Many of the top cycling teams from all over the world and here in the U.S. are set to compete on Sunday, June 3 in the TD Bank Philadelphia International Championship. Now in its 28th year, the race is the biggest and most prestigious one-day race in North America, with professional teams targeting the event as a priority win on the world stage.
This year's edition sees an increase in the number of U.S.-based teams invited to race, illustrating the growing popularity of the sport in this country. These American teams are fielding riders expected to compete for the prestigious win alongside the strong international contingents. An important change to the race this year could also affect the outcome, with the distance shortened from 156 miles to 124, making it more likely that a larger field will contest a final sprint.
A strong Swedish/American pro cycling team could be at the front of that finishing pack. Team Pure Energy Cycling-ProAir HFA/Cykel City
led by Swedish national champion Johan Landstrom and top sprinter Jonas Ahlstrand, the eight-man squad will also include two Pennsylvania cyclists - Olympian Bobby Lea from Topton and Michael Chauner of West Chester.
“We have good depth on the squad this year and will have riders in contention if there is a breakaway or if it comes down to a sprint,” said team director Aike Visbeek. “Alstrand recently beat two of the world’s top sprinters in a stage of the Tour of Norway and shows he is on top form. The rest of the team, including Lea and Chauner, will protect him and be there to take the reins should anything unexpected happen.”
German Robert Förster leads the always-strong UnitedHealthcare
team and was the top domestic team finisher in last year's race on the podium in third. He is backed up in the sprints by powerhouse Aussie Karl Menzies who has years of U.S. criterium racing success. However, the team is not only capable of sprinting, as Aussie Rory Sutherland is a dangerous breakaway rider who has won the National Racing Calendar series with his stage racing capabilities.
The Bissell Pro Cycling
team is another well-rounded team with a rider for almost every type of race situation. For the breakaway that inevitably happens early in the race, there are American Ben Jacques-Maynes and Kiwi Jeremy Vennell. Both rode well in the recent Tour of California with Vennell earning the Most Aggressive award for the entire week-long race. If Philly’s racing is fast and the peloton dwindles from attrition, then former U.S. time trial champion Chris Baldwin will be their strongest rider to make the finale. Finally, if the race comes down to a field sprint as it has in the majority of years, the young second-year pro and current U.S. criterium champion Eric Young will be Bissell’s speediest weapon.
Optum Pro Cycling
presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies is a team that has evolved from the U.S. racing circuit to now be competing around the world. With success in races from Europe to Asia, the team recently took home the King of the Mountain jersey at the Tour of California. American Tom Zirbel is often referred to as a 'diesel engine' for his ability to ride hard for long distances and will be eager to get into a breakaway. Americans Michael Creed and Michael Friend have both logged many miles in breakaways at this and other top races. If that tactic fails, team sprinter Ken Hanson is well-versed in negotiating the pack in a Philadelphia field sprint, having finished fourth here last year.
team is Canada's first and only UCI Pro Continental team with aspirations to race the Tour de France. Directed by the only Canadian to wear the famous yellow jersey Steve Bauer, the team has increased the amount of racing days in Europe which is starting to pay dividends. Ryan Roth took a big win for the team in April at the Tro Bro Léon in France, a one-day race similar to the TD Bank International Championship. Their other protected rider will be sprinter Martin Gilbert who raced for Canada in the Beijing Olympics.
A team that made a name for itself last year on the national racing calendar is Competitive Cyclist
, led by team captain Francisco Mancebo of Spain. Mancebo spent many years in Europe, racing in top events such as the Tour de France and still has the ability to win any race he enters. In 2011 he finished first in the U.S. National Racing Calendar rankings thanks to many overall wins. Additionally, Dutch rider Thomas Rabou is one of the 'mountain goats' of the peloton, winning the King of the Mountain competition at the 2011 Tour of California. He should fair better than most over the infamous Manayunk Wall.
Team Type 1 - Sanofi
is a U.S. registered team with an international roster, led by veteran Alexander Efimkin of Russia, whose recent results include a top 10 finish in the Tour of Turkey, a stage race he won last year. Their sprinter for this race will be Aldo Ilesic of Slovenia who finished 15th in last year's sprint finale.
