All eyes were on the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team on Sunday at the 2014 Parx Casino Philadelphia Cycling Classic, and for good reason. The team was lining up to defend their 2013 victory, earned by Colorado resident Kiel Reijnen. The 2014 edition consisted of 10 laps around an undulating 12-mile circuit, totaling 120 miles and 10 ascents up Lemon Hill and the famous Manayunk Wall. Kiel proved last year that he could be the fastest rider up the climb final climb, so the team was tasked with delivering him there at the end of the race, ready to sprint and in a favorable position. Jonny Clarke contributed by covering an early breakaway that would see an advantage of almost three minutes. Motivated to keep the front of the race within their grasp, the peloton powered to close the gap and capture the 7 riders, and would do so on the 8th lap.
The blistering pace reduced the lead group to roughly 40 riders. With Reijnen and his teammates still intact and 15 kilometers left to race, the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team took control of the race and raised the pace once again. Jeff Louder, Chris Jones, Danny Summerhill, Jonny Clarke, and Isaac Bolivar worked together to escort Reijnen through the last lap while keeping the pace exceptionally high. John Murphy and Ken Hanson sheltered Kiel in the last 3 kilometers, delivering him to the base of the final ascent in first position. From there, Reijnen knew the race was up to him. He accelerated once, testing his legs and shaking up the front of the lead group. He accelerated again, this time distancing the entire field. Kiel never looked back, sprinting up the face of the Manayunk Wall and through the finish line with a commanding lead and seconds to spare over any of his rivals. This well-deserved victory happened to also fall on Kiel’s 28th birthday, making the tremendous achievement even more special for Kiel, his friends, his family, and the entire UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team.
Two-time Philadelphia Classic winner Kiel Reijnen commented, “The team was flawless today– They took care of me for the entire race and should have been on the podium with me. The finish at the top of the wall suits me, but I never would have had the opportunity to test my legs if not for the work of my teammates. I’m thankful to repay them with the win.”
When asked what the Philadelphia race means to him, Kiel responded with a story. “The fans here are just amazing. Last year, we found a great restaurant for Philly cheese steaks after the race. The owner recognized me as the race winner and gave me a t-shirt that he had made specifically for the race, after we had a cheese steak together. I really appreciated that and I wanted to go back this year to see him, win or lose, wearing the shirt and to have another cheese steak with the nice man. When I arrived this evening, he immediately recognized me and showed me his background image on his cell phone- a photo of us having a cheese steak together a year ago. That’s what I think about this race and this city; the fans are incredible people.”
The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling women’s squad also had a strong showing in Philadelphia. Newly crowned national road and time trial champion, Alison Powers started the action for the team, attacking on lap 2 of 5. Powers contributed a massive effort, riding solo for over half of the 61.5-mile race. The rival teams eventually reeled Powers back into the group, but her breakaway earned her enough points to walk away with the win in both the sprint and queen of the mountains categories. With the peloton back together, the team launched numerous attacks in the final lap, but the rival teams managed to keep the race together for the final sprint. Mara Abbott and Sharon Laws secured top-ten finishes for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, earning 7th and 8th respectively.
Before the racing began, the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team had another objective in Philadelphia. John Murphy and Hannah Barnes were invited to a local elementary school to share their experiences as professional bike racers and discuss the importance of good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and safe cycling.