THE SAYING GOES that it does not matter how strong you start, but how you finish.
Tell that to Will Routley, a Canadian and a member of Team Jelly Belly, during yesterday's 26th annual Philadelphia International Championship pro cycling race.
Throughout much of the race, he was ahead of the pack, including a lead of 90 seconds at one point. With four laps to go entering the Parkway, the four riders who were 20 seconds behind made their move.
The one man who battled through the blistering heat, physical pain and the vaunted Manayunk Wall to come out on top was Matthew Goss, of team HTC-Columbia. If the name does not sound familiar, then his affiliation might. That's because his teammates, Andre Greipel and Greg Henderson, finished first and second, respectively, last year.
Goss, an Australian who placed second in 2007, never wavered and was confident he could catch Routley and eventually come out of the pack. He made his final push with about 200 meters left to earn the repeat for his team. He finished the 156-mile course in 6 hours, 15 minutes, 46 seconds.
"It was the best situation," he said. "It was a long way to the top of the wall. Craig Lewis and Jan Ghyselinck really did a lot in the last 50 kilometers and they looked out for me."
Slovakia's Peter Sagan, of the Liquigas-Domino, who was a darkhorse to come from behind the pack and win, finished second, and Norway's Alexander Kristoff, of BMC Racing, placed third.
"I have done this race three times now so I know the race pretty well," an exhausted Goss said. "It's always nice to win this race. This is an awesome race . . . I love this race and I always wanted to win it. It feels pretty good."
It was more of the same for team HTC-Columbia in the 16th running of the Women's Liberty Classic as Ina Teutenberg took home the crown for the second straight year and her fourth overall. Her time for the 57.6-mile race was 2:31:39, besting 119 other women, the largest field in the race's history.
For the first time, the women finished their first lap faster than the men, but the women's result all came down to the precision of HTC-Columbia. With about 40 riders left going around Logan Square for the final time, Teutenberg's teammates helped her power in for the victory.
"It was a really close win," she said. "I'm happy with this win."
Second place went to Shelley Evans, of Peanut Butter & Co./2012. Philadelphia native Teresa Cliff-Ryan, from Colavita-Baci, was third.
Besides the racing, there was, of course, the other side of the cycling championship: the party.
Some might feel that they are distracting, but the fans who lined up along the Manayunk Wall relentlessly shaking their cow bells are there in support of the cyclists.
Matt Shearman, of Philadelphia, has become the unofficial mascot of the Manayunk crowd. For the past 6 years, Shearman has amused fellow fans with his Viking costume.
"The first year I sort of observed and then the second year I sort of brainstormed and put something together," Shearman said. "I think the partying lends to more fans coming out and more people having a good time. People want to have a good time and they come here. You should get a good meal and then go out and rock out all day."
Dan McDevit, of Drexel Hill, was not of the rock-out variety. Instead, he was more in tune with the performance on display.
"I think after the Army-Navy game and the Penn Relays, this is one of the best sporting events this country has to offer and it's right here in Philadelphia, all three of them," McDevitt said. "I think these guys are the best-conditioned athletes in the world to do this day in and day out."
Maureen McCarthy, who decided to come back after 2009, seconded the significance of the race to the city.
"I decided to come back because it is a great Philadelphia thing to do," the Philadelphia native said. "They are just terrific athletes."
Not everyone was so clear about their intentions to return.
After receiving her award at the podium, Teutenberg was coy in answering questions about coming back.