June 6, 2011 (Philadelphia, PA) – Canada was well represented on Sunday at both the 251km TD Bank Philadelphia International Championship and the 92.7km Liberty Classic. A strong field of twelve Canadian men and seventeen Canadian women were poised for battle at these prestigious North American single-day road races.
Current National road champion Joëlle Numainville, of team Tibco/To the Top, and Lex Albrecht, of Juvéderm-Specialized, were two of Canada’s leading women riders on the start line. On the men’s side, Canada’s own Team SpiderTech powered by C10, led by 1984 Olympic silver medalist Steve Bauer, came to the TD Bank Philadelphia International Championship targeting a win.
Cloudy skies and a temperature of 20 degrees Celsius at the start promised fast times, with the potential to break the six-hour mark in the men’s race, for a distance of 250km over 15 laps. Ten of those laps included the Manayunk Wall climb, renowned for its 17% grade, noisy and enthusiastic crowds, and expected attacks after cresting the top of the wall.
In the men’s race, the day started on a very promising note for SpiderTech. Fresh off Pat McCarty’s King of the Mountain honours at the Amgen Tour of California in May, Team SpiderTech brought a strong contingent to Philadelphia, aiming to claim one, if not multiple, spots on the podium.
From the start, Quebec City’s Bruno Langlois got away in a five-men breakaway, initiated by Glen Chadwick from New Zealand’s PureBlack Cycling, building a lead of over four minutes by the second lap. The five men, Langlois, Chadwick, Alex Hagman (Jelly Belly), Roman Kilun (Kenda-5 hour Energy), Quinn Keogh (Exergy) managed to increase their lead to 9:45 after the fourth lap by powering their way up Manayunk Wall faster than the rest of the field. The peloton seemed disinterested in the action up front for the best part of the race, allowing the five men to set their own pace without trying to reign them back in.
But slowly the gap dropped as the peloton came alive. By the eighth lap the lead had shrunk to just over 2 min. and the five leaders were joined by three riders who escaped from the peloton. But on the final lap with the peloton bearing down on them the break splintered and was now down to four, as the two ProTour teams in the race, HTC-Highroad and Liquigas-Cannondale, increased the pace. With one short finishing lap to go, the break was caught for good, and preparations for a bunch sprint were now in order.
For Team SpiderTech Langlois’ presence in the break all day was the perfect setup for his team to position sprinter Keven Lacombe and his leadout man Martin Gilbert in the peloton, ensuring that the two were in the right place at the right time to take part in what was sure to be an aggressive and fast sprint to the finish.
With 800 meters to go, the Spider Boys’ dreams for a podium position came to a grinding halt, as Lacombe went down. Pedal met with his leadout man Gilbert after the race, “We were in the curve of the roundabout, when Keven’s wheel touched Sagan’s back wheel, and he went down. I went right into Keven, and Pat (McCarty), who was behind me, crashed into me. Fortunately, no one was badly hurt, no broken bones. But it’s disappointing. After six hours of work, we were ready, and believed in our chance to win. There were three of us, strong and in the right place, so we knew we had a really good chance.
“Bruno did a great job up front all day, so the rest of us didn’t have to work too hard back in the pack. Keven and I were well protected by the rest of the team, so we could position ourselves perfectly. We were poised for the sprint, ready to attack, so it’s definitely disappointing. We’ll now have to wait for the next race.”
“It’s really tough on Keven Lacombe,” said team director Steve Bauer. “The team rode so awesome today with Bruno Langlois setting the stage in a break all day. The men were ready for the final 500-meter straight line, but bad luck killed our chance to win today.”
The final sprint saw Team HTC-Highroad claim the top step of the podium for a third year in a row, with Alex Rasmussen getting across the finish line in a near-photo finish ahead of Sagan, of Liquigas-Cannondale, with Robert Förster, of United Healthcare in third.
Rasmussen commented after the race, “It was a tough finish. It’s the first time I raced against Peter (Sagan). Our team messed up (our leadout) in the end, and I was the only one there, so I just went for it.”
