Less than a week out from this year’s Parx Casino Cycling Class, professional racing teams from across the world are beginning to trickle into the area while residents are cleaning off their grills for race day.
As the cyclists prepare both mentally and physically for Sunday’s great challenge, there is one man who is planning to put in just as much energy, sweat, and heart as any of the racers on the course.
That man is volunteer Melvin Moore.
‘Pump it up’
Fifty-nine-year-old Moore is not hard to spot every year amidst the sea of spectators along the wall. Race whistle in hand, he paces up and down the stretch where the gradient peaks.
As the horns sound — signaling the pack is on its way — Moore’s enthusiasm rises.
“I try to spot the racers who need that extra oomph to get up the hill,” Moore said. “When I find them, I point to them. I look them right in the eye and I say ‘You – can – do – it. You’re going to be okay.’ I know they hear me, so I turn to the crowd and I scream ‘Pump it up!’ Everyone goes wild. It’s amazing,” Moore said, “You can see the life go back into those racer’s eyes.”
Moore was born and raised in Manayunk, and wouldn’t have it any other way. The former landscaper says he has seen the best and the worst of the neighborhood and takes pride in the transformation and rejuvenation his community has witnessed.
As Moore sees it, the bike race has been a crucial glob of the glue that has held this town together, year after year. That’s is why he has volunteered for the race for the past three decades.
Terri Bateman agrees. She’s been a volunteer for the past 29 years, and still serves as a coordinator for the course marshalls.
Bateman can recall the inaugural race back in 1985.
“There were no volunteers then,” she said. “Standing on the sidelines we saw the cyclists sweating and struggling to get up the wall. We started running into our houses to grab them water…we knew this race was going to be something special.”
Putting Manayunk on the map
For Moore and Batemen it’s the sense of community race day brings that keeps them coming back. “This is a day that brings notoriety to our neighborhood,” Bateman said.
While both noted that the event has gotten carried away in the past, with partying and disruptive behavior, they feel under new management the race is being brought back to its family oriented roots.
“Of course we want the people out there having fun,” Moore said. “But the partying is not what it’s all about. These are world class athletes doing something that a rare few of us on the sidelines could ever do. We’re here to pay respect and to support their achievements,” he said.
As the day creeps closer, Bateman and Moore are looking forward to witnessing the bike race for their 30th year.
“I’ve had so many memories, both good and bad, of the race throughout the years,” Bateman said. “But the intensity on the cