Manayunk cycling community reacts to 2013 bike race cancellation

With the recently announced cancellation of the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship, all eyes are on Manayunk.

The Northwest Philadelphia neighborhood has become synonymous with the race, as one of the race’s premier challenges – the much vaunted Manayunk Wall on Levering and Lyceum Streets – is centrally situated in the hillside community.

At times, the event itself has become second to disturbances related to race-weekend partying in addition to efforts to quell this behavior and return the race to a more family-friendly event.

But the heart and soul of the race is cycling, so NewsWorks asked Manayunk bike retailers what their thoughts about the cancellation were.

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Not surprised, but disappointed 

Brady Gibney, manager of Cadence Cycling and Multisport on Main Street, first heard the news via a link posted on Facebook. He wasn’t caught off guard by the announcement – reports of the race’s precarious finances have been circulating for years.

Down the street, Stanley Tworek, manager of Human Zoom Bikes and Boards, referenced the conclusion of sponsorship by TD Bank last year, noting it was widely-circulated.

“It wasn’t a secret,” said Tworek.

Gibney was, however, disappointed with announcement, noting that the race was one of the primary reasons the store opted to open on Main St., given its physical proximity to the wall.

Over the years, Cadence has been indirectly involved with the race: international teams, traveling with limited staff, would often call upon the store for a mechanic to service their bicycles for the week.

Besides this, Gibney doubted that his business would suffer from the loss of race-related business. 

“It does bring a lot of eyes to Main St.,” he said, “but people aren’t buying stuff that day.”

For Human Zoom, Tworek said that the loss means that the retailer’s women’s cycling team won’t be able participate in the competition.

Neither shop has yet been approached about participating in discussion about the return of the race. That said, Gibney indicated that he would like to see the race continue, noting that the race has often been rescued by eleventh-hour decisions.

“It’s been around for twenty years,” he said, “so it would be nice to keep it going.”

Implications for biking community and Main Street 

Asked what impact the decision could have on bicycling culture, Gibney suggested that the race is no longer what it once was, and is no longer afforded the status it once held among serious cyclists. With reductions in size, scope, and prize money, the big teams aren’t coming any longer.

“It is a lesser-tier race,” he said, “and has been for a few years.”

For less-competitive cycling enthusiasts and race novices, Gibney said that there shouldn’t be any impact locally.

“They’re not going to stop buying bikes,” he said.

Tworek shared this assessment, stating that the area has sufficient interest in cycling, enough to withstand any drawbacks that the loss of the event might engender.

“Will people ride bikes less?” he asked. “No.”

Nevertheless, Tworek would like to see the situation resolved, and mentioned restoring the “stroll” that once prefigured the race, when Main St. would be closed to traffic and residents and visitors alike could walk through Manayunk’s business district.

“It made it a more of a family-event,” said Tworek, a local resident who admitted that he won’t miss the rowdiness associated with race weekend.

While local bicycle businesses will likely encounter little direct or indirect impact from a cancellation of the race, there are symbolic losses that might be experienced.

“Main St. is like a cycling mecca of Philly,” said Gibney, “and now without the bike race, it’s just another street.”

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