The cycling community lost one of its big stars this week.
Gerard “Jerry” Casale, one of the co-founders of the Philadelphia International Championship, lost his battle with prostate cancer at age 71 on Wednesday. The news was announced on the Pro Cycling Tour’s Twitter feed yesterday.
“He was a great partner, friend and mentor,” said David Chauner, Managing Partner of American Cycling Group, LLC. Chauner and Casale worked together for 25 years. They met at age 14 when Casale gave Chauner his first job at the former Hill Cycle in Chestnut Hill.
“He brought a lot of young people into the sport [of cycling],” said Chauner.
Chauner and Casale co-founded what is known simply as “The Bike Race” to residents of Philadelphia in 1985. It was originally conceived as a race for a United States Champion. That first race in 1985 was won by Eric Heiden, an Olympic gold medal-winning speed skater turned professional cyclist, who was racing for a 7-Eleven team. Little did Chauner or Casale realize that when they named ‘The Manayunk Wall’, it would become an international icon. The Philly Bike Race, though no longer crowning the U.S. Champion, still attracts cyclists from around the world.
Casale served as director of operations for the Philadelphia race and other events nationwide. According to Chauner, Casale was committed to race safety as well as adequate traffic flow. For his efforts in the Tour De Georgia, Casale was made an honorary member of the Georgia State Police.
“What he did as operations manager is not something you can get an education for,” said Chauner.
According to the Pro Cycling Tour website, Casale was in charge of staging the road and track cycling events for the 1996 Olympic Games and Para Olympic Games in Atlanta. He also coordinated staging, crowd control, security and communications for major public events like the presidential inauguration parade, World Series victory parades, and more. Casale was also the Chief Mechanic for several USA National Teams at the World Professional Cycling Championships.
“He was a wonderful human being,” said Chauner. “There was never an ego about him. He was like a brother to me.”