Clear and sunny skies welcomed cyclists and spectators from all over the world on Sunday morning as they gathered for the second annual Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic.
The one-day, USA Cycling sanctioned/UCI 1.1 classification professional race is internationally recognized for not only being one of the most challenging races in the world, with its iconic 17-grade Manayunk Wall, but as one of the few races with an equal prize purse for both the men and women champions. This year’s prizes came in at $31,000 for each winner with a $5,000 King and Queen of the Mountain prize.
‘Welcome to beautiful Roxborough’
The day kicked off with the inaugural 45K amateur race dubbed Velothon at 6:45 a.m.
Later in the morning, thousands gathered along the race course in Roxborough, Manayunk and East Falls as the women’s race took off from the top of the Wall at 8:30 a.m.
A welcome from State rep. Pam DeLissio set the women on their way. “Welcome to beautiful Roxborough,” DeLissio said. “Good luck and have a great ride.”
As the women made their way through five laps of the 12-mile race course, it seemed almost certain that 2014 National Champion Alison Powers of Team United Healthcare would take the lead.
Powers led by as much as 1 minute and 10 seconds throughout the course of the race, maintaining a clear breakaway lead for over three laps, but as the women made their way around the bend at the top of Lyceum Avenue and Pechin Street completing their fourth lap, Powers’ lead dwindled.
‘She deserves this’
In the end, 31-year-old reigning champion, Evelyn (Evie) Stevens of Team Specialized-Lululemon, took the win with a time of 2:28:57. Lex Albrecht of Twenty16 took second and Lauren Hall of Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies third.
Powers finished in at 47th place with a time of 2:30:56, but won the $5,000 Queen of the Mountain prize as the race’s best climber.
Inside the VIP tent, Stevens’ parents Edward and Harriet Stevens cheered on their daughter. Stevens only began racing six years ago after suffering a running injury.
“We are so proud of her. She’s a good woman. She deserves this,” Harriet Stevens said of her daughter.
No time was wasted as the women’s race came to an end around 11 a.m. While the winners took to the podium, the men’s teams trickled in for a noon race start.
The men’s race takes off
With Mayor Michael Nutter there to send them off, the recognized cycling champions were called to the line. In the mix was Northwest Philadelphia native, Robin Carpenter.
Carpenter, who grew up along the Wall on Dexter Street was donning a graduation cap at the starting line. The 21 year-old had graduated from Swarthmore College earlier in the morning. The crowd erupted in cheers as residents hailed their local hero.
As the men made their way through 10 laps of the 12-mile course, the leaders pack remained tight.
Local favorite Carpenter, racing for the Hincapie Sportswear Development team rode in a close second place behind teammate Joey Rosskopf as part of an eight-man breakaway group for much of the race.
As the peloton climbed through their finish of the ninth lap, Canadian rider Bruno Langlois of 5 Hour Energy, raised his arm in victory. But it was a lap too soon, spurring a frantic and fast final lap and race to the finish.
A special birthday
Just like the women’s race, in the end, the victory belonged to repeat champion Kiel Reijnen of United Healthcare, who was also celebrating his 28th birthday.
Reijnen came in with a time of 4:28:35 followed by Jure Kocjan of Team Smartstop and Dion Smith of Hincapie Sportswear Development. Hincapie’s Joey Rosskopf took the King of the Mountain though finishing in at 53rd place.
Carpenter came in 43rd place with a time of 4:29:52.
In an interview prior to Sunday’s race, Carpenter said “There is nothing like racing in my hometown…Having the energy of my family and friends around me; it gets me through.”
A family-oriented race
Though only in it’s second year under it’s current nomenclature, the Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic is steeped in long tradition as both the former Philadelphia International Classic as well as the USPRO national championship event, which began in 1985.
With a near-cancellation last year, the race has been notoriously known for raucous and disruptive behavior by local spectators. Under its new production and sponsorship, the Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic in conjunction with the communities of Roxborough, Manayunk and East Falls, have worked hard to return the race to the family-oriented, world-class athletic event it was originally intended to be.
Sunday’s race was a testament to their hard work.
An excited Nutter made his way to the podium after the men’s race in the afternoon to announce the winner of the 2014 Cycling Classic.
Fans cheered and snapped photos, thanking the Mayor as he walked through the crowd.
According to Nutter, the city experienced no major issues as a result of the race.
“Everyone had fun today,” he said. “The race has calmed down. It’s back to the event we’ve always wanted it to be. It’s been a great day.”
Click here for NewsWorks’ live blog of this year’s Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic.