Philadelphia, PA (June 10, 2007) The Kodak Gallery Pro Cycling Team, Presented by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. today had its best ever showing in America’s biggest single day cycling race, the Commerce Bank Liberty Classic in Philadelphia. Hot off an impressive series of wins in Ireland, Canadian National Champion Dominique Rollin led the team with his 5th place finish. Amid a start studded field of international racers, Rollin’s performance was the day’s biggest standout.
Cool, cloudy conditions contributed to the 156-mile course being covered in record time. The racers took approximately 5:41 to complete 10-laps of a hilly circuit that took riders from the wide boulevards of City Center to the narrow 17% climb up “Manayunk Wall.” In Manayunk, riders were cheered up the climb by thousands of fans who turn out each year to celebrate cycling – and the ready availability of cold beer. With fans lining the streets as many as 12-deep in places, it is not hard to accept the official estimate of 500,000 fans having turned out to cheer the racers on.
Early in the race, Kodak Gallery rider Jesse Anthony was a part of a strong 10-man breakaway that worked well together to establish as much as a 1:15 gap on the main field. Unfortunately, cool conditions that didn’t tax the riders left the peloton with the reserves necessary to reel the break away back in to the field. This would prove to be the trend of the race. Throughout the day, several strong efforts were made by varying combinations of riders to split the field, but none could establish a sustainable lead.
In a disappointing turn of events, T-Mobile’s Roger Hammond forced Kodak Gallery rider Josh Thornton into the barricades causing him to crash out of the race with less than 30-miles remaining. Hammond was apparently angered that Thornton passed him easily on one of the steeper climbs and after several bumps, pushes and apparently intentional jolts, succeeded in sending Thornton tumbling head-first over a metal barricade. The crash was Thornton’s second in as many race days when his Bell Sweep-R helmet was credited with preventing a serious injury.
Unfortunately, Thornton was not the only Kodak Gallery rider to suffer a crash in the very fast race. As the field roared together down Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the finish line, it appeared that Roger Hammond of T-Mobile triggered yet another crash that took down several contenders for the final sprint. Among those suffering scrapes, cuts and bruises was 2002 Philly winner and Kodak Gallery rider, Mark Walters. Jesse Anthony narrowly avoided the incident, but the chaos took him off his line and forced him to hit the brakes ensuring he would not be able to contest the final sprint.
As the final meters ticked by, CSC’s Matt Goss set up a perfect lead out for sprinting ace, J.J. Haedo. The pair finished 1-2 beating out Bernhard Eisel of T-Mobile by less than half a wheel. Behind the trio, Alejandro Borrajo of RiteAid edged out Dominique Rollin who finished the day in 5th. After the race, Rollin shared his thoughts on the result, “This was a top 5 in the biggest race in North America, so that’s very good. But, I am a bit disappointed in only finishing 5th. The crash at the end took out Mark [Walters] and kept me off of the podium. That’s how good I felt today…but that’s part of the game I guess.”
Kodak Gallery Director, Kurt Stockton, who years ago won the U.S. Pro Championship Title in this very race was thrilled, “It was amazing for me today. Our race plan was spot on and the guys rode perfectly. Unfortunately, Josh and Mark were both crashed out at critical times, preventing Dom from having the chance to go head-to-head with the other sprinters. But, that happens sometimes. It’s clear to me that our decision to race in Ireland was the right one - that definitely helped us.”
Robin Zellner, the team’s other Director added, “I don’t think it has hit me yet. On one hand, we’re so used to winning recently, a 5th seems like a let down. But when I stop and think about the magnitude of this event and how well our guys performed today, I am really excited! Let’s face it, 5th in this race is amazing. Without the crash in the final meters we would definitely had 2 in the top 10 – Mark was very strong today and was right there. Maybe now people will start offering our team a bit of respect.”
The team will return to action on Tuesday at the Tour de Beauce in Quebec, Canada.