On Sunday, June 7, Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) climbed to her second UCI Women Road World Cup victory of the season after passing Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda) just 50 metres before the top of the Manayunk Wall in Philadelphia.
With the Philly Cycling Classic win , Armitstead pulled on the World Cup leader jersey, jumping up from fourth to first overall in the series standing. Armitstead won the series last year but insists a repeat title is not one of her season targets.
“It’s definitely not a goal,” Armitstead told Ella CyclingTips in March, the day before she won the second round of the World Cup series. “It’s really hard to be consistent all year. You need a bit luck. You need things to go well in every World Cup. It makes no sense for me to chase it this season. I want to peak for things. I want to peak for key races. I want to peak for the Worlds.”
In our traditional race report, we shared the highlights of the race, but we know that every rider who lined up atop Manayunk on Sunday has her own story to tell from that day. This photo gallery is our attempt to shed light on the some of the lesser-told tales.
Ella CyclingTips collected comments from Velocio-SRAM teammates Alena Amialiusik and Tiffany Cromwell, Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda), Iris Slappendel (Bigla) and Lex Albrecht (Optum p/b Kelly Benefits Strategies) to hear these stories and paint a more complete picture of first World Cup race the United States has hosted in 14 years.
Want to see the race for yourself? You can watch a replay of the entire race here. Scroll down for a link to the last lap, the podium presentation and pre-taped video interviews with riders.
Tiffany Cromwell (Velocio-SRAM)
Tiffany Cromwell spent a full season racing in the States at the start of her cycling career, so racing in North America was a homecoming of sorts. She’s familiar with the slightly different style of racing, many of the American-based riders and teams, and the major races on the calendar. The Australian served as team captain on the road, in part because of her familiarity with the race course. She has twice been a part of team wins in Philly – both times with Evelyn Stevens (then Specialized-lululemon, now Boels-Dolmans).
Racing in America is special. It’s completely different to a European World Cup. In America they always really try to create a big party atmosphere, from the staging with the call-ups to the line as they build the atmosphere, the playing of their national anthem and then along the course you see all of the houses have their own parties enjoying the atmosphere. In Europe you see it’s more people lining the roads with their campers and racing from point to point.
The technical aspect is, of course, different, too. In the U.S., you generally have a lot wider roads to race on as opposed to Europe where positioning is generally key as the roads are so narrow. The fans are also a bit different. In America they aren’t as knowledgeable in the history of the sport or as passionate. They just want to get to know you and have a chat, whereas in Europe you have the die-hard fans, the collectors, all wanting photos or an album full of pictures to get signed.
My team wanted to have a hard race and be present in all of the moves but also be aggressive ourselves to look for opportunities to create moves and keep Alena fresh if it did come down to the final climb. In addition to acting as team captain, I worked for the team throughout the race, covering moves, looking to attack and helping set it up into the final for Alena.
Ever since the course changed to a finish on top of Manyunk, the race has always come down to the final climb. We went in with a strong plan, coming off the back of a number of great results recently. With Alena showing strong form, we were setting the race up for her in the final.
Manyunk has become iconic with this race over the years. It’s tough due to its steepness but it isn’t too long so you can punch over it. The first time up is always a shock to the legs, waking them up.
In the race, the first four times up the climb were pretty relaxed, the fifth time over hurt a lot due to the attacks and high pace, and of course the final time, your legs are screaming but you know you just have to get to the top and then it’s all over. The atmosphere and the crowds up there, however, really give you that extra gear to push on up.
It was fantastic to be given centre stage, equal prize money and live streaming. The organisation had recognised the fact that they had been granted the top status for the race being a world cup (again) and treated it as the great event it is. It’s super important for me to see this progress in women’s cycling. The US is one of the nations leading the way in terms of equality and pushing for live streaming in many of their races. It’s helping the sport grow.
Lex Albrecht (Optum p/b Kelly Benefits Strategies)
Lex Albrecht climbed to eighth place atop Manayunk in her fifth Philadelphia appearance, one spot behind her teammate and three-time Canadian national champion (road, time trial, criterium) Leah Kirchmann. Brie Walle gave Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies a third rider in the top ten, slotting in two spots behind Albrecht. It’s a huge result for the American team in the only World Cup on home soil. Albrecht penned a rider diary for her team’s website, and we’ve pulled her comments from there.
This year was my fifth time racing the Philly Cycling Classic. It has always been my most favourite race of the season. The course is beautiful, the fan presence is absolutely spectacular, and the race is always challenging – in a way that suits me.
Our team plan was to have Jasmin [Glaesser], Amy [Charity] and Maura [Kinsella] on the watch for an early break and to cover attacks, to make sure we had representation in important breakaways. Jasmin attacked and left the peloton for a few laps, scoring a lot of QOM points. Even when she was drawn back in by the other teams, she continued to sweep up the prestigious points and ended up as the Queen of the Mountains. You should see her crown. It’s pretty impressive.
There were a few breaks that went, but none ended up sticking. On the penultimate climb up the Manayunk Wall, the field split as the speed was high and fatigue was becoming a major factor for a lot of the racers. A significant number of riders never made it back on the front group, but we had good representation. Leah, Brie and I discussed how we were feeling and stuck together for most of the lap in the dynamic peloton. Everyone was fighting for position. Hitec and Velocio-SRAM had aggressive lead out trains going into the climb.
