May 23/08 10:10 am - 2008 Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling: Teams Preview
Posted by Editoress on 05/23/08
2008 Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling
Olympians from then and now, current and former world champions, and a host of Tour de France talent will descend on southeastern Pennsylvania in early June, all there to contest the prestigious Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling.
Besides lifelong bragging rights, this talented cast of two-wheeled stars will vie for their share of a $142,300 prize purse that includes a $10,000 bonus for the top man and $5,000 for the No. 1 woman.
Battling for all that cash will be a deep field that includes four teams slated to start Julys Tour de France, the Danish-based Team CSC formation, Italian stalwart Liquigas, and American powerhouses Team High Road and Slipstream-Chipotle.
Team CSC will likely be led by Argentine sprinting sensation and 2007 Philadelphia International Championship winner, Juan Jose Haedo. Known to friends and teammates as J.J., this rising ProTour star has already stamped his authority on the 2008 season, taking commanding sprint stage wins at the Tours of California and Georgia. The CSC roster will also include Iowan Jason McCartney, former Vuelta a España stage winner, and a 2004 Olympian.
The Liquigas team is led by sprinter-extraordinaire Daniele Bennati, who in 2007 scored 11 wins at the grand tours and classics. This year Bennati has kept right on rolling, grabbing a pair of stage wins at the prestigious Giro dItalia in May.
Team High Road will likely pin its hopes on the two-headed terror that is 2007 Triple Crown overall series winner Bernard Eisel of Austria and Kiwi Greg Henderson. Eisel won the opening two legs of last years Triple Crown series, easily taking the overall series title. Henderson is a veritable Triple Crown legend, having previously won in Lancaster (2005), Reading (2006) and most impressively Philadelphia (2006).
Meanwhile, upstart Slipstream will feature a roster with no top-tier sprinters, but plenty of horsepower, guile and determination. Be especially on the look out for Dutchman Martijn Maaskant. The rising young star was fourth at this years Paris-Roubaix, putting the cycling world on notice that he will be a force to be reckoned with.
All this top-tier firepower is not necessarily a harbinger of a one-sided Triple Crown affair. Home-grown teams such at Toyota-United, Health Net-Maxxis and Pennsylvanias own Rite Aid squad will all do their best to topple the big boys. Unlike Americas three major stage races -- California, Georgia and Missouri -- the one-day, more wide open Triple Crown events present real opportunity for the domestic based teams. In the previous six years, the domestics are 8-for-18 in their heads-up battle with the big budget ProTour outfits.
California-based Toyota-United boasts an especially large threat to the big boys, spear-headed by sprinter extraordinaire Ivan Dominguez. Despite the presence of four ProTour teams, the Cuban Missile, as hes better known, won the opening stage of this years Tour de Georgia. The Toyota-United roster also includes Boulder, Colorado-native Chris Wherry, the last American to win on the mean streets of Philadelphia.
Also be on the watch for cyclings new bad boys, Rock Racing, which boasts a marquee team roster that includes the likes of ProTour veterans Freddie Rodriguez, Tyler Hamilton, Victor Hugo Peña and recent Redlands Classic winner Santiago Botero. The team captured the first four places at Mays Tour of Colombia prologue, and Rodriguez remains one of Americas fastest finishers. Through the years, hes won almost every Tripe Crown race at least once.
All told, this years mens field includes 25 international and domestic professional teams that will wage a three-race battle that commences June 3rd with the Lehigh Valley Classic, an 85-mile, 12-lap circuit race that traces a twisting path through Allentown and Salisbury Township. Two days later, the Triple Crown race caravan will relocate to Reading for a 75-mile, 10-lap affair that darts back and forth between the citys downtown and nearby Mt. Penn.
Finally comes the mother of all North American one-day races, the Philadelphia International Championship. Celebrating its 24th running, this epic 156-mile test of mettle begins and ends on Philadelphias famed Benjamin Franklin Parkway. In between, a fast field of the worlds 200 best cyclists will hurtle their way around 10 laps of the 14.4-mile primary circuit that includes the infamous Manayunk Wall, with its always-raucous fans and precipitous grades that exceed 17 percent. Ten long laps are followed by three testing finishing circuits up and over Lemon Hill before the 2008 champion is crowned.
The womens three-race event begins with criteriums in the Lehigh Valley and Reading, before concluding with the 56.7-mile Liberty Classic, held the same day and on the same course as the mens finale.
This approximately 120-rider field will also be overflowing with international talent, including Team High Road and its star-studded line-up that includes 2007 Liberty Classic winner Ina-Yoko Teutenberg of Germany, and American star Kim Anderson.
Looking to pull off the upset of powerful Team High Road will be the likes of Webcor Builders, Colavita and Team Tibco, which scored the top podium step at the inaugural Tour of California criterium earlier in the year when Brooke Miller out-kicked Cheerwine speedster Laura Van Gilder. Other potential hurdles for Team High Road include Kristin Armstrong of Cervelo-Lifeforce, and German Regina Schleicher (Equipe Nurnberger Versicherung) who won the Liberty Classic in 2006.
Add up all this talent, and the six-race Triple Crown slate is guaranteed to be among this years most exciting week of professional cycling.