One of the newest teams on the U.S. professional scene is Team Exergy
, led by veteran sprinter and former winner of this race Freddie Rodriguez. He returned to pro racing last year at this very race and finished an impressive 12th. In the recent Tour of California, Rodriguez returned to the podium amongst the world's top sprinters.
returns to the race with German sprinter Matthias Friedemann looking to improve upon his seventh place in last year's race. For 2012 the team acquired American Craig Lewis who had raced previously with the number-one ranked team in the world. Lewis is not only a strong climber and threat in a breakaway, but he also is a great story. Lewis made his return to top racing after nearly being killed by a vehicle in a race in 2005.
The Jamis-Sutter Home
team brings a triple-threat of Argentinians with Fernando Antogna and brothers Alejandro and Anibal Borrajo. The three are a speedy trio that will complement climber Luis Amaran of Cuba who won the National Racing Calendar in 2010.
presented by Kenda is one of the longest sponsors of a team in North America and for good reason. The team is consistently in the mix in every race. Jeremy Powers is best known for his cyclocross racing results and is the current U.S. national champion in that discipline. However, he is equally adept at racing on the road. The team's sprinter Brad Huff had strong results at the recent Tour of Korea and will definitely benefit from Philly’s shortened distance.
Team Kenda-5 Hour Energy's
Shawn Milne finished 10th here in 2010 and recently won a stage at the Joe Martin race in Arkansas and finished second in the overall. In 2012 the U.S.-based team acquired American John Murphy who spent the past seasons racing predominantly in the European peloton and is well versed in hard racing.
About Pro Cycling Tour
The TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship is owned and managed by PCT Pennsylvania, LLC, an affiliate of Pro Cycling Tour based in Coatesville, PA. Pro Cycling Tour creates and manages a variety of cycling events and special programs for corporate sponsors, non-profit organizations and municipalities. For more information, visit www.procyclingtour.com.
TEAM JAMIS/SUTTER HOME RELEASE
This Memorial Day weekend the Jamis/Sutter Home Professional Cycling Team will be dividing its squad to compete in two marquis events. Taking place for the seventh straight year in Greenville, South Carolina, the US Pro Championships will decide which American rider will become the next National Champion and wear the coveted "Stars and Bars" jersey for the following 12 months. Meanwhile in New Jersey, Jamis Bicycles' home state, one of the country's longest running and most prestigious races, Tour of Somerville, will see many of the best criterium riders battle for sprinting supremacy.
Run on a challenging hilly course and seasonal hot and humid conditions, the US Pro Championship Road Race is a test of attrition and racing prowess. Riders that do make it to the finishing circuits after four trips up lung-searing Paris Mountain are treated to numerous attacks and late-race surges. The Jamis/Sutter Home Team will be lining up with one of its strongest squads to date, and hopes the climber Tyler Wren can be one of the riders battling for a step on the podium. Kyle Wamsley, often labeled as a sprinter, has also been known to climb well under the right circumstances and could be a trump card for the Team in the final kilometers. Also riding in support of Tyler and Kyle, and looking for an opportunity to try their hands in threatening breakaways, are Jamey Driscoll, Carson Miller and Philip Mooney.
The wide open, four-corner Tour of Somerville course makes for one of the fastest races in the country. With countless attacks beginning as soon as the starter's pistol is fired, racers are on the tip of their saddles going full gas for the duration. Having had extremely successful races at the Tour of Somerville in the past, the Jamis/Sutter Home riders will be looking to race aggressively and make sure they are always represented at the front when the time is right. Fresh off his win at the Wilmington Grand Prix, Demis Aleman is motivated and hoping to add another "W" to the Team's 2012 tally. Anibal and Alejandro Borrajo are always marked men, and together with Fernando Antogna, Guido Palma and Jackie Simes, will be looking to protect Demis while knowing any one of them could find themselves on the podium at the end of the day.
Visit Jamissutterhome.com for information on the 2012 team and race schedule.
Photo: John Seguesta