The most successful team in pro cycling lived up to its billing yesterday at the 25th annual Philadelphia International Cycling Championship, taking the first two spots in a race witnessed by an estimated crowd of 300,000.
Andre Greipel, 26, of Germany crossed the finish line on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with arms raised at 6 hours, 24 minutes, 4 seconds. Team Columbia-Highroad teammate Greg Henderson of New Zealand was less than a second behind in the 156-mile race.
"It was a victory for our team," Greipel said. "Our victory or my victory, it was a team victory."
On the women's side, Ina Yoko Teutenberg, 34, of Germany won her third Liberty Classic in 2:22.33.5 over 57.6 miles. Teutenberg, a member of Columbia-Highroad, also won in 2005 and '07.
"That was one of the hardest races I've done here," she said.
The races almost did not happen at all.
In April, organizers feared they would be forced to cancel the country's largest single-day professional bike race, as they had lost sponsors because of the economic downturn. They faced a $500,000 gap in the operating budget.
However, on May 1, Gov. Rendell announced that SugarHouse Casino and Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia would contribute $100,000 each, and that extra push ensured that the races would take place. TD Bank is the event's lead sponsor.
Mayor Nutter called yesterday's turnout "tremendous," saying it boded well for the race's future.
"The commitment and focus has always been on having a race," Nutter said. "We're going to get ready for next year's race this year, to make sure we can lock this thing down."
Greipel took home $13,500 for winning the men's race. Teutenberg received $4,500 as the women's champion.
Teutenberg edged New Zealander Joanne Kiesanowski of Team TIBCO by three-tenths of a second.
In the men's race, Italian Daniel Oss and Ukrainian Valeriy Kobzarenko rode side-by-side with four laps to go, nearly four minutes ahead of the competition. But the rest of the field caught up, and with 400 meters to go, Henderson made his move past eventual third-place finisher Kirk O'Bee of the United States, paving the way for Greipel to swoop past for the victory.
The men were not at the top of their game, though.
Greipel's winning time was the slowest ever at the championship, almost 10 minutes behind the previous low of 6:14:47 set last year by Matti Breschel of Denmark.
In fact, for the first time in the race's history, the women's field actually caught the men's field as they rode simultaneously on the circuit, making for a unique situation in which race officials had to stop the men's field and allow the women to pass through.
"They put them to the side, so it wasn't a problem for us," Teutenberg said. "But it was funny. That never happens."