Four days after the 2013 edition of the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship was cancelled, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D-Philadelphia) expressed optimism that the storied event could be saved.
On Monday, Pro Cycling Tour, the race’s organizer, announced that, after 28 years, the race would be taking a one-year hiatus as officials work to secure funding. The event lost, among other things, sponsorships.
Since the news broke, Brady, in conjunction with other city leaders, has spearheaded an effort to ensure that the race – known around town as the Manayunk Bike Race – returns in 2013.
“We’re doing everything we can,” Brady said Friday during a press conference outside of Le Bus Restaurant on Main Street in Manayunk.
Searching for sponsors
Brady said the projected cost of a 2013 race is between $1.1 and $1.3 million.
So far, no sponsor – or sponsors – has been announced for the race, but Brady said that he has received some calls from people who expressed interested in helping to cover the event’s bottom line.
Asked if the Greater Philadelphia Traditions Fund – which has buttressed the Mummer’s Parade in the past – could be used to assist with a proposed bike race, Brady said that the fund is set up for non-profit organizations. With the bike race being a for-profit event, reallocation of those dollars would not be permitted, but he added, “Our contributors could certainly give us some money to support this.”
No specific plans for fundraising were announced Friday, but a series of marketing campaigns are beginning to emerge.
Brady said the Manayunk Wall, an impossibly steep section of Lyceum Avenue, could play a central role in those efforts.
“That’s what the selling point is, and we’re going to get out there and sell this thing,” said Brady. “We’re going to try as hard as we can.”
‘A long way from the finish line’
Expounding upon pledges of political support, Brady noted that he has spoken with Mayor Michael Nutter, who was said to be willing to consider proposals for a professional bike race in 2013.
Asked to comment on the reported debt to the city by PIC organizers, Brady said that was between race organizers and the city, but said that the momentum built up from previous years should be sustained.
PIC owes the city a significant amount of money for city services rendered during the 2012 race.
“I always think once you stop something, it’s hard to start it again,” said Brady. “I think that the community loves it, the people love it, and we’re here to serve people and communities. It’s not even my district, but it doesn’t even matter.”
While not present at LeBus, Fourth District City Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., whose district includes Manayunk, said that he has taken part in other discussions on the subject, including an earlier meeting held Friday morning.
“I’m cautiously optimistic about where we’re going,” said Jones.
Noting that the race is a signature event for Philadelphia – especially the women’s competition – Jones suggested that crisis can be synonymous with opportunity.
“We’re a long way from the finish line,” he observed, but added that the next 24 hours will be particularly telling.
U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, whose district includes Manayunk, was not immediately available for comment.
‘We can get them here’
When it comes to securing sponsorship, Brady said time is of the essence. Asked if the tumult over the race could impact the scheduling of potential cycling participants in the race, Brady said that if officials move quickly, “They’ll be back to this wall.”
“We can get them here,” he continued. “We may have to increase prize money, but we’ll get them here.”
Jane Lipton, executive director of the Manayunk Development Corporation, expressed gratitude on Friday for the support from Brady and other political leaders. She said she’s received interest from potential corporate partners as well as volunteers.
‘If it’s two meetings, if its twenty meetings, we’re going to keep pushing, because we know what we want this race to continue,” said Lipton. “We want a professional bike race running through Manayunk in 2013, and we will not give up until there is no other option.”
Winnie Clowry, owner of LeBus and a participant in the 2012 amateur cycling race, related that the race is “very dear to my heart.”
“We’re really looking forward to this working out and being a success and carry on the tradition for another 28 years,” she said, a theme that Brady recounted as well.
“The city is a traditional city,” said Brady. “If we lose our traditions, we lose our identity. And there’s no question that the bike race is synonymous with the city of Philadelphia.”