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A little help from a champ

Philly's Cliff-Ryan to race with road titleholder Bronzini in Liberty Classic.

Theresa Cliff-Ryan, who won the Kugler Open on May 30, will be racing with former winner Giorgia Bronzini this Sunday. (Augusto F. Menezes/AP)
Theresa Cliff-Ryan, who won the Kugler Open on May 30, will be racing with former winner Giorgia Bronzini this Sunday. (Augusto F. Menezes/AP)Read more

It seems quite appropriate that Theresa Cliff-Ryan spent part of this week showing Giorgia Bronzini around the city.

After all, it was Bronzini who helped show Cliff-Ryan the way to victory in Monday's Tour of Somerville criterium, a win that boosted the Philly resident from 10th place to fourth in the women's National Racing Calendar standings.

Cliff-Ryan and Bronzini are teammates who will compete for Forno d' Asolo-Colavita in Sunday's TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship. They will be among the more dynamic sprinters in the Liberty Classic, the 56-mile women's side of the event.

Bronzini, 28, who was born in Piacenza, Italy, is the road world champion, a title she earned by winning the UCI Road World Championships in Australia last fall. Cliff-Ryan, 32, became a pro cyclist six years ago after winning 29 world titles and the Pan Am Games in in-line speedskating. She has raced in the Philly International four times.

Cliff-Ryan's third win in the Tour of Somerville was greatly aided by Bronzini, who led her out of the peloton and to the finish line while finishing fourth. It was a selfless move that further endeared the Italian to Cliff-Ryan.

"In that situation, anything can happen," said Cliff-Ryan, who finished third in last year's Liberty Classic. "You can get boxed in. You may not have your legs. Georgia and I were close together, and we could communicate. So it was great to have the greatest sprinter in the world as a teammate."

Having a world champion in the field certainly adds to the prestige of the race, and it didn't take a lot of coaxing for Bronzini to come to Philly. She'd spoken to other cyclists about the race and was encouraged when they told her it was right up her alley because the race is frequently decided by who has the best finishing sprint.

"They told me it was a race for the kind of rider I am," Bronzini said. "I was also told many, many people come to see the race and that it's very exciting. I can't wait. I think I might be too excited."

Cliff-Ryan, who is from Cedar Springs, Mich., splits her time between Philly and Canberra, Australia. Her husband, Gary Ryan, was an in-line speedskating champion in Australia.

"I live here in the summer," she said. "It's just a great area for cycling."

Cliff-Ryan retired from in-line speedskating in 2005 and took up cycling with the hope of making the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. It speaks to her determination and athleticism that she has succeeded so quickly in a sport she began to take seriously only six years ago. Her proudest moment, she said, occurred at the 2010 Giro Donne. It was her first race in Europe and she was part of the team that brought the United States its first overall victory in the event. The team won three stages and she got a 10th- and 12th-place finish.

But Cliff-Ryan said she has found few cycling venues as exhilarating as the Philadelphia International.

"I just love it," she said. "The fans are amazing. I know this is a lower-tiered sport compared to a lot of other sports in the U.S. like football and baseball, but the fans here make you feel like you're one of those superstar athletes. It's definitely great to race here."

Cliff-Ryan, who also won Somerville last year and in 2007, is also quite familiar with the pain that comes while climbing the Manayunk Wall.

"I put it in my mind that it's the hardest three minutes of the race every time I go up it," she said. "And the rest of the course is great, too."

Cyclists to Watch on Sunday

Here are some cyclists to keep an eye on during Sunday's TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship and Liberty Classic:

Top 5 Men

1.   Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale)

 He is a rider who can win on any type of course and in any type of situation from a breakaway to a field sprint. He won two stages of the Tour of California last year and won another stage this year a few weeks ago.

2.   Hayden Roulston (HTC-Highroad)

 The current New Zealand road race national champion and an Olympic medalist on the track, he is a seasoned sprinter with a podium result in the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in Italy earlier this year and has top results in the biggest one-day races in Europe. If the race comes down to a field sprint, the team will likely look to set him up.

3.   Francisco Mancebo (Team

 He is the star on a new team on the U.S. racing scene that is built around him. The veteran Spanish rider has had a lot of success at the top level of the sport in Europe, including winning the white jersey in the 2000 Tour de France as the best young rider. He is a climber and currently leads the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar series.

4.   Pat McCarty (Team Spidertech powered by C10)

 The American recently won the King of the Mountains jersey at the Tour of California a few weeks ago, beating many top climbers from European teams. He will likely do well on the Manayunk Wall.

5.   Alexander Efimkin (Team Type 1)

 He is a Russian who brings a lot of European racing experience to this U.S. team that is looking to step up to the next level. He recently won the overall title at the International Presidential Tour of Turkey stage race and sixth in the tough mountain-top finish of Mt. Baldy in the Tour of California.

Top 5 Women

1.   Giorgia Bronzini (Colavita/Forno d'Asolo)

 The current world champion, the Italian won her title in a sprint finish, just like the Liberty Classic usually finishes. Recent results include fourth at the Tour of Somerville last weekend, a win at the GP Gatineau in Quebec, and ninth in the Chongming Island World Cup race in China.

2.   Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Colavita/Forno d'Asolo)

 A resident of Philadelphia for half the year, this teammate of Bronzini is also a sprinter. She recently won the 2011 Tour of Somerville and finished third at the GP Gatineau. She was runner-up at the Liberty Classic last year.

3.   Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom)

 One of the most successful racers on the U.S. scene - man or woman - she took second at the Tour of Somerville and second at the Wilmington GP in the last two weeks. A great sprinter, she has finished on the podium of the Liberty Classic three times but never on the top step.

4.   Joelle Numainville (TIBCO)

 On one of the deepest teams in the race, Numainville is the team's sprinter. The current Canadian national road champion recently finished second at the GP Gatineau and sixth in the prestigious European Classic Tour of Flanders in Belgium.

5.   Jeanie Longo (HumanZoom)

 As the most successful female cyclist ever, Jeannie Longo is always a threat to win any race she enters. She is once again the French national time trial champion and finished fifth at the world championships in 2010.

Other Top Men

Scott Zwizanski (United Healthcare), Pottstown, Pa.

Shane Kline (Bissell), Bally, Pa.

Kyle Wamsley (Bissell), Chester, Pa.

Iggy Silva (Wonderful Pistachios), Kutztown, Pa.

Other Top Women

Kacey Manderfield (Pure Energy), Breinigsville, Pa.

Cassandra King (Mellow Mushroom), Philadelphia

Colleen Hayduk (Pure Energy), Kutztown, Pa.