Conquring the Wall: Philly Cycling Classic 2013

0602131320bIf Chattanooga was a last minute, impulsive decision, the decision to go to Philly to watch the newly rechristened Parx Casino Philly International was one I made a while ago. Philly is only two and a half hours from DC and I was really interested to see how the race course change would affect the race. In addition, I wanted to ride the Bicycling Open, which is basically just an opportunity to pre-ride the course the day of the race. I was terrified of the Wall (more on that later), but was excited about the challenge!

First, I need to explain the Wall. The Wall is the Manayunk Wall, named after the Philly suburb it runs through. It’s a climb that is only .5 miles long, but it has sections of 17% gradient and it is BRUTAL! This year, instead of a start/finish downtown in front of the Art Museum, and a mix of short circuits and long circuits (which include the Manayunk Wall), the Philly Classic started and ended at the top of the Wall. It also cut out the downtown short laps, opting instead for 10 laps straight up. While this meant the overall lap length was shorter, it also meant the racers had to ride up the Wall 10 times!! In addition, because the start/finish was now at the top of the Wall, the race wouldn’t end in a sprint but would most likely reward a solo move made within the last few laps, if not the last lap, and maybe even the last climb. So it was shaping up to be an awesome race!

I was staying with a friend of friend in Manayunk. When I told him I was driving up (I rented a car), he said “Well, parking can be a bit difficult around here, so call me when you’ve found a spot.” And, damn, he wasn’t joking. The lower half of Manayunk is a maze of narrow streets, made narrower by all the cars parked on one side. They should all be one ways, but only half of them were, so I just prayed no would come up as I was going down. I drove around for about a half hour before I found a spot that wouldn’t require me to parallel park- those skills are pretty rusty!

Camera 360

My original intention was to ride down to the art museum and spend time there before I met up with my Twitter friend, Heidi (@heidimo6). They have a great bike trail that follows the Schuylkill River on either side. But I got a late start and it was fucking HOT and HUMID. I got not even halfway there and it was clear I was not going to make it downtown! So I backtracked a bit, rode over to the other side of the river that had a trail next to a closed road (similar to Beach Drive in DC), rode for a bit, then laid down to take a nap. It was glorious! I did have someone shout at me to make sure I was still alive, and I appreciated that. Eventually I got up to meet Heidi at her hotel. The trip there was all uphill and it was still disgustingly hot. So that was fun.

After dinner with Heidi and a few drinks with my hosts, I crashed, ready for an early morning.

Camera 360

The ride started at 7:15 and I was glad we got our ride out of the way before the sun got too high. Our ride started a little bit before the Wall, instead of on top of the Wall, like the real race did. So, after biking through the town, we started up the Wall. I think the Wall can be divided into 3 sections. The first section is the longest, steep-ish, but pretty steady. I was feeling pretty strung out by the time i reached the end of that section. Even though as I think back on it. I don’t have an exact memory being  so wiped that it justified stopping for a rest, but I did. I don’t remember feeling like my legs were burning or I was hyperventilating, so I’m not sure why stopped for a breather. But I did, and then I started up the  2nd section.

1st section, with women climbing

1st section during the women’s race

That section was A LOT steeper, though not as long. I was able to ride most of the first section seated, but that was not an option for the 2nd section! As I was riding, I kept my gaze focused on the 200m to go sign- I was telling myself, just make it to the sign, then it flattens out! Because it definitely looked like it flattened out! However, once I got to the 200 meters to go sign, hyperventilating, wheezing, and burning, it was clear it did NOT flatten out! I was so demoralized, I had to stop again.

Once I caught my breath and helped a girl fix her chain, I started up the last section. It was medium steep and pretty short. I felt pretty good going up it, because of my nice break.

3rd section

3rd section

Once you make it to the top of the Wall, there is a LOVELY downhill! It just goes on and on. And because it was on a closed course, we could just buzz through all the stop signs and lights!

The rest of the course is pretty flat, except for a little bump we thought was Lemon Hill and the climb that was actually Lemon Hill! Lemon Hill is pretty steep, but not long. I was pretty wheezy at the top, but my legs didn’t feel too bad.

Heidi and I after the ride

Heidi and I after the ride

After the ride, I took a shower, and then watched most of the women’s race from a Mexican restaurant. Heidi was supposed to join me, but she got lost. So I made friends with the mom and her daughter next to me, drank lots of margarita’s and did jello shots with them.

Camera 360

Eventually I made my way to the finish line on top of the Wall where Heidi was. It was wicked watching the guys come over the top of the hill. With 7 laps left, they pulled about half of the guys out of the race (they often do that if they’ve been dropped so far, there’s no chance of catching up). The guys were just SHATTERED- total death ride faces on them. However, many of them still had enough energy to slap the hands of those of lining the barriers, hand off water bottles, or pull a wheelie. The crowd went crazy every time a rider came over the top. I suspect the enthusiasm had something to do with the fact that it was about 25 minutes between laps, and maybe we were a bit bored.

Like Chattanooga, I really had no idea what was going on with the race. I didn’t even realized who had won until they announced him on the podium. Turns out it was Kiel Reijnen, who had come in 3rd in Chattanooga! He had a disappointing race with a mechanical right at the end, so it was super exciting to see him win.

And Kiel wins!

And Kiel wins!

