Philly Cycling Classic organizers strive for ‘classic European’ style race

Ask Richard Adler about the 2013 Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic and he’ll make one thing very clear: it’s a completely new event, not simply a continuation of the old.

That’s not to say that Adler and the rest of the race’s organizing team have disregarded the storied history of the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship, which was canceled in late January following a loss of sponsorships after nearly 30 years in Philadelphia. 

But there was a concerted effort to retool it as the group worked to keep pro-cycling a part of the city’s sporting landscape.

“Cycling has been an institution in the City of Philadelphia and we felt that there was an opportunity to continue it at a new level, a new energy, a new enthusiasm, a new look, a new feel,” said Adler, the race’s co-founder and former managing director of Philadelphia Triathlon, LLC.

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The most dramatic difference between the two races is the course.

How is this year’s course different? 

The Philly Cycling Classic’s 12-mile circuit is shorter, but more challenging, making for a more spectator-friendly race, according to organizers.

The course doesn’t include the roughly two-mile stretch along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the start/finish line has been moved to the top of Lyceum Avenue in Roxborough, meaning riders will have to climb, instead of sprint, to victory.

By having fewer miles of flat racing, riders won’t have as much time to recover from Lemon Hill and the Manayunk Wall.

Robin Morton, the race’s technical director, said the course for the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship, was considered challenging at the beginning of its 28-year run, but became less so as U.S. cycling became more established and competitive.

“Teams understood how to ride the race and so it was always the same formula,” said Morton. “It always came down to the same finish.”

In the Philly Cycling Classic, organizers feel they’re bringing a new flavor of racing to the city that they hope cyclists and spectators alike will positively respond to for the foreseeable future.

“This will have the look and feel much more of a really classic European, one-day bike race,” said Adler.

Embracing change 

For now, many race fans are thrilled that there will be a professional cycling event in the city in 2013.

“It’s the best spot on domestic racing in the whole country,” said Peter Flax, editor-in-chief of Bicycling Magazine, which is again sponsoring the Bicycling Open this year, giving amateur riders the chance to ride the pro-course.

Jane Lipton, executive director of the Manayunk Development Corporation, said she’s excited about the new changes. While she enjoyed the previous race and respected its organizers, she said a reboot was long overdue.

“Change was not their friend. Change was a foe,” said Lipton about Pro Cycling Tour, LLC. “And I think in all things today, change has to be an ally. You have to look at change as an opportunity to become better, stronger, whatever it is, and I think this new team can do that.”

Finalizing the details 

That said, Lipton isn’t ready to talk about the future of the event.

“I can’t because there are other factors,” she said. “The City of Philadelphia is a partner in the race now. And when you have a partner in anything, in life, it becomes a conversation, ‘What will things look like?'”

Between now and June 2, the day of the race, organizers will work to finalize a long list of details, most of them technical and related directly to race day.

The team will also need to secure more funding for this year’s edition.

As of last week, organizers, with the help of U.S. Representative Bob Brady (D-Philadelphia), who spearheaded the race revival, had between $450,000 and $500,000 on hand, said Adler.

Parx Casino, Sunoco and New Penn Financial are among this year’s sponsors.

Adler said the event will likely cost between $700,000 and $800,000 to produce. Cutting the Parkway from the course saved a “significant” amount of money, he said.

“It’s been crazy. Good crazy,” said Adler of organizing the race.

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