Brie, Leah and I were to stick together and work to be at the front in the final turns coming into the Manayunk Wall – the most critical part of the race in my opinion, and the one that is most challenging for me. They attacked into the corner, doing a perfect job at placing themselves where it mattered most, but I got shuffled back – starting the climb behind at least 30 riders. Brie and Leah went super hard to stay up the front, and I did too, to make up ground. Around 200 metres from the finish a moto parked on the course caused one rider to nearly crash in front of me – which was quite frustrating since it is the perfect spot to power past riders who are fizzling out. Leah and I ultimately finished together, with Brie right on our wheels.
Elisa Long Borghini (Wiggle Honda)
Wiggle Honda lined up for the Philly Cycling Classic with three World Cup wins already under their belt. Jolien d’Hoore won the opening round at Ronde van Drenthe in March. Elisa Longo Borghini soloed to a beautiful victory at the Tour of Flanders in April. Giorgia Bronzini sprinted to the top step of the podium at the Tour of Chongming Island World Cup last month. The team made the trip to Philadelphia on the hunt for World Cup win number four with Bronzini and Longo Borghini as their protected riders. Bronzini won in Philadelphia in 2011, when the race finished with a flat finale on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and Manayunk Wall, like the Mur de Huy, suits Longo Borghini’s strength.
The race wasn’t tactically really hard. Emilia [Fahlin] managed to put me and Giorgia all the times in the right position before the Manayunk wall. She was really strong. Mayuko [Hagiwara] covered all the attacks that were launched by the American riders who were really aggressive.
Manayunk is a nice short, steep climb and after six times it hurts a bit, but I really like it! Giorgia said to me she wasn’t feeling 100 percent. She told me to sprint up to that climb. So I did! I’m happy with my second place place. Of course I wanted to win because I’m a racer, but Lizzie was simply stronger. She overtook me at the last 50 meters
We were the stars, and it was such a nice feeling,” said Longo Borghini. “I enjoyed every second of the race. It was a top organisation and super cheering at the side of the road. I couldn’t be happier. I loved to see so many young people on the street cheering for us and having a party. It’s so cool.
Iris Slappendel (Bigla Pro Cycling)
Dutch national road champion Iris Slappendel raced offensively throughout the Philly Cycling Classic. While several teams seemed content to wait for final lap fireworks, Slappendel launched several attacks in an attempt to animate the bunch, especially in the second half of the six lap circuit race. Although Slappendel was ultimately unable to transform her efforts into an escape, her red, white and blue national champ jersey was a constant presence at the front of the race.
Going into the race, we didn’t have a clear tactical plan. I knew I wasn’t likely going to win this race, especially without a break. I tried to ride attentively and was able to help Joelle [Numainville] get to the start of the climb on the last lap. I think I had a good race and perhaps Shelley finishing fourth was the best our team could do today. I’m satisfied with the race and very much enjoyed it.
To be honest, it wasn’t a particularly hard race. Sure there was some suffering, but people seemed to be waiting for the last lap to really do anything. The first time going up Manayunk, I was able to look around me. By the last time, I was close to cramping.
It was a great show — before and during the race. Everyone was super enthusiastic about the race and spectators cheered just as hard for the women as for the men. There’s a lot of respect for the women. And yes, that is motivating.
I have really enjoyed myself racing in America. It was very fun to do something different. There are some races [in Europe] that I have done four times so to do something new and different was very fun. The racing style is different in that it’s more relaxed. It’s easy to move around in the peloton, but people do ride very hard.
I think it would be great to see a block of races in the US for us to do. It’s expensive for European teams to travel but if you put them all together – between Tour of California, Winston-Salem, Gatineau and Philly – you could do a good block of racing. The races were well-organised, had good competition, good prize money and great enthusiasm around them. It was a bummer that teams like Rabo-Liv didn’t come out for them. It’s a great experience and good exposure for racing. I’d definitely come back!
Alena Amialiusik (Velocio-SRAM)
Velocio-SRAM spent a month in North America racing in California, Winston-Salem and Gatineau before heading to Philly for the World Cup. They found success race after race with Trixi Worrack winning the Amgen Women’s Tour of California, Alena Amialiusik soloing to victory at Winston-Salem, and Karol-Ann Canuel and Tayler Wiles time trialing onto the podium at Gatineau. Amialiusik closed out the team’s North American trip by rounding out the podium in Philadelphia. It is the Lithuanian road national champion’s first podium finish at a World Cup.
We have such a strong group of riders, and we ride as a real team, so we can be flexible with our strategy and see how the race is playing out. My role was to be more patient, and I think I did a good job with this, which for me is sometimes hard.
I have raced here the last two years and from what I’ve heard about the past, it has always been a fantastic race. The organizers are great and supportive of both men and women’s cycling. It has a special atmosphere here, perhaps because of the American style crowd, they are so loud and cheer for everyone. It’s really nice.
I like Manayunk. You just had to pick some good wheels. It was steady for the first climbs, and the last two times were of course much harder. The crowd on the Manayunk Wall was incredible every time.