It was another fun weekend of race watching. I’ll definitely be back to ride the course again next year, and hopefully I can make it up the Wall without stopping! Plus, I really wish I had tried to ride the Wall a second time. Hopefully next year I can make that happen!

Paris-Nice: History and Preview

For most longtime cycling fans, Paris-Nice signals the true beginning of the cycling season. This probably goes back to the day when Qatar and Oman didn’t exist, and there was limited to no live coverage available until Paris-Nice. While the hardcore fans enjoy the addition of the Tour Down Under, Qatar, and Oman, those long, flat, windy, sandy stages leave much to be desired. Paris-Nice brings the racing back to Europe and proper climbs back to the stages. It’s a race that’s about journeying to the sunshine, when “the rising warmth brings the riders out of their shells as if awakening from a winter’s hibernation.”

History

Like the Tour de France, Paris-Nice was also started by a newspaper owner hoping to promote his papers.  Albert Lejune owned a paper in Paris (Le Petit Journal) and in Nice (Le Petit Niçois). Hoping to promote sunny, Mediterranean Nice as a mid-winter getaway for those still in the cold North (and sell more papers in the process), in 1933, he created a week long stage race which started in the wintry North of Paris and wound its way south to finish in the warmth of Nice. His “Six Days of the Road” became known as “The Race to the Sun.” Like most races which started in the 30s, it was forced to go on a hiatus from 1940 to 1946 because of World War II. It picked up again in 1946, but didn’t really start to come into its own until 1951. By then it was being run by Jean Leulliot and backed by a new publication, Road and Track. However, it was still being used to promote Nice as a winter escape destination. It was in the 50s that the race really started to take off and gain prestige. Now top tier riders were riding and winning, such as Jacques Anqutiel, Eddy Merckx, Sean kelly, Miguel Indurain, etc. From 2000 to 2002, the race was organized by Laurent Fignon, but today the race is managed by the ASO (Amaury Sports Organization), which also owns and organizes other big races, including the Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana, Paris-Roubaix, among others.

The route

It was never meant to be a taxing course and Lejune, the founder, purposefully built the route to avoid the Alps. It doesn’t favor sprinters, like the earlier races in Australia, Oman, and Qatar, nor does it favor the climbers, like the Grand Tours. It is landscape is lumpy, not mountainous. It is a race for sprinters, climbers and roulers alike. For example, the 2011 edition features 3 flat stages and 3 hilly stages. There have been some changes to format of the race in 2011; mainly the prologue has been replaced with a 27km time trial in the final stage. This is the first time since 1996 that there will not be a TT prologue  and it’s certainly the longest TT its ever had- the normal range is between 4 and 13km. There are some who believe the inclusion of the longer time trial doesn’t fit with the character of the race. Now the race can be lumped in with more traditional week long stage races.

2011 edition

Jerseys

  • Overall leaders jersey: Yellow
  • Point classification: Green
  • King of the Mountain: Red polka dot
  • Young Rider: White

Jersey winners from 2011

Interesting facts

  • Irish racer Sean Kelly has won the most races with 7 consecutive title!
  • It was an accident at this race which occured in the 2003 edition that prompted the UCI to mandate the use of helmets during races, after Kazakhstan rider Andrei Kivilev died because of head injury sustained during a crash.

Where to watch

TV:

  • Oh happy days, Versus is going to be showing the race on TV! However, it will not be live and it will be at 4:00 in the afternoon, starting Sunday. There will probably be live streaming available the day of, starting at 7:40am, if my calculations are correct. Check out Cyclingfans.com and Steephill.tv for updates and ProcyclingLive and Sportz-Live.com (scroll down to cycling category) for straight links.
  • There have been rumors that Versus is using Paris-Nice as a gauge to see if it should broadcast more cycling. So, especially if you have a Neilson scanner in your house, try and watch it on Versus. There have also been rumors that Belgian Anti-Piracy groups are cracking down on “illegal” internet streams, so it’s possible that all the streams coming out of Belgium will be geo-restricted, meaning if you’re not in Belgium you can’t watch them. But who knows.

Twitter:

  • Official Paris-Nice hashtag is #pn
  • ProcyclingLive will be live tweeting

Live blog:

Watch the Tour of Qatar!

While most of the American public will be focused on that most holy of American sporting events, the Super Bowl, we in the cycling community will have eyes only for the Tour of Qatar!

For a great history and detail preview of this year’s race, check out US Pro Cycling News.

If I calculate it correctly, there is an 8 hour time difference between the US (Eastern time) and Qatar (for some reason, I’m crap with figuring out time differences, so if I’m wrong, let me know). All the stages (except the prologue) start at around 12:30 local time (4:30am Eastern), but live coverage will start around 7am Eastern.

Live Streaming

Versus will be stream all of the stages (yay!), starting at 6:50am Eastern. I’m pretty sure this stream is geo-restricted, meaning it can only be watched in the US.

British Eurosport will have an hour of live coverage each day starting at 8am 7am Eastern (here, scroll down, and here). Although Eurosport is notorious for running behind schedule…

Twitter live updates

Steephill.tv

ProCycling Live

#toq Twitter group

Live blog

CyclingNews may or may not be live blogging. I think they probably will, but only tomorrow will tell.

More Info

I think I’ve covered all the live streams options, but check out CyclingFans, Steephill.tv, and ProCycling Live for the latest news and streams- they’ll be all over it.

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