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Mike Sayers: "My experience certainly paid off in the finish". (Foto by Mark Adkionson)
Mike Sayers: "My experience certainly paid off in the finish". (Foto by Mark Adkionson)

In his last Philly race, Mike Sayers takes top place in sprint

8. June 2008

Philadelphia International Championship

That the Philadelphia International Championship traditionally ends in a field sprint belies the true severity of the course.  Over 250 km in length with ten climbs up the Manayunk Wall and 13 climbs up the Lemon Hill thrown in, the race in Philadelphia can lay claim to being the hardest one-day race on the domestic calendar.  

This year’s edition was made all the more difficult with the exceptional heat and typical humidity.  In the race of attrition, BMC’s supremely experienced Mike Sayers fought through the conditions to come out with a satisfyingly high finish.

The heat would play a decisive role on the day

The 9am starting time, though perhaps earlier than most professionals are used to, was useful in saving the riders from having to race the whole day in above 90° F (32° C) temperatures.  “Today was really hot,” Gavin Chilcott reported.  “We started out just under 90° and according to our thermometer, we were over 100° by the end of the race.”  The team had a plan for keeping the guys as cool as possible.  “We had a heat management plan to keep the guys cool and hydrated,” Chilcott said.  “The staff worked pretty hard at it, but I think it was a worthwhile thing to do.”  Jeff Louder agreed that the staff’s efforts were definitely helpful.  “I felt really strong today, and the heat management plan really helped me a lot,” he said.  “I didn’t suffer nearly as much from the heat as I have in the past.”  The team went into the day with no clear leader, but rather an action plan that would find BMC riders fitting themselves into nearly every important move. “We went in with the idea of not wasting too much energy early on, concentrating on going with moves, though not creating them,” Chilcott said.  “Mike, Taylor and Tony were in an interesting move with about 2 more large laps to go.  That had a huge potential, but in the end, I think it was just a little too far away from the finish.”  It may have also burned a few too many matches for the two BMC fast finishers, Tony and Taylor.  “Being in that move may have come at the expense of not being really strong for the finish,” Chilcott reasoned.  “In this heat, the guys had enough power for one big effort, and then recovering from that became even more difficult.”  Likewise, Martin Kohler took a potentially dangerous flyer with about 25km to go, but his efforts too were outpaced by a charging peloton.  “Martin was trying to bridge up to a strong 3 man break, but didn’t quite make it,” Chilcott said.  “But it was a worthwhile effort even if it didn’t really pay off for him.”  “I really like the racing here,” Kohler said after the race.  “I like the heat and though I have never done a race this long, I am happy with the results.”

Mike Sayers husbands his resources and pulls off a top finish

“I am very pleased that Mike had such a successful final Philly appearance,” Chilcott said.  “He rode very well, had to dig deep and manage his efforts.”  Having placed himself well in the dangerous 15 man break, Sayers hit a bad patch and had to steel himself against the temptation to stop.  “I was feeling pretty good early on,” Mike said.  “But I had a very bad patch and really had to use my experience to know just how hard I could take it.  I had made a pact with myself after the Reading race though, that I wasn’t going to quite until I just could not go anymore.”  Sayers, like many other riders on the day, had a very hard time with the heat, but he ended the day as the best BMC finisher, putting a great end to a long and successful 13 year Philly run.  “BMC did a great job today and was represented in almost every main split,” Sayers said.  “My experience certainly paid off in the finish, since I knew just which side of the road to be on, and which wheels to follow.  I’m not a pure sprinter, by any means, but I know how to position myself, and the good results come largely from that experience.”  The team lived up to its mantra of having no team leader, but rather being a team where everyone works for each other and the good of the team.  “We all worked for each other, and since we had 6 guys finish the race, I think that shows how well we take care of each other,” Jeff Louder said.  “Mike really stepped up and got himself and the team a good result for the day,” Louder continued, “but he was still apologizing at the end of the race for not leading out one of the sprinters!  That’s just the type of guy and team player he is.”

Next stop: Switzerland

With a week of good racing and training behind them, the BMC Racing Team will rest up and ship out to Europe Monday evening to begin the finishing preparations for their first participation in the Tour of Switzerland.  With riders like Jeff Louder, Darren Lill, Martin Kohler and Danilo Wyss having had such good preparation in the past week of racing, the hopes are high for a strong showing.  “We are getting better and better,” Louder said.  “We are all really looking forward to it; everyone respects the race and knows that it is a high class event and our biggest race of the year.”