Philly Bike Race
Before we even arrived in the U.S, teammate Darren Lapthorne and I enjoyed an eventful and abnormally long 43 hours of travel from Melbourne, which included a 5-hour stop over in Sydney due to mechanical failure and a mid-air medical emergency for one passenger on our flight to LA. It was definitely satisfying when we finally arrived in America, my very first time in the ‘land of the free’.
In the lead-up to the 31st Philadelphia Bike Race, we spent the first few days enjoying the training on the surrounding roads, taking in the amazing landscapes, big houses and big cars.
Our hotel was just a short trip out of Philadelphia in the area of Chester, and with rolling green hills, large acre blocks and picturesque gardens, it reminded me of back home.
An 8-man Drapac squad was all set to take to the start line and with a strong performance plan put forward, we were ready to take on the quality field.
The course was a street circuit through downtown Philadelphia which included the infamous ‘Philly Wall’, a short but steep climb with a middle section of 15% gradient.
A large 200-rider field made positioning crucial, so riding at the front was an obvious tactic. With Darren Lapthorne, Sam Spokes, Dylan Girdlestone and Jordan Kerby covering the breaks, Mal Rudolph and I were to save ourselves to help Lachlan Norris and Martin Kohler out at the finish.
The race was aggressive all day, averaging 46km’s per hour for the first few hours of racing.
Many large breaks went clear but the pace of the main peloton never allowed any one of them to gain more than a one-minute advantage. This left us with a constant battle to put the right guys in the move, which time and time again, we had done.
Late in the race, a group of 15 riders broke away and Lachy, Martin and Jordan represented us. Most teams had riders represented but the one team who had missed the move brought it all back together again.
Shortly after returning to the group, Martin crashed in the feed zone and his good legs he’d had all race started to cramp.
The final lap up the climb was hard, the pace strung out the entire peloton and many gaps were created. I was just off the back, but rejoined the group after the technical descent.
When I joined the group, the boys said they had all missed the final move and, as always, it’s the one you miss that goes away to take line honors.
All we could do now was put the boys on the front to chase and save Lachy and myself for the final climb if it were to come back together, but despite some solid chasing from the whole team, the break stayed away.
I kept Lachy safe at the front to give him a go at the final climb which was like a bunch sprint style finish, furiously fast with lead-out trains on our left and right. I was in my element, thriving off the adrenaline with Lachy holding tight on my wheel. The technical approach to the base of the climb was so important and if you weren’t in the top 5-10 guys into the last corner, you could forget about a result.
Coming off the back of the defending champions, Team UHC, I put the power down and launched Lachy into the final corner right at the front. He went on to place 20th, which if it weren’t for the break away, would have seen him right up there amongst the top 5.
It was a shame to miss the final break, the boys had ridden so well all day, but in a one-day race, a simple mistake or loss of concentration can cost you the whole race.
It’s time to look ahead for the last few races of the year, but first we will all be enjoying a brief mid-season break after what has been a solid past couple of months of racing around the world.
A big thanks to our three American staff that supported us in Philly, Mike our mechanic, Lani and Peter our soigner’s and also Kelly Reed our PR/media manager and Tom Southam our DS.
I had a really good experience in the U.S. and I look forward to returning!
I’m now enjoying being back home in Warragul, taking a short mid-season rest after what has been a solid couple of months on the bike.
My next major target and race with Drapac Pro Cycling will be the UCI 2.HC Presidential Ride London Classic on the 2nd of August.