The biggest one day race in the US. Even though it hasn't been the US National Championship in years it hasn't taken much from the feeling you get being at this race. It may not get as many Pro Tour teams or big US names, but it has the history, same great course, awesome atmosphere, and the crowds are the same as they always were.
I normally don't talk about pre rides to often, but the day before Philly this year had to be right up there as one of the more exciting. Riding the roads in Philly, riding through Manyunk, seeing other teams out riding, and all the people you really start get the feeling that this is a special event. The best part was when we were on the bike path. I've rubbed elbows in races many times, but have never rubbed elbows with guys going the opposite way as much as on this ride.
Not only that, but guys trying to open up. As soon as one guy goes hard, everyone else starts to look around, then go a little hard, but act like they're not going hard. Soon enough it's a race where no one wants to race, but most don't want to be left behind, and most want to be first to I don't know what. It's all in good fun.
To give you an idea of how much our team as changed from this year to last is that not one rider was the same on the start line. I can tell you this though, is that our team rode very well and just as we talked about the night before. There was a big split of riders the first time up the wall that included Rob Bush, Jim Stemper, and Nick Waite who wanted to go for KOM and picked up points. Perfect.
The following lap HTC picked it up as they had no one in it and more riders got across on the wall. That was the time for Luca and myself to get there and not miss out on a race that could have quickly been over. A lot of cat and mouse games began as the group was too big to work together, and riders looked to break away. A break went away before the wall the third time and as soon as we got on it, Nick went across and marked it perfectly. It was a great move that had to be down.
For the most part the rest of the race came back together and with Nick up the road that meant the rest of us could do our best to relax, eat, fuel up, and get ready for the last few laps of the 'real' race to begin. Nick did a great job working hard to go for the KOM points and was leading the competition for much of the race. Unfortunately the group split up a bit and he was caught up and back with us after 7 laps. I had great teammates, especially Hartley who took me to the front or near the front for wall. That made a huge difference.
Also since it was a bit windier this year, then years past, I made sure to stay close to the front for much of the race. Normally you can come off the wall and relax, but with the wind I wanted to be as close to the front so I didn't have as much according effect on the windy parts of the course. I think it really made a difference in saving energy.
However I was never in a great spot for the wall on the last two times and missed an opportunity to make the last break. Not saying that I could have, but without being in the right spot you never will. Regardless it came back together at the end for a field sprint. As a team we were mostly together, but started to loose numbers in the final miles as many did. The pace was still high to bring back the break and legs were cracking. Luca and I were sitting in good position for much of the final and were looking to be there in finale. With a km to go after fighting for the last 40km Luca couldn't go anymore and was out.
I was on my own trying to fight for the good wheels. I was moving up on the right when everyone came flying over to the right and I nervously tapped the breaks and lost everything. Guys went left and I couldn't get cranking again and finished near the back of the group for 26th. I'm a little disappointed in that, but would have really loved to help Luca sprint it out. Can't be to disappointed as that was my first time being there for the finish like that and my best finish.
Other then the finish what a team effort we had. Nick finished 4th in the KOM and rode the break. Jim covered moves as did Rob who at 20 finished the race. Hartley did great being the captain on the road, taking guys to the front, and getting bottles on numerous occasions. Phil jumped across to a move near the end of the race. When guys race this hard, look after you, and cover moves, it makes it easy to sit in and get the results. We rode as a team unit and the result will come. Hopefully things continue like this as in the next month we have Airforce, Claredon, Nature Valley, Hyde Park, Grandview, Fitchburg, and Meijer Grand Rapids.
I also want to give a quick shout out and thanks to the amazing support we had for the weekend. Chad for putting the team together and doing a little bit of everything at the race, Frankie for the directing and organization, Janis for massages and feeds, Will for wrenching, and Rick for being one more person in the feed zone. All we have to do and worry about is racing.