CSC’s Breschel scores dramatic sprint win

June 8, 2008:  Philadelphia, PA On paper, Team CSC looked to be an underdog at the Philadelphia International Championship. The Danish-based team has been besieged by injuries this season and only sent six of a possible eight riders to contest the 2008 Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling series. But six was enough for the ProTour squad, which saw young rising star Matti Breschel score an impressive field sprint win at the end of Sunday’s 156-mile race.

 

The victory was CSC’s second straight at the prestigious event that this year celebrated its 24th anniversary. A year ago, team rider J.J. Haedo grabbed the top prize. A scheduling conflict kept the Argentinean in Europe this time around, but Breschel filled in admirably, bursting across the line first at the end of the hot, hard day in the saddle.

 

Americans Kirk O’Bee (Health Net-Maxxis) and Fred Rodriguez (Rock Racing) were second and third respectively in a race that lasted a record 6 hours, 14 minutes and 47 seconds. The previous long day was 6:13:53 set in 2006.

 

“I was all by myself on the last lap,” explained Breschel, who did not have the benefit of a full lead-out train like some of his competitors. “But I got myself in a good position going through [

Logan Circle
] and was able to make a long sprint to the finish.”

 

O’Bee estimated that the difference between first and second was about half a wheel, not much considering the race included 10 14.4-mile laps from the start-finish along Benjamin Franklin Parkway to Manayunk and back, plus three shorter circuits that went as far as Lemon Hill before circling back.

 

“It was a crazy last lap,” explained O’Bee, who was contesting his eighth Philadelphia race. “As soon as I exited the last round-about, my teammate John Murphy led me up the left side and took me all the way to the 200-meter-to-go sign. I took it from there and almost had it, but I probably went a little early and Breschel was able to come over the top of me.”

 

The 23-year-old Breschel’s win also netted him top prize in the three-race series’ overall standings, dethroning 2007 champ Bernard Eisel, who was fourth on Sunday.

 

“I was too much in the wind at the end,” lamented Eisel, the Austrian High Road rider. “I just didn’t have enough left after such a long day in the heat.”

 

Indeed, the first true East Coast heat wave of 2008 made for a brutal day of racing. It was already 79 degrees when the race started just after 9 a.m. The thermostat read 94 by the finish. Near the end of the race, one official measured the temperature of the road and got a 120-degree reading. Only 81 of the 190 starters finished the race.

 

“I went through so many water bottles I lost count,” explained Davide Frattini (Colavita-Sutter Home), who won the day’s King of the Mountain title, a contest that awarded points to the riders who were first over the Manayunk and Lemon Hill climbs during each lap.

 

While the race’s endgame came down to a battle of sprinters, the middle portions of this epic test of mettle was dominated by a seven-rider break that included Frattini, Ed King (Bissell), Brian Jensen (Team Successfulliving), Dan Ramsay (Time), Ben Kneller (Jittery Joe’s), Richard Geng (Rite Aid) and Tyler Hamilton (Rock Racing).

 

The group of escapees initially formed on the third of the 10 long laps, and rolled up an advantage that swelled above eight minutes at one point. But with temperatures on the rise all day, there was no way the move was going to stay away.

 

Kneller and Geng lost touch with the break with about 70 miles of racing remaining, and with the lap counter reading six to go, the five riders remaining in the breakaway passed under the start/finish banner with just a 1:10 advantage. The race was all back together midway through the next lap.

 

Next to take a crack at breakaway heroics were Team Type I Kiwi Glen Chadwick, Canadian Svein Tuft (Symmetrics) and Mexican Francisco Matamoros (Tecos-Trek). The threesome made their bid for glory with five laps to go. But this move failed as well. Chadwick and Matamoros were caught during the waning moments of the final long lap. Tuft stayed away for another half lap, chasing after a last handful of King of the Mountains points before being reeled in.

 

A handful of smaller breakaway attempts ensued, but nothing succeeded, leaving the final battle to a pack of 68 hard charging riders. Not among the group was pre-race favorite Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) who dropped out of the race early on, reportedly the victim of knee tendonitis.

 

Breschel, meanwhile, was proving that he’s fully recovered from a crash in February 2006 that left him with two broken vertebrae and nearly ended his career. The incident happened in a sprint not dissimilar from Sunday’s finish, except that time the baby-faced Dane was knocked unconscious.

 

“I hit my head very bad and was out for a couple hours,” Breschel recalled of the incident at the Belgian Three Days of West Flanders race. “I woke up in the hospital and was lying there for two weeks.”

 

It took a while, but the promising fourth-year pro’s injuries have healed, a fact that was on full display Sunday in Philadelphia.


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