Expect sprinters to make their mark



PHILADELPHIA – May 7, 2008 - Starting at 1 p.m. on June 3rd, 25 of the world’s premier professional cycling teams will wage a 12-lap, 85-mile battle on the winding roads of Pennsylvania’s third largest city. At stake in this Allentown showdown is victory in the Lehigh Valley Classic, opening leg of the Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling.

The stage for round No. 1 is a new-for-2008 course that traces a rectangular path from downtown Allentown, across the Lehigh River, and up the scenic and rolling Lehigh Parkway before returning downtown via West Hamilton Street. While by no means a climber’s course, this 7.1-mile circuit will test riders with a steady stream of punchy, leg-sapping rollers. But barring the unforeseen, the endgame will likely belong to the sprinters.

“There are some hills to be sure, but I don’t think it will be enough to completely break up the race,” predicted Robin Zellner, the race’s technical director. “If the right breakaway combination forms, then maybe something could stay away to the finish. But the course definitely favors the sprinters. The run in to the finish is dead straight for about two miles, so they’ll have plenty of time to get in position.”

The crux of the race will likely be the gradual rise that comes near the end of that long finishing run down West Hamilton Street. It’s just steep enough to drain the legs, and could prevent pure sprinters such as Ivan Dominguez (Toyota-United) and J.J. Haedo (Team CSC) from being well positioned for the final 600-meter charge to the line.

If Dominguez and Haedo lose touch with the front, there might not be enough time to regain the front, opening the door for shrewd riders such as Tour de France veteran Freddie Rodriguez (Rock Racing) or Dominique Rollin, Dominguez’s French Canadian teammate whose varied skill set has earned him the nickname, “The Horse from the North.”

“If teams can get their sprinters to the top of that hill in one piece then it will be a drag race,” added Zellner, former team director of the Kodak Gallery-Sierra Nevada cycling team. “But the last trip up that hill could definitely break things up a little. It will be all big chainring, but they won’t be able to stay in the hardest gear the whole way. That could open it up to some of the crafty guys who don’t rely on a big lead-out train to get them to the line.”

Before the final fireworks, spectators will have ample viewing opportunities during the race that’s expected to last about three hours. Look for lap times in the 20-25-minute range, making it possible for the savvy fan to catch the riders in numerous places along the course. One of the best bets will be right before the feedzone on Lehigh Parkway North, an area chock full of small climbs that will guarantee plenty of action.

“It’s a nice shaded area that’s near the river, a park and lots of walking paths,” explained Zellner. “It will be a great place to set up a picnic and watch the race go by.”


Photo credit:  Phil Marques

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