On the hottest day in the city this year, the 24th annual Philadelphia International Cycling Championship ended with its slowest winning time ever but also with the event's closest finish.
With the temperature hovering around 94 degrees - and rising to a blistering 124 on the pavement - Matti Breschel of Denmark won the race. Breschel entered the stretch run vying with a pack of competitors before nosing out American Kirk O'Bee.
The winner's time of 6 hours, 14 minutes, 47 seconds over the 156-mile course was the slowest in the race's history, up from the previous worst of 6:13:53 in 2006.
"I just pushed as hard as I could," said the 24-year-old Breschel. "It was an important victory for me. It was my first victory this year, and I've been waiting a long time for it."
With the first-place finish, Team CSC's Breschel also claimed the men's Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling championship.
In the women's division, Ina Teutenberg of Germany repeated as the Triple Crown champion after finishing third in the women's 57.6-mile Liberty Classic.
Teutenberg, who won the race in 2005 and 2007, came into this year's Liberty Classic with wins in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, at Lehigh Valley and Reading.
The winner of the race yesterday was Teutenberg's teammate on Team High Road, Chantal Beltman of the Netherlands, who came in first in 2:28:52. Brooke Miller of Huntington Beach, Calif., was second.
Beltman gave Teutenberg some of the credit for her win.
"We won as a team today," she said. "When you have a strong sprinter like Ina on your team, you are always in a good position."
"I would have been sad if my teammate didn't win," Teutenberg said. "But since High Road won, that's all that matters. We wanted to win the race, and that's what we did. It doesn't matter how we won it."
Beltman was also helped along by teammates Kim Anderson and Mara Abbott. The trio took control of the race during the final trip up the famed Manayunk Wall, where thousands of fans lined the sidewalks cheering.
"From there, I just gave it my all because I knew I had nothing to lose, " Beltman said. "If the field catches me, then we have Ina for the sprint. We had it under control all day. It was awesome."
While all eyes were on Teutenberg in the Liberty Classic, Breschel's name was not heard among the leaders until near the end of the men's race.
With five laps left, Svein Tuft of Canada, Glen Chadwick of New Zealand and Francisco Matamoros of Mexico broke away. Tuft then went out in front by a nose; the pack was 1 minute, 50 seconds behind the trio.
Tuft was still ahead with three laps to go, but going up the hill at Manayunk, the pack was only 30 seconds behind. The trio of leaders then faded out of the top 20.
Breschel, who almost had his career ended by injuries he suffered in a 2006 crash during a sprint to the finish line, was in the pack.
"It's a long race," he said. "So you have to wait, wait, wait. Patience is very important. I made my move with 200 meters to go. I knew it would come down to the sprint, and that would be the whole race."
Breschel won $15,000 for the Triple Crown and $5,000 for winning the race. Beltman took home $5,000, and Teutenberg won $2,500.