As I mentioned somewhere, my trip to Philly was based on my appointment as the UCI's Doping Control Officer for two races that were on the World Calendar. The Liberty Classic (Pro women) and TD Bank International Cycling Championship (Pro Men) attracted a total of around 300 racers, and my task was to test six of them for banned substances under the UCI's anti-doping rules. It was my first solo gig as a DCO since completing my training last year in Canada.
I flew in on Friday of last week, and the organizers had reserved a room for me in the host hotel, the Sheraton. since I carry one of their frequent-guest cards (it's really just a scam since I'm a Hilton guy) I was put up on one of the top floors, with buffet breakfast included. From my room I had a view of part of the race course, especially the start/finish straight and the roundabout with about 500 meters to go. I could also see the Free Library (the big building on the right) where countless homeless folks mill around during the daytime as well as at night.
|A room with quite a view|
On both days I rode mainly the route of the race course, which leads out along the Schuykill river toward Manayunk, where the infamous 17% wall is located. Manayunk, so I understand, used to be a pretty rough place, where the workers lived. It was been transformed into more of a trendy neighborhood, with lots of eateries, small shops, and boutiques. And they are serious about the bike race! The TD Bank Classic has been in existence for the past 27 years, with different names but always under the same directorship under Dave Chauner, whom I had met the first time two years ago during my early training phase as DCO and who remembered me this year.
On Friday I did only one lap of the course, but on Saturday I did a few up-and-down along the Schuykill, especially since one side of the river is completely closed off to motorized traffic every weekend and one can ride without worries of getting nailed. On the Schuykill, a big Dragon Boat race meet was taking place, attracting dozens of 20-person boats that were battling it out in 500 meter sprints. Here's the final phase of the women's race: The Warrior Women took the gold by a smidgen. Note the big drum that the cockswain uses to set the cadence of her paddlers. It was quite a sight!
|Dragon Boat racing on the Schuykill|
|... graffiti ...|
|... art ...|
|... fixers and the homeless|
|The race caravan on one of the many laps|
|Louise LaLonde, working the race radio|
So here I had the privilege of sitting in the chief commissaire's car, at the biggest one-day event in the US, and seeing and experiencing all the action from the back seat. Of course, I've been Com 1 or Com 2 at road races before, but dude, this is the BIG time! And I have to say, after that hour spent with Louise, her driver, and the man whose voice was "Radio Tour" (more on that in a second) I have even more respect for what road commissaires are doing, versus what we as mountain bike commissaires are experiencing. I would like to publicly state: I am distraught by the fact that I am 55 (and thus way beyond the UCI's age limit), that I never got a chance to progress as a road official (because of the distance from the races), and that I will forever miss the intensity of being in charge of a world-class road event. Honestly, that chagrins me.
|We were right alongside the charging field|
|The infamous Manayunk Wall, 800 meters of 17% pain|
|The peloton approaching the start/finish area in Philly|
I enjoyed another nice evening in Philly and then flew home on Monday morning, for another two days in Lubbock. And now I am sitting in Costa Rica, outside of Cartago, overlooking a verdant valley and waiting for the organizers of this weekend's mountain bike race to pick me up and inspect the course with me. So, come back in a day or two for another update. Maybe the next one will not take 24 hours to write as this one did.