Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies scored two big podiums today at the inaugural Philly Cycling Classic, placing Jesse Anthony and Joelle Numainville on the second step of their respective podiums after a day of aggressive racing by both teams. Tom Zirbel also helped the team claim an additional portion of the $60,000 prize pot, claiming the sprinter’s prize after spending the majority of the day up the road in breakaways.
A full team effort paid off for both the men and women, as they tackled a similar route to the 28-year old Philadelphia one-day classic, but one which featured an altogether different style of finish. The circuit started and ended at the pinnacle of the brutal and iconic Manayunk Wall, reaching a 17 percent grade at its steepest section. The other end of the course offered no relief, with another significant effort over Lemon Hill.
“We were very excited that the tradition of racing the first weekend of June in Philly continued this year, and also about the new finish at the top of the Wall,” said Performance Director Jonas Carney. “All eight guys rode their hearts out today, and we were rolling the dice over and over – getting into breakaways, leading it out into the Wall, and doing everything we possibly could to alter the outcome of the race in our favor.”
The men’s race ebbed and flowed over the entire course of the 120 mile event as break after break formed throughout the day. It began with Tom Zirbel escaping in a 4 rider move for the opening laps until he was joined by teammates Mike Friedman and Scott Zwizanski in a large 25 rider move. Sensing the break was not cohesive enough, Friedman hit out solo until a new move of 7 formed from that breakaway including West Chester, PA’s own Zwizanski. This move continued to press on for a few laps and then grew once again as stragglers from the break made it back to the front. This time, Zwizanski leapt out with 3 other riders to form the final break of the day that looked like it could possibly make it to the final trip up Manaynk alone and battle for the win. However, with just 1 kilometer to go to the base of the final climb, it was reabsorbed as the full force of the Optum p/b KBS leadout took the front to deliver Jesse Anthony to the climb.
Anthony’s teammates formed a picture perfect, guns blazing leadout train heading into the final trip up Manayunk Wall, and it was up to him to give it everything he had up the twisting grade. The longtime Optum p/b KBS rider felt good about his chances after the team’s efforts, and was only passed near the Manayunk summit by Kiel Reijnen (Team UnitedHealthcare).
“Our team rode amazingly well today, in all phases of the race,” said Anthony. “Everyone played a huge role and our guys in the break truly deserved a shot at the win for all their efforts. I gave it everything I had, and Kiel is a great competitor, so unfortunately I came up just a bit short today. This year I have struggled a bit to really come into the form I know I have, so it feels great to find my horsepower here in Philly, especially heading into some major goals for our team in the coming months.”
Joelle Numainville Displays Uphill Sprinting Power as Orange and Black Women Battle on Manayunk
The Optum p/b KBS women’s team showed an equally impressive display of teammwork in delivering Numainville to her second place finish, sprinting head-to-head against Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon). Numainville, who powered up the final 50 meters in top position, was barely ovetaken at the line by the world-class Stevens. As is becoming normal for Optum p/b KBS, the team’s efforts were instrumental to her chance at the win. All five of Numainville’s teammates worked together to chase down a dangerous late breakaway by Alison Powers (Now & Novartis for MS), who escaped on the last lap and built up a thirty second advantage. By the base of the climb, Powers was reeled in, and Numainville gave an impressive effort up Manayunk, on a climb not entirely suited to the sprinter’s skillset.
“Alison’s solo effort near the end was very well timed, but our team responded perfectly and aggressively to reel her in and set up Joelle,” said women’s Peformance Director Rachel Heal. “Evelyn (Stevens) is a world class rider, and this finish was almost built for her skillset, so seeing Joelle battling with her on such a big hill was very exciting for our team. Everyone is very motivated heading into next week’s Nature Valley Grand Prix.”