PHILADELPHIA - May 29, 2008 - With less than a week to go before the
Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling commences, organizers have announced a
star-studded start list for the men’s three-race series. Among the big names
that will be toeing the line are former Paris-Roubaix champ Magnus
Backstedt, last year’s Triple Crown series victor Bernard Eisel, multi-time
Tour de France stage winner Daniele Bennati, and Cuban sensation Ivan
Dominguez, arguably the No. 1 sprinter in the domestic peloton.

This fearsome foursome are part of a 25-team, 200-rider field that will
begin battle on June 3rd at 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 relocates to Reading
for a 75-mile, 10-lap affair that darts back and forth between the city’s
downtown and the summit of nearby Mt. Penn.

Finally comes the titan of North American one-day races, the Philadelphia
International Championship. Celebrating its 24th running, this epic 156-mile
test of mettle begins and ends on Philadelphia’s famed Benjamin Franklin
Parkway. In between, the world’s best cyclists will blaze 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 17-percent grades. The 10
long laps are followed by three testing finishing circuits up and over Lemon
Hill before the 2008 champion is crowned. To the victors will go the lion’s
share of a $93,500 prize purse that includes a $10,000 bonus for the overall
series winner.

Backstedt, the reigning Swedish national champion, comes to Pennsylvania
with his new Slipstream-Chipotle team that also includes Olympic track
cycling hopeful Mike Friedman, rising Dutch star Martijn Maaskant, Aussie
Chris Sutton, and Americans Will Frischkorn, Steven Cozza, Jason Donald and
Tyler Farrar. Backstedt, Maaskant and Farrar are all on the short list of
riders the Boulder, Colorado-based team may take to July’s Tour de France.

“We’re an American team so these are very important races for us,” explained
Slipstream team director Jonathan Vaughters, adding that he was especially
excited about Maaskant’s prospects at the Triple Crown series. “We feel like
he could win any of those races.”

California-based Team High Road also comes in with high expectations,
bolstered by a roster that includes 2007 series champ Eisel, multi-time
Triple Crown race winner Greg Henderson, 2001 Paris-Roubaix winner Servais
Knaven, multi-time Olympic medalist Bradley Wiggins, and key support riders
Edvald Boasson Hagen, Roger Hammond, Tony Martin and Vincente Reynes Mimo.

Expect Eisel and Henderson to be the team’s lethal one-two punch. A year ago
Eisel won the opening two legs of the Triple Crown on his way to overall
victory. Henderson pulled his own double in 2006, taking the Reading Classic
and the Philadelphia International Championship. A year earlier the Kiwi won
in Lancaster, predecessor to the new-for-2008 Lehigh Valley Classic.

Look for the Lehigh race to be a battle among the sprinters, and right now
there is none better in the world than Italian Daniele Bennati, leader of
the powerful Liquigas squad that’s headed to Pennsylvania next week. Already
this year, Bennati has scored three grand tour stage wins at the famous Giro
d’Italia, and another victory at Switzerland’s Tour of Romandie. In 2007,
Bennati grabbed a win for the ages, taking the final stage of the Tour de
France on the famed Champs d’Élysées in downtown Paris. Come July, Bennati
will be back at the Tour, but first he’ll be looking to make a little
history in Philadelphia.

Barring a last-minute change in plans, history will not repeat itself due to
Team CSC’s decision to not bring defending Philadelphia champion J.J. Haedo
to this year’s Triple Crown. Danish-based CSC, the fourth Tour de France
team in this year’s Triple Crown field, has been battered by injuries of
late (two riders broke collarbones on the same day at the Giro d’Italia) and
needed the talented Argentine to stay in Europe. In his place, team
leadership duties fall to Aussie Matthew Goss, who was second behind Haedo
in Philadelphia in 2007. Goss will be supported by Danes Kasper
Klostergaard, Lasse Bochman, André Steensen, Lars Bak and Matti Breschel.

Battling these four Tour de France teams will be a full compliment of
U.S.-based teams, plus professional squads from Poland, Ireland, Canada,
Germany and Mexico.

The likely top threat to the big boys will be Dominguez and his
Toyota-United team, whose roster includes former Philadelphia winners Henk
Vogels and Chris Wherry, Aussies Caleb Manion and brothers Hilton and Johnny
Clarke, Serbian Ivan Stevic and Canadian Dominique Rollin.

“We feel like we have a really good line-up for this series,” predicted
Toyota-United team director Scott Moninger. “We’re probably a little better
suited for these races than the other domestic teams because we have so much
speed and one-day racing talent.”

Indeed, besides the lightning-quick Dominguez, Toyota-United can also look
to Rollin who has the coveted combination of sprinting speed and breakaway

“We feel like either one of those guys could be there,” added Moninger. “Our
strategy will just depend on who has the best legs.”

Another top U.S.-based threat is Health Net-Maxxis and its all-purpose star
Rory Sutherland. The Aussie has been on a tear this year, already taking
overall wins at the Joe Martin and Mt. Hood Cycling Classic stage races.
He’ll be supported by a veteran team that includes fellow Australian Karl
Menzies and Americans Tim Johnson, Frank Pipp, Kyle Gritters, John Murphy,
Kirk O’Bee and Phil Zajicek.

“I think Reading could be perfect for Rory,” said Zajicek. “He’s got enough
strength to get over the climb and then get across the line.”

The wildcard of the Triple Crown field will be the new bad boys of cycling,
Rock Racing. The California team is fresh off an inspired performance at the
Tour of Colombia and will be looking for its first major victory of 2008.

“We are definitely going to be ready for Philly week,” said Rock Racing team
leader Fred Rodriguez, a multi-time U.S. national champion. “It’s really
important for me and the team.” 

That team will include Colombians Victor Hugo Peña, Santiago Botero,
Spaniard Oscar Sevilla, and Americans Michael Creed, Tyler Hamilton, Doug
Ollerenshaw and Kayle Leogrande.

“At the Tour de Georgia we were riding on our last bit of energy,” explained
Rodriguez of his team’s sub-par performance at the April stage race. “But
now we are on our way back up.”

Consider that a warning shot to all the competitors of the 2008 Commerce
Bank Triple Crown of Cycling. You can be sure it won’t be the last bullet

For a look at the complete start list, click here for Lehigh Valley, or here
for Reading
or here for Philadelphia.  You’ll find men’s and women’s start
lists for the individual events posted on the left under Team Race

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