Two local men give the race their all before falling back

Berks County's Bobby Lea will compete in the Olympics this summer.
Berks County's Bobby Lea will compete in the Olympics this summer. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 05, 2012

As they crossed the thick white line on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to begin the fifth of seven laps in the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship, two riders who grew up within 60 miles of the city were at the front of the pack.

They already had been riding for three hours, and the Pennsylvania duo was with a group of five cyclists a full minute in front of the 164 other riders.

One of them was 2008 Olympian Bobby Lea, who grew up in Topton, Berks County, in a family of athletes. The other was Scott Zwizanski, a 35-year-old West Chester native.

As they zoomed past the spectators, a fan pointed out Bobby to his mother, Tracy.

"Oh, he's not going to win," she said politely.

Tracy is a cyclist. Her husband, Rob, was an Olympic rower in 1964. She has seen them compete and knows how they operate. The way Tracy looked at it, she didn't want Bobby to win. If he did win, or was even in contention to win, that would mean he would be in the middle of a large pack of sprinters. She didn't want that. Too big of a risk, too much to lose.

Bobby Lea, 28, has a trip lined up to compete in London for the 2012 Summer Games as a cyclist in the omnium, an event his mother compares to the pentathlon in track and field. An official announcement won't come until June 15. But as long as he stays healthy, Lea will again be representing the United States.

So he wanted to jump out of the gates and get going with an early breakout group and push himself for a good workout, then slide behind the big packs for a safe trip to the finish line.

"I'm very excited for London," Lea said. "As a homegrown local, though, today was great. At every point I could hear people yelling my name."

Lea dropped off the leader board the sixth time up the treacherous 285-foot Manayunk Wall. Zwizanski, though, held his ground for one more lap.

After changing tires at two separate points in the race, a move that cost him about 45 seconds, Zwizanski made a charge to the front of the pack. To give his team a chance, he needed to stay with the breakaway group of five, four after Lea fell behind. But as they entered the final climb up Manayunk, Zwizanski already had spent too much energy making up for lost time to stick with the sprinters and fell back.

"I grew up watching this race on TV," he said. "It's great to be in it now and have so many people able to see me compete. It never gets old. Even the guys who aren't from here love coming. It's just a great race with great fans."

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