By Dede Demet Barry, T-Mobile professional cycling team
The Wachovia Classic in Philadelphia, now in its 20th year, has become a regular summertime event. Like the T-Mobile Grand Prix in San Francisco, it is one of the most prestigious one-day races in America and hosts some of the best racers in the world.
What makes it most special for the racers is the fans. Hundreds of thousands of fans line the course, cheering and partying. There are a couple of grandiose block parties on the Manayunk Wall and at the start/finish line. The energy is incredible – it pushes us up the hill.
The women’s race had its biggest field ever, with 190 starters, which may be a record on American soil. It is great to see the sport growing. The only downside was the varying levels of experience within the peloton, which at times created much nervousness. There were a few big crashes, one of which took me down, but fortunately, I do not think anyone was too banged up.
T-Mobile had a couple of special visitors at our hotel the night before the race – my 6-and-a-half-year-old friend, Samantha, and her dad, Robb. They are former residents of Philadelphia who have watched the race for several years; this year, they traveled up from Florida to see it again. Samantha made us each pink, black and white beaded bracelets with our names on them and flowers to put in our hair for the race.
With Philly being my first race in America this season, it was a homecoming of sorts, and I enjoyed seeing friends and taking in the city. It’s not that often that my family is able to watch us race, and it was nice having them here as well.
The race was a little disappointing for me, as I crashed at a bad moment, just before the Manayunk Wall on the final lap. This is often where much of the action takes place in the women’s race. I got the wind knocked out of me, but in a few seconds, I was good to go – after a bike change, I began to chase. However, I never made contact with the leaders, so I missed out on the final action.
Petra Rossner won the race for the seventh time, which is incredibly impressive. After proving once again that she is the fastest woman in the world, she announced that she will retire at the end of the season. After racing for 22 years, she is an icon in the sport, with victories in the World Cup, the Olympic pursuit, and many other events.
After finishing the race, I watched the men’s race from the U.S. Postal tent with my mom, my sister and Michael’s parents. There was a lot of action in the final laps. U.S. Postal had its hopes pinned on Max Van Heeswick winning in a sprint finish, so the team raced according to that plan, but Max had some mechanical problems in the final kilometer that took him out of contention. Michael had a bit of bad luck, too, crashing in the final laps.
Michael and I were quite the pair Sunday night, aching from our injuries; neither of us wanted to be touched. Misery loves company, as long as it’s not too close. Cyclists experience high highs and low lows, so it’s really special to be able to share them with my best friend and husband.
We enjoyed a nice dinner with our family and friends Sunday night and then parted ways for a couple of weeks – Michael headed to Spain for the Volta Catalunya, and I went home to Boulder for a week before going on to the Olympic trials in Redlands, California.