This past weekend was my debut with my new team Amore & Vita at the Philly Cycling Classic. It has been a long time since I had nerves before a race. The butterflies were flying around my stomach the same as when I was a Jr before a big race. I was doing my best to put those feelings behind me and not waste too much energy before race time. The lead up to the race wasn't great, I had a bunch of money stolen out of my wallet in a hotel lobby, I had a small fall in training and a hard time sleeping. Nothing major but not ideal before my first race back as a pro on my new team at one of Americas largest one-day races.
Come race day all the typical pre race happening go on; breakfast, stretching, coffee, internet, but with the noon start time a lot of time was sit to think about racing. Once the kit was on and the team was headed to the new start/finish at the top of the Manayunk wall everything started to feel normal again, back to what I love doing. Being back in Philly was great, I had one heck of an adventure in 2009 and have been in love with this race ever since. After signing in and finding a restroom I found a small park that was in the shade and really quiet with all the chaos around to have a moment of calm to clear my head and all around relax.
Once the race started a lot of the nerves had gone away, but it took a lap or so to feel comfortable. My job for the day was to save my energy for the 2nd half of the race. The first 2 laps were more or less full gas with everyone trying to be represented in the break away. On the 3rd lap up Strawberry Mansion my rear wheel popped a spoke, the team car arrived quick and the mechanic put a new wheel in. When he went to close the skewer for good it broke, he went back to the team car for another wheel and I was off shortly after. I did what I could not to panic and just took my time once I hit the caravan to move up. Its tricky having a lot of amateur teams in the race as most of their "directors" have never been in a caravan. Makes for a little more white knuckles while you are in the cars getting back up to the field. I finally got my self in to the group on Main street right before the wall.
When I made it up to the front to check out what was going on, I heard a large group had rolled off the front. With being a small team in the race we just had to be attentive at the front and be with anything that went across. That lap there wasn't much attacking, just a few teams riding a solid pace to keep the gap somewhat close. Going in to the wall the gap was maybe 15-20 seconds, I knew guys were going to try and get across so I placed my self up front at the base and rode the wheels up the hill. From about 500m to the top to about half way down the fall from the wall is a blur, but once I came to I was in the front group of 30 or so. Optum KBS had 4 guys I think and quite a few other teams had 2 guys a piece and then the rest of the solo guys. There wasn't much cohesion in a group that large so gaps were always opening and games being played at the back of the group. I had to keep my powder dry as long as possible and only make a move when it was worth it. For the next two laps the group shrank, and finally down to 12 or so. I somehow kept making the selection as the group got smaller and smaller.
Going into the bell lap I could not keep pace with he guys at front and got absorbed by the peloton half way up the climb. The last lap was pretty uneventful for me, I was just hanging on tell the climb. The climate on Manayunk only grew as the race went on and the finish was no exception. The crowd was just crazy, phenomenal, full of energy. With hands reaching beyond the barriers for high fives, who am I to refuse. Snaking from left to right I engaged the crowd to cheer and they went bonkers. The riders around needed it to make the final push to the top, a hundred miles in the Philly heat can crush a mans soul but only Manayunk could bring it back.