Sagan, just twenty-one years-old, was second last year in Philly, and was hoping to take first place this year, but was denied once more. With recent podium finishes at the Amgen Tour of California, including a stage win and the green jersey, not to mention a first overall in the GC at the Giro di Sardinia earlier this year, Sagan will continue to be a rider to watch.
Liberty Classic – Albrecht Supreme
In the women’s 92.7km (4x23km) Liberty Classic race, won by Canada’s Clara Hughes in 1997, Lex Albrecht, of Team Juvéderm-Specialized, was hailed Queen of the Mountain, while Numainville was just off the podium in fourth. Reigning world champion Giorgia Bronzini (Ita), racing for Team Colavita Forno d’Asolo, took top honours.
Albrecht collected her climbing points after taking the overall lead early in the race in a solo breakaway. She succeeded in staying away, and maintained that lead until the very last lap, earning her the Queen of the Mountain title. On the final climb up the Manayunk Wall, Numainville showed her depth and great strength as she looked in perfect shape for a podium position.
Twenty-four year old Albrecht is having a fantastic season. She recently took first place in the GC at the Grand Prix St-Raymond, another first at the Tour of the Battenkill, and Best Young Rider awards at the Tour of the Gila and the San Dimas Stage Race. She was in Philadelphia last year, but suffered a crash and had to abandon. She was therefore highly motivated and eager to redeem herself this year, in a race that she enjoys. Winning the Queen of the Mountain (QOM) title on Sunday provided that redemption.
Pedal caught up with Albrecht after the race yesterday, “It was really tough for me to have to abandon the race last year after crashing. The team’s plan [then] was to work for me, and eventhough the circumstances were out of my control I couldn’t help but feel like I’d let them down. Plus, I absolutely loved the course and was loving the atmosphere that the fans created. I’ve been looking forward to having another shot at racing the Liberty Classic ever since. It really makes bringing home the Queen of The Mountain title that much more special.
“Juvéderm- Specialized’s plan was in part for me to go for the QOM points. My legs felt good the day before the race, and I was pretty pumped about getting a chance to go for the title, I felt up to the challenge. I wasn’t planning on going solo, but after getting a gap on the first climb I decided to go with it. I knew that I had five teammates ready to counter if I got pulled back, and not much to lose!
“Today was good preparation for the Canadian Nationals which will be in Burlington in a few weeks. Plus, another race well-done always adds more confidence in the bank. I’m sure we’ll be reaping the benefits for the rest of the season. I’m happy with how the race played out. It was a blast. And I’m glad I splurged on French toast for breakfast…!,” added Albrecht.
Reigning National champ Numainville, just off a second place finish at the Grand Prix Cycliste Gatineau road race last month, fought hard in the final sprint, but in the end, missed the podium. She was disappointed with her fourth place.
“The Liberty Classic is such a fun race, and was a high priority for the team and for me. I think I came out a bit too late in the final sprint, and got caught in the fiasco that was the bunch sprint, and just couldn’t get across the line fast enough. Fourth place is not a disaster, but I certainly was aiming for the podium, so it is disappointing.
“I’ll have to think about what I could have done better today. Now it’s time to move beyond this, and start focusing on up-coming races. I’ll be giving 110% at the Canadian Championships in Burlington later this month. Of course, I’d love to repeat my performance of last year!”
Overall results for the men’s race saw top Canadian Benjamin Chaddock of Team Exergy take the 45th position, followed by Zach Bell of Team SpiderTech powered by C10 in 52nd, and Andrew Pinfold of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling in 53rd. Rasmussen’s winning time was 5:59:04, just under the 6-hour mark.
In the women’s Liberty Classic, Numainville’s 4th place was the top Canadian finish, followed by Joanie Caron of Juvéderm-Specialized in 14th, Leah Guloien of Missing Link Coaching Systems in 21st, and Denise Ramsden of Juvéderm-Specialized in 23rd. The winning time for the 92km women’s race was 2:28:28.
Women’s results HERE.
Men’s results HERE.