Kasper Malmkjaer, Rasmus Damm, Soren Petersen, Anders Sibast, John Ebsen, and other Philly host Mark Featherman.
Cycling is in my blood, so when a friend asks if I can help out the five member Danish National Team I say “sure.” My wife was totally on board, but our house is very small, and that was a problem. Enter friend and fellow cyclist Mark Featherman. He has a large house around the corner from me, and he agreed to host three riders. Two at ours, three at his, and HQ based out of my place. Game on!
My friend Joe Manaccio was wearing an original tee from the first “CoreStates” U.S. Professional Championships in 1985.
Preparing For The Danes
Following a few phone calls with Danish Team leader Soren Petersen, we gave them our address, and expected the team to arrive late Monday evening of race week. Since I have two small children, it was agreed that the senior team members, Soren Petersen and Anders Sibast would stay with us, and the boys: Rasmus Damm, John Ebsen, and Kasper Malmkjaer would stay at Mark’s house a.k.a. video game central. Rasmus and John are both 20, while Kasper turned 26 during his stay with us.
The team had driven up from Washington, D.C. following some races in the area, and arrived pretty late. We dropped off the younger guys at my friend’s house but we needed to drive back to the city to return their rental car. Meanwhile, this I wondered how I’d last on a guided tour of 60-80 miles the following day. Due to a head injury, my riding has been mostly CompuTrainer workouts of 45 minutes to 1-hr with just a handful of road rides since my crash in June of last year.
The team riding along River Road outside New Hope, PA.
As host and “activities director” I decided to pick a course for the guys that was repeatable and had as little traffic as possible. My intention was to take them out Tuesday, and have them guide themselves the rest of the week so that I can continue to work. New Hope, PA is typically described as the “South Street” of the suburbs, but nice and clean. It’s a hipster town located on the Delaware River, northeast of Philadelphia. I don’t know if the team didn’t want to drop me or not, but we headed out at a comfortable, chatty, pace. On the hills, climbing sensation John Ebsen would sprint past and then wait for us. Pretty impressive considering he was getting over the flu.
What is a bike ride without coffee?
Once in New Hope we stopped for some coffee, and to take in the scenery. Next, we headed North along the river for another 20-miles before turning South and heading home to complete our 70-mile, 3.5-hour day. The boys were still fresh, so young Rasmus, John, and Kasper headed with a group of my friends to the “airport loop,” for an hour of criterium-type speed work.
This is a weekly ride held Tuesday evenings, and has been visited by many professionals in the past such as John Eustice (former U.S. Professional Champion) and Roberto Gaggioli. Feedback on the guys was great. I’m told they had ridden very strong, but not in a rude way, and their presence was very much enjoyed by all.
Following a 70-mile scenic ride and 30-miles of speed work, the team was hungry. My wife is the food expert and made fantastic meals. After a great dinner it was time to drop off the boys, and rest for the following day. Our plan was to ride to Manayunk and check out “The Wall.”
Typical meal for our Danish friends thanks to my wife Rita.
Soren Petersen, tall, thin, and looking 10-years younger than his actual age of 41, is the team leader. He has ridden the Pro race in Philly three times, and he knows it well. His last two times here were with the famed Saturn team. Petersen talked with the team about positioning, and knowing when to look for opportunities on the climb. We crawled up ”The Wall” slowly with its 17% grade. John Ebsen (who eventually went up the wall first on race day), went up it like a rocket. At the top Soren decided to take the team for a lap of the course. I gave him directions home and I turned off to get back to work.
It has never rained on race day for the Pro race in Philly, but it certainly has rained leading up to it. We flirted with rain on Tuesday and Wednesday that week but Thursday it could not be avoided. I dropped off the team for some shopping at a local Mall and returned home to work. Later that afternoon, Soren and Anders set themselves up in my garage on trainers and the boys were set up at House 2 for some indoor riding. Rain struck again Friday so the young boys headed into the city on the train for some sightseeing while us wiser men stayed home and dry. It was a relaxing day and night for the team but it was clear the guys were beginning to get nervous about the big race Sunday.
A clean bike is a happy bike.
Ed Beamon, former long time Director of the Navigators Insurance Cycling Team was hired to run the team on race day. He had instructed the guys to head into Philly for a Mandatory press outing and photo the Saturday afternoon before the race. Soren and Anders, along with my son Henry cleaned their bikes and adjusted their race wheels. We then all rode down into the city along Kelly Drive for the team event and came home via the Manyunk Wall. The press outing was a very relaxed atmosphere and all of the riders used it as an opportunity to catch up with old friends or make new ones.
Liz Hatch of Vanderkitten Racing and Soren while waiting to be interviewed by the race organization.
Ed Beamon arrived at my house Saturday evening. He conducted a team meeting that was fascinating. Beamon knew the course, the other teams, and advised the team on what to look for and expect on Race day. Next , Beamon who still actively races in Pro 1 / 2 events and Master’s races had wanted to go out for a ride. It was getting late and dark, so I took him out for an hour. It was a huge honor to ride with such a top director. After the ride Ed, my wife, and I relaxed and enjoyed some Chimay before race day. Sorry Soren and Anders, none for you.
DS Ed Beamon brought in some experienced support for the team on race day. David Somerville, Director Sportif of Sommerville Sports out of Brooklyn, NY, was brought in to run things in the feed zone. David was “Mr. Detail,” and knew how to feed, what to feed, what information to get to the riders, and how to get that information to Ed in the team car. It was amazing for me to watch Ed and Dave work together. Mechanic Glenn Kalnins prepared all the bikes and was ready for any problem that might come the team’s way.
The plan was to have climbing specialists John Ebsen, if possible, go for some early KOM points up the wall. He managed to be the first up the wall on lap one and score some points but unfortunately for him one must finish to keep the points and the race proved to hard for his young legs. Soren Petersen, the experienced veteran and former Saturn rider stayed near the front and with the help of his teammates was always in contention. Petersen stayed with the main group and sprinted to 12th place, higher than any ProTour rider other than the top two from High Road. Not bad for a budget of $0.00.
A night on the town at a local drinking establishment was on tap and most of the teams showed up at the restaurant for a festive meal and post race drink. We certainly had a great time hosting our new Danish friends and are hoping they come back for the Univest Grand Prix in September.
All of the riders told me this was a much better experience than staying in the “race hotel.” It wasn’t glamorous but it was real… It was a great cultural exchange and we plan on taking up our friend’s offer to visit them in Denmark, perhaps during the Road World Cycling Championships in Copenhagen, 2011. And guys, thanks for the signed National Team Jersey.