperature spike later in the day. Much of the first large lap out to Manayunk was spread across the road. Coming into 'the wall' the usual sprint to the turns before the climb were slower than before. Finally, in the final 500 meters before the tight chicane Slipstream-Chipotle moved to the front. Their captain Magnus Backstedt led the charge, towing a few of his teammates to the bottom in perfect position.
The first time up the wall was all the peloton needed to spring into action. On the 'fall off the wall' the peloton split, and attacks began. Everyone seemed to want to be in the first move of the day as some predictions were that a good early move might stick due to the heat.
The first main break of the day did not come until the fourth lap, consisting of Edward King (Bissell Pro Cycling Team), Davide Frattini (Colavita-Sutter Home), Brad White (Team Successful living), Daniel Ramsay (Time Pro Cycling), Benjamin Kneller (Jittery Joe's), Richard Geng (Rite Aid Pro Cycling) and Tyler Hamilton (Rock Racing).
This break had the biggest gap on the day at around 8:30, but the heat made short work of chasing them down. A few laps later the break had shed Geng and Kneller, with the others still pushing on. But the gap to the field had been cut in half with teams such as High Road and Slipstream doing a lot of the work.
On a later lap the wall had taken a huge bite out of the peloton, causing a split about halfway back. A group of 20 riders formed a chase group with some pretty major names in it. This brought the break even closer. Inside of a minute the peloton and reformed and the break continued to dangle. Magnus Backstedt decided to try to jump across and suffered in the gap for a few kilometres. But once he made it across the field was within sight.
Approaching the wall the next lap all but Frattini had been caught, with the Italian deciding to give it a push to at least secure the KOM lead. In the usual counter attacking after a catch, two riders slipped away - the powerhouse Canadian Svein Tuft (Symmetrics) and Francisco Matamoros (Tecos-Trek). Not long after another well-known break rider Glen Chadwick (Team Type 1) joined the duo. While Matamoros was not feeling well enough to pull, the other two committed themselves.
"As soon as Chadey came up and we rolled it the Tecos guy started wavering," said Tuft. "I would have never rolled it if it wasn't Chadey, but if you have two strong riders I don't care what the Mexican did - he wasn't going to be a factor so you just put your head down and go. We had a gap and the field was screwing around, so you just play it the best you can."
"I actually crashed a couple of laps before," Chadwick told Cyclingnews. "I bent my deralier and had a bike change. On Manayunk my chain got caught between the 23 and spokes, and the bunch split. As we caught back on I had some momentum and so I just put the hammer down."
After catching the two, Chadwick immediately took the front. "Tuft and I were working well but Tecos rider just wouldn't pull with his. I think that's just the way they ride. We tell them to ride but they'll just point to their ear piece and point back to the team car. He did come through a couple of times , but we could have stayed out a bit more if he'd worked and it would have meant me and Tuft would have been a bit stronger."
"The first few laps I didn't feel well and I wasn't pulling," Metamoros said. "I didn't pull until the last lap [we were away.] This course isn't for me as much, I like to climb more, but it was still a great course."
The last time up the wall the break was inside of one minute, and Chadwick made sure he rode under O'Brien's watering hole. Chadwick's break mate Tuft said that access to the spray fountain set-up by the pub on the wall was pretty fair all day in the bunch, adding that it made things a little nicer on the steep climb. "It was pretty fair because it was always strung out, but that was sure nice!"
As they headed back to Lemon Hill with only the three finishing laps ahead of them the break was caught... well all except Tuft who decided to go it alone. He lasted all the way through the finish line and onto Lemon Hill before the effort sank him. "As soon as you put a long effort in out there you start feeling it," he said about the heat. And then lights are going out!"
Lemon Hill was the launching pad for the rest of the attacks with Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing) over the top first the penultimate time. But it was Rory Sutherland (Health Net-Maxxis) and Chris Jones (Team Type 1) who converted it into a break, pushing it to 10 seconds. The final time up Lemon Hill the two break riders sat-up while Slipstream's Martijn Maaskant whacked it up the climb.
Off the climb with 2km to go it was High Road setting the early organization. But that changed as Vincente Reynes Mimo (High Road) made a last-minute solo attack at 1.5km. He was caught as the field approached 1km with no clear organization. That is when John Murphy saw his Health Net teammate Kirk O'Bee on the opposite side of the train. Luckily the Logan Square roundabout forces the lines to change, and O'Bee was then all of a sudden on the outside with Murphy able to take him around.
But the distance from the circle to the line, about 600 meters, was just too much. As Murphy ran out of gas CSC's Matti Breschel jumped around him on the left, forcing O'Bee to the other side and following Breschel as he posted-up on the line.