When aspiring roadie David August Trimble emailed me about needing a press pass to cover the Philadelphia International Championship, I thought maybe he’d written to the Velonews by mistake. I mean this is the blog were I rant about cops giving tickets to cyclists not something as prestigious as one of America’s premiere cycling events, which took place last Sunday.
Turns out David wanted to try his hand at reporting and enter the world of sports photography so I eagerly agreed to writing a letter, after all, thanks to the fine artwork of Nick James…I’ve got a logo. So, I turned it into some letterhead, wrote a few sentences about the significance of bikeblognyc covering cycling events and double clicked it back to David.
Turns out David not only got the pass but used it to get up close coverage of some of the most famous names in pro cycling. Not only does he have talent winning numerous races on the fixed gear, the cyclocross and the road bike…but he takes some damn fine photos too.
He wrote a detailed description of the adventure and he rode 95 miles from NYC to Philly to cover the event. Not bad.
Here is the report back:
TD Bank Philadelphia International Championship – 1.HC/1.1
These are images from the Philadelphia International Championship. This race is an UCI 1.HC/1.1 event. (Translation: very high levels of competition from some of the best teams in the world). Many of my hero’s from the Pro Tour would be battling it out around the streets of Philadelphia and I would be behind the lens beginning my freelance photography career.
Despite years as an obsessive pro cycling fan I had never witnessed an actual pro level race live. When Bikeblognyc.com gave me the chance to earn press credentials to photo document the event I eagerly accepted the mission. On Saturday I rode the 95 miles down to Philadelphia (on a busy and dangerously tight two lane highway). The next morning I was at the start line at 8 am wielding an official white photographers vest and a press pass.
The scene before the race was calm. The competitors geared up for the race in what I assume is a very routine fashion. Several of the competitors were straight from three weeks at the Giro d’Italia. I was particularly interested in seeing the Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen. He won stage 7 of the Giro and was a part of Team Columbia’s Team Time Trial victory. Boasson Hagen wouldn’t let me down today as he chased down a three man break towards the end of the race and helped lead out AndrÃ© Greipel to a sprint victory.
Before the race I concentrated my shots to demonstrate how relaxed everyone appeared. 156 long miles stood before them but for these professionals it was just a day of work. Floyd Landis munched on a bagel, Francesco Chicchi joked around with Freddy Rodriquez. Many different languages flew back and forth. Everyone was ripped and donned perfectly prepared bicycles with deep carbon wheels and flashy graphics. Fat photographers, race officials, and cops mingles around offering a stark contrast to the lean, mean racing machines.
The announcer tried hard to amp up the small crowd which had assembled for the 9 am start. The truth was that a six hour race starts out pretty damn slow and controlled. The race contenders spend the first several hours chatting and spinning easily saving gas for the bigger efforts later on. Luckily for the everyone Daniel Holloway (decked out in Team USA kit from head to toe) allowed the excitement of the event take over. When the flag dropped he instantly attacked the field from a dead stop and rode away into the distance.
The speed at which Holloway was powering away was impressive. He rode inches from barriers head down in full time trial mode and a speed that was truly shocking considering he had another 155 miles to go. On television it is impossible to comprehend how fast these pros can push their bicycles. Within the first (3) short initial course laps he had already gained 3 minutes on the peloton which was cruising along slowly. Another (possibly inexperienced) rider, Andrew Talanski from the Italian Amore & Vita team figured he would make it a two man break and rode away from the field as well in a hopeless attempt at early glory.
I struck up a conversation with a clueless reporter from the Inquirer who was puzzled in general by the race that was before him. He thanked his lucky stars that the press organizers had included a glossary of cycling terms to reference. He seemed to love the word “attack”. I bet him a beer that poor Holloway (although he was soon ten minutes ahead of the field) wouldn’t even finish the race.
The women’s race started soon after and after the first lap I jumped in the media van and took a tour of the course. The parcours were beautiful. The rode traveled along the Kelly Drive which straddled a river running through a wooded park area of Philly. The rode was smooth and fast. I experienced anxiety about the fact that I was stuck in a van and not racing myself. Inside the van we caught up to fragments of the women’s pro race.
There was carnage everywhere as the less fit domestic pro’s were spit out the back dozens at a time. With their race being only a third of the distance of the men’s meant that the top women would be gunning it the entire distance. We left the parkway via a few technical corners and approached the famous Manayunk Wall. This “Wall” is steep, short, and lined on both sides but drunken college kids screaming for the hell of it.
I excited the van and luckily took solace inside the race course barriers away from the drunken and unruly crowd (it was 10 am). Holloway soon came and grinded up the climb zigg-zagging his way. The crown loved the irony of the USA Jersey’s and gave roaring approval. Several minutes later Talanski arrived chasing. Two more no name riders came and went up the hill and I awaited the arrival of the peloton.
