In the absence of an official Philly Beer Week/Philly Cycling Championships mash-up, it was easy enough to make do on our own. With a tent for just about every bike shop in the greater Philly area pitched across the hillside and a keg under most, there was plenty of sampling to be done by the more ambitious of the Lemon Hill denizens.
Me? I stuck with a cup or two of Victory Prima Pils, offered up by the ever ready Lee Rogers of my house shop, Bicycle Therapy. A perfect late-morning, sunny-day brew if I do say so, and a more than adequate accompaniment to the cheeseburgers flying off the grates courtesy of Grillmaster Brian Hackford, the man behind Keswick Cycle. Brian's been sharing a tent on Lemon Hill with the Bike Therapy crew for just about as long as I can remember.
There were no worries when the keg kicked, as I'd brought along a backup supply of Farmhouse Summer Ale from another local cycling supporting brewery, Flying Fish. Served ice cold and straight from the bottle, I must say it was tasting great on a hot afternoon (even if it is brewed in New York rather than at Flying Fish's own facilities in Cherry Hill, NJ).
Lest you think today's festivities were all about the beer, let me assure you... there were a couple of bike races in the mix, too.
The women's race, which runs concurrently with the men's, was animated from the get-go this year. As usual, it came down to a field sprint in the end, but a small one, as the front pack had been whittled down to a mere 15-20 riders.
The men's race followed a familiar pattern as well, with an early sacrificial break forming within the first couple of laps and staying out front, by several minutes at one point, until eventually being reabsorbed by the main field with a couple of laps to go.
By the time everything came back together, the effort of raising the pace toward the finale was really beginning to show on the faces and bodies of the riders. 156 miles in the saddle is a long day by any rider's standards. Add to that the early June heat on the streets of Philadelphia and what were the windiest conditions I can ever remember witnessing on race day, and you've a pretty good recipe for suffering.
In addition to the fact that it's just a great, relaxed location from which to check out race day, one of the beautiful things about Lemon Hill is that you can tell the riders really love the vibe, too. It's a stiff little climb, especially after multiple laps at race pace, but it's not so excruciating that the riders can't take in the energy of the crowd and the scene. And in the late stages of the race, especially as some of the riders start to come off the back of the field, it's a good place to witness the camaraderie that exists within the pro peloton...
...or to grab a beer and cool off a little before the long, lonely ride to the finish. About the only thing Lemon Hill doesn't provide is a view of that finish. So, if you were hoping for the lowdown on the day's results, you'll have to go here.