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Where Cycling Is Taken Seriously, by Al Hospers
 Article List
• My winter vacation
• Phil Gaimon wins 2008 Mt. Washington Hillclimb
• Biking brothers in law charge around the Whites
• Overendís ready for a Granite State nickname
• Maineís Islesboro is a seaside bicycle adventure
• Quietly cycling Connecticutís northeastís corner
• That "new bike fit"
• Cyclocross - Best way to enjoy it, watch it.
• The next step in personal training?
• What goes up, goes down along Virginiaís Skyline Drive
• Hillclimbs, heaven or hell?
• Acadiaís bikeways beckon
• Where Cycling Is Taken Seriously
• Crusing along Lake Winnipesaukee by bike and boat
• Crank That Kanc
• Wrap, ride and reward
• A Clean Sweep
All Spring my wife Alyssa worked at convincing me to go down to Philadelphia for the Wachovia Race. This is a major event on the Pro Cycling Tour and many of the serious pro riders were scheduled to appear, including Bobby Julich of Team CSC and Antonio Cruz of Discovery. I was skeptical, finally gave in, and am I glad I did.

We decided to drive down a few days early, bikes on the roof, with the intention of riding the course on Saturday. Alyssa's parents live a mere 2 blocks away from the starting line and told us that besides riding the 14 mile loop that comprises the course, we should do the wonderful bike path from Manyunk out to Valley Forge - a 48 mile ride. That sounded good to us, so Saturday morning at 9 off we went.

Everywhere we looked were people on bikes. Many were pro team members out for a warmup, others were clubbies like us, but decked out as if they were a team in full regalia. I've never seen so many road bike riders in one place and it was exhilarating. In Manyunk I decided that I had to ride the infamous Manyunk Wall, a relatively short climb with an average grade of 9% but having a 200' 18% section in the middle. While steep, it felt nothing like our local Hurricane Mountain. I thought it was moderate and fun. (FWIW - I'm running a 11/23 in the back.) That said, the racers ride it 10 times...

Next we headed out the Tow Path bike path to Valley Forge, a very flat and pleasant ride. We had a bit of difficulty finding the path and I asked a team Health Net rider for directions. Turns out it was Mike Jones who used to ride for the Belmont Wheelworks team from Massachusetts. Mike's a really nice guy & we chatted for a few minutes. Starting up a short hill the Prodir team zipped by and we hooked up with them. Someone in the pack said, "Clubbies in the rear Roberto, step up the pace;" and in a second Alyssa and I were left behind as Mike followed the pack.
Team CSC captain Bobby Julich
Wachovia 2005
The ride out & back was perfect. This was Alyssa's longest ride this season & she did great. It was amazing to be able to cruise along at 16-18 MPH on a dedicated bike path. Occasionally groups of team riders would go past us in one direction or the other and there were lots of clubbies and families too. Back in Manyunk I decided to try the Wall again, just to prove to myself it wasn't a fluke. I followed a couple of locals up in good style. Guess all these White Mountain hills have helped this old man's fitness level. Stopping at Starbucks for a Chai we watched the riders go up and down Main Street. We poked our heads into the pro bike shop, Cadence, to gawk at the high end rides that are way over our heads. Heading back to Philly-proper we both commented on just how much the city was tuned into cycling. It had been a great day.

Sunday was race day. We had VIP tickets that got us food, unlimited drink, into the start/finish area and a free shuttle bus from the start area to the top of the Wall. Not cheap at $125/person, it's far and away the best way to see the race. We watched the men's start and then 30 minutes later, the women's. Then we headed over to check out the vendor tents. Tons of cool bike stuff and of course we bought souvenirs. On the way we noticed a bike valet-parking area. You check your bike & they keep it it in a secure area while you watch the race. Now that's how things SHOULD be!

The air-conditioned bus took us to the Wall where we stood under a tent at the edge of the course, drinking beer and eating pecan pie as we watched the peloton gasp its way up the hill on lap 6. The temperature was about 90, humidity was at least 80% and many of the guys were dying. Some were still cranking along tho and it was impressive. A pretty good live rock band provided additional energy for the racers as they hauled themselves over the top of the Wall.

The bus took us back to the main area where we watched the last few laps. We picked up several water bottles the team riders discarded as they went through the "feeding area." I won't go into the details of the finish of the race, you can read it on for yourself, except to say that it was very exciting and for the first time all top three finishers were Americans and all three were in contention right down to the end.

Whether music, sports or whatever, it's always great to see how the pros do things. You can see them on TV and know these guys are good, but you really don't have any way to measure yourself unless you are right there in their presence. Let me tell you, even the most mundane of these guys are good. This was an inspiring weekend and it's great to see how seriously a city like Philadelphia takes cycling. If you haven't done anything like this before, I highly recommend it.
by Al Hospers

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