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PHILADELPHIA (VN) — For the second consecutive year, American Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) has conquered the Manayunk Wall to win the Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic.
Stevens outkicked Canadian Lex Albrecht (Twenty16) for the win, with American rider Lauren Hall (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) finishing third.
It was the first road win for Stevens since June 15, 2013, when she won a stage of the Giro Trentino; she won the Pan-American individual time trial championship on May 8 of this year in Puebla, Mexico.
Stevens has now won both editions of the Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic, a race that rose from the ashes of the former Philadelphia International Classic and its long history as the former USPRO national championship event, which began in 1985.
And though the course has changed — it no longer includes the start/finish on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, instead starting and finishing atop the Manayunk Wall — the Philly race, and its UCI 1.1 designation, still carries considerable prestige for both the men’s and women’s peloton, including equal prize lists for both fields.
“This is a really special race for me,” Stevens said. “I raced here for the first time in 2009, and have done it every year it’s been held since then. It is a big race for our team. It means a lot to me, to win again, and to win here.”
Stevens finished third at the U.S. national road championship last weekend, behind winner Alison Powers (UnitedHealthcare), who won that race on a solo breakaway.
And as she did in Chattanooga, Powers again went solo and opened up a dangerous lead ahead of the field. However, this time around Powers went early in the race, on the second of five 12-mile laps.
“For me personally, this wasn’t a finish that suits me at all,” Powers said. “I was supposed to wait for the second half of the race, but I knew I had strong teammates behind me, so why not give it a go? It was up to 1:10, and they held me there, but I racked up KOM points, and sprint points.”
Though her advantage stretched out over one minute, Powers was reeled in on the fourth of five trips over the Wall, setting the stage for a fast and frenetic final lap as teams battled for position heading into the final kilometers.
Stevens’ teammate Carmen Small launched an attack at the bottom of the Levering Street, the early slopes of the Wall, setting up Stevens for a perfectly timed counterattack on the steepest stretch, on Lyceum Avenue.
“My teammates did a perfect job for me,” Stevens said. “Unfortunately my teammate Karol-Ann Canuel went down in a crash early, so we had to change our dynamics a little. There were only three left to work. We had Ally Stacher do everything; ride on the front, covering moves. We had to be conservative, with Tayler Wiles and Carmen Small, because we knew we’d need the horsepower in the final lap.
“This race always comes down to that final climb, it’s like a sprint coming into the climb in the right spot. For me, to throw elbows, is not common, but I had my elbows out.”
Runner-up Albrecht agreed — for those who can power up the kilometer-long climb at the end of the race, it does come down to being in the right spot — and she lamented her positioning coming into the climb.
“Second place is bittersweet,” Albrecht said. “I was really hungry for us to get the win, and I really love this race. But I’m happy to be on the podium. I started [the climb] a little too far back. We lost some girls that got caught up in some crashes. [Teammate] Alison Tetrick did a big attack a few kilometers from the finish that helped keep it strung out at the front.
“I knew it was essential to be at the front of the chicane area, at the bottom of the hill. I had to make up a lot of ground. It’s so fast there, it’s all fighting for position. I needed to be in the top five, and I was in about 15th or so. But Evie is a super strong rider, and for me, it’s an honor to share the podium with her.”
Stevens timed her move to perfection, and said she had a good idea she’d won the race with 100 meters to go. The effort was so intense, however, that Stevens collapsed to the ground across the line.
“This year, at Flèche Wallonne, I think I lost a podium spot in the last 25 meters, so I was not going to look back or give up until I was over that line,” Stevens said. “There was no victory salute. I just wanted to make sure I had it.”
Like the men’s field, the women’s field boasts a total prize list of $31,000, with cash payouts going 25 deep, as well as prizes to the winner of the KOM, sprint, and under-23 competitions.
Powers won the KOM and sprint competitions. Tibco-To the Top rider Kristabel Doebel-Hickock finished 11th and took the $1,000 prize as best young rider.