The cancellation of the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship due to lack of funding early this year upset many who treasured the “Bike Race”, an event that for almost 30 years brought cycling enthusiasts to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Manayunk to celebrate on race day. When funders stepped in to maintain the tradition in March, the Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic was born, and in Manayunk yesterday, the scene on the street looked similar to years past with a few notable changes.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter spent some time at the top of Manayunk’s infamous “Wall,” the start and finish line of the new race. Nutter credited financial supporters Parx Casino and Penn Financial for making the race possible in 2013 and marveled, like many, at the ability of racers to climb the Wall. “I think going up that hill in a car is tough,” he said.
Canadian cyclist Alizee Brien,19, and in her second year racing in Philadelphia, finished in the first pack of racers in the women’s event. She was impressed that the prize money for both the men’s and women’s races were equal for the first time in 2013. She added that finishing at the top of the hill makes for an entirely different race.
David Dawson, a Philadelphia University student and close friend and training partner to local cycling favorite Robin Carpenter, explained that although the race is 25 miles shorter than the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship, the new course could prove tougher for riders. “It’s a lot harder, you’re climbing the wall 10 times,” Dawson said. “You’ve got technical descents, you’ve got the climb up Strawberry Mansion and from a racer’s prospective, you’re always trying to set up for that next point.”
Relaxing on her stoop at the top of the Wall, Manayunk resident Stephanie Rothenberg, who’s been attending the Bike Race for five years, did notice a difference in the energy of the crowd. “More people are into it this year.”