Soon I spotted several yellow Team Columbia jersey’s rocketing up the climb. Damn, I thought those guys can climb fast. I was puzzled by the pony tails but figured it was some new Eurotrash trend. What it really turned out to be was that the women’s field had caught and over taken the men’s field. At this point it was their third (of four) laps and the top girls were ripping the field to shreds. I witnessed Kacey Manderfield (winner of the inaugural Red Hook Criterium) mid pack appearing to suffering from a high level of oxygen debt.
After the men’s peloton passed (which was still in cruise mode) I headed to the the long descent out of the college area and waited for the next lap attempting to get a shot of the crest of the descent. Holloway (now on lap 4 of 10) rode close to his team car receiving bottles of water. Talanski had closed in but Holloway remained out of reach. Why Holloway didn’t wait up for him at the beginning of his suicide march is beyond me. Perhaps he knew that the field would chase sooner if two guys were hooked up building a huge lead.
The women quickly appeared again with Team Columbia at the front again. The front of the field had split apart and perhaps eight girls remained within contention (4 of them were from Team Columbia). The pace was extremely fast down the descent. I was able to get a few shots of the fragmented pack strung out in a long crumbling line.
I flagged down the media van as if it was a taxi cab and drove off to scope out the rest of the course. On the way to Lemon Hill there were many remnants of the battle ahead. A girl lay on the side of the rode holding her ankle the victim of a crash. Stragglers off the bike soft pedaled knowing their race was over. I pulled into the finish area just in time to witness a group hug from the victorious Team Columbia. Ina Teutenberg from Germany had won the race for the third time in her career. Her demeanor after the race was again calm and collected as if winning the event was a mere formality to her. Her teammates gave each other high fives.
At this point it was halfway over and Holloway had hit the wall and was reeled in by the next breakaway which contained American hero Tom Zirbel, Italian Daniel Oss, and Ukranian Valeriy Kobzarenko. I photographed some feedzone carnage before hopping back into the media van. Traveling around the course I spotted the break absolutely cruising down the slight downhill section leading to Strawberry Hill. Once again the sheer speed at which these professionals travel is highly impressive and is on another planet in comparison to amateur racing.
I rode the media van back up the wall, past the drunken and now sunburnt college crowd and all the way to Lemon Hill. Lemon Hill was the final climb on the course and seemed to hold a more cycling enthusiast themed crowd. The site lines were long up the winding short climb. The breakaway trio rolled through appearing relaxed and still many minutes ahead of the peloton. When the peloton finally arrived the attacks had begun in earnest. A group of 25 riders had broken free and scored thirty seconds on the main field. This group contained most of Team Columbia and all of the favorites excluding Andrei Greipel who was taking it easy as much as possible in hope of a bunch sprint.
The infamous Floyd Landis had made the front split but for some reason his OUCH Teammates drove the chasing peloton up Lemon Hill. Race radio’s may have been malfunctioning or perhaps Landis’ was so outgunned in the split that they preferred the field to be whole again.
I walked my way back to the start area and was able to witness the start of the ninth lap from a bird’s eye view of Kelly Drive. The three man break still powered on led by Zirbel who seemed to be doing all of the work himself (His time trial is famous). Several minutes later the split had dissolved into an unorganized mess which was quickly brought back by the main peloton. This is the point that Boasson Hagen along with Rock Racing’s David Vitoria decided to set themselves free in pursuit of the three leaders. Boasson Hagen in my mind was trying to live up to his hype. The cycling press had labeled him the number one favorite and concluded that he was the only one strong enough to stay away in a small break. He chased hard but dissolved back into the main field long before ever catching the other riders.
Soon the break’s firepower Zirbel blew up and Oss and Kobzarenko were alone together. Another half lap later and Kobzarenko was also shot. Oss drove ahead blindly towards the finish with statistics truly against him.
Impressively Oss made it out of the big laps and onto the 3 lap finishing circuit before getting caught by the Team Columbia train. Once Oss was dealt with there was really only one possible outcome to the race. The big German Greipel would walk away with sprint I predicted. I was right. With two laps to go I positioned myself on the race course amidst the official photographers only to be quickly be booted out (needed an orange vest apparently). Luckily from inside the press tents I still had perfect view of the sprint which included Greipel (big arms and all) powering away by several bike lengths. The speed was once again beyond impressive to witness.
The race ended well over 6 hours after it began. I was completely sun burnt and felt like I had competed in the race myself. Greipel didn’t appear winded at all from the day long effort that saw him cruise around Philly for 155.9 miles. In fact I believe he only made one hard effort all day.
For more of David’s photos, visit him on Flickr.com