Mount your bike outside the Pottruck Fitness Center and peddle your hardest to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Turn around and ride back to Pottruck.
Repeat this 38 times.
Twenty teams of eight riders from around the world tackled a course of that distance, 156 miles, at Sunday’s 26th annual Philadelphia International Cycling Championship. Crowds gathered throughout the city to watch the intense competition for the top spot in sweltering heat and with rain clouds looming overhead.
In the end, Australian Matthew Goss, 23, beat out 197 competitors, finishing in 6 hours, 15 minutes, 46 seconds to take first place for the HTC-Columbia team.
Ross Marklein, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly representative on the Penn Cycling Team, called the event “arguably the biggest one-day cycling race in America.”
“The big name riders that attend the Tour de France are not present, but their teams are and the members are always willing to put in a strong effort to win,” he wrote in an e-mail.
Marklein watched the race from a party on Lemon Hill.
Michael McGettigan, one of the owners of Trophy Bikes, closed his 3131 Walnut Street shop Sunday and rode over to Lemon Hill, as well. There, he said, the area’s bike community comes together.
He described the scene as a big party where everyone has time to catch up. That is because biking is “not like baseball,” McGettigan said.
“The game goes away and comes back,” he explained, noting that often the competition has completely changed from one lap to the next.
Racers in Sunday’s TD Bank-sponsored event completed ten 14.4 mile laps that ran from the Benjamin Franklin Parkway — near the foot of the art museum — through the neighborhood of Manayunk and back.
McGettigan called Lemon Hill one of “two crazy Philly love things,” the second being the Manayunk Wall.
The famous wall is so steep, McGettigan explained, that a casual rider probably couldn’t keep the bike steady while climbing it, and even experienced riders can struggle with it.
This year, Canadian Will Routley (who was competing for Jelly Belly, much to the amusement of Mike Eisner, the day’s announcer) held the lead. But on the final trip up the wall, Routley lost steam and was overtaken.
He finished well behind the tight finishing pack.
“The best strategy in most races is to behave like the typical college student and procrastinate,” Marklein wrote. “Do as little work as possible until the last second and make it count.”
Mike DeLiso, the cycling team’s Recreational Cycling Coordinator, a recent graduate of and current graduate student in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, wrote in an e-mail, “While it’s easy to see the sport as a giant pack of cyclists, it’s quite complex, requires a heavy amount of strategy and is all about energy conservation and management.”
Marklein agreed, writing, “It’s more of a team sport than people realize. While some riders are strong enough to ride away from the field, having a strong team presence can help to put particular riders in a better position to win.”
“Not surprisingly at Penn, I’ve found the sport attracts a lot of engineers,” DeLiso added.
McGettigan was at the first version of this race and believes that it remains the best one. He explained that 1985 was “pre-Lance [Armstrong]” and at the time, “most Americans were ignorant about bike racing.”
During the ceremony to announce the victors of the race, Jerry Casale, one of the race’s founders, said the idea for this event came while he was attending a race in Barcelona, Spain. “[We] gotta bring something like this to Philadelphia,” he realized at the time.
Casale and co-founder David Chauner have now convinced four mayors to close down dozens of city streets and bring in hundreds of Philadelphia’s finest to provide a safe day of racing and celebration.
This article has been corrected from it's print version to reflect that Mike DeLison is a recent graduate of and current graduate student in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.Comments powered by Disqus
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