I'll leave the blow-by-blow reporting for this race in the capable hands of cyclingnews correspondent Tim Maloney, other than to clarify a few details. Mercury never pulled the big break back in, that was all done by Domo and Navigators. MROZ did not lead nor help Navigators chase after the winning break escaped.
The day began in a relaxed manner for this writer. I distantly felt the pressure of the biggest race in America and the leadership of my 7UP/Colorado Cyclist team, but I've done Philly enough times and endured enough disappointment to know not to expect too much. After all, we are a domestic-based squad and here we were against Division I behemoths. Winning here would be David beating Goliath to the nth degree.
I knew the only way to even have a shot at making the final selection was to employ a risky tactic called "sag climbing". Guys who race the classics and grand tours in Europe have enough top level competition in their legs; they can get away with climbing at the front every lap. For those of us who race exclusively in the criterium-loaded USA calendar, you have to conserve more in the early laps. The gist of sag climbing is to get into the top 10 for the narrow corners at the base of Manayunk Wall (steep climb 1km long) and then climb at an easier pace than the rest of the bunch, reaching the summit around 50th. It's risky because Philadelphia tradition can be broken and a successful break could be established on the wall on a lap other than the last one. Last year I sag climbed the first 6 ascents of the Wall, then staying at the front for the last 4 laps.
Mistake One. I only sag climbed 3 laps this year. Perhaps I was overconfident. We ascended the Wall so slowly for the first 8 laps that I let myself be lulled into thinking I was having an unbelievable day.
Mistake Two. Last lap: good position around 10th into the bottom corners. Oh-Oh. Not much in the legs. Maybe I'll conserve at the bottom and then rev it up over the mid and top of the hill. Wrong! Mentally it is very hard to push oneself when the race is ahead of you. I'd dropped to around 20th by the middle of the climb and couldn't get going again. In hindsight I realize that I would have had to ignore my fear of "going into the red" too soon and just gotten my butt onto George or Fred's wheel ASAP from the bottom of the hill. Then let the suffering begin.
The break was once again established on the last time up the Wall, and just one member of that break was US-based. Klasna took a page from my ride last year at Philly, and even improved on it with an impressive second place. All I can say is he had excellent preseason preparation and he's having an incredible year. Congratulations, Trent!
The break was tantalizingly close for the final 30km, and I thought Saeco (major Euro team with two guys in the chasing group of 25 riders, and no one in the break) might help Navigators (who'd also missed the six man break). I knew, however, that my best chance for a top five finish had slipped away when I missed the move on the Wall. Even if the break was caught it was going to be hard for me to do much in a flat road 30-man sprint. We were five seconds behind the break in the last kilometer. In the final 500m I had good position until my favorite (not) Saeco rider "Cokehead" Commesso started knocking guys all over the place, even causing the collision that wiped out a Saturn rider's rear derailleur (at least he didn't crash right in front of me). I had to go around the melee in the wind on the right and make the best of it from there. 9th or so in the bunch sprint. Argh.
Thanks go out to my teammates who sacrificed themselves to position me at the front each lap for the Wall, and to Clark and Ryan: you guys are awesome. Way to represent little Team 7UP/Colorado Cyclist with Postal, Festina, MROZ, et al. for the first hundred miles of the race.
I replay the race over and over as I slog through the same things I do every summer day after I've been away from home for weeks. Mowing the tall grass, laundry, bills. The only way I'm going to be able to put it behind me and bury my disappointment is by getting back on the bike in another race. There are 16 weekends, half the season still remaining. And finally our team is in shape and learning to work together. Please stay tuned for a cheerier report sure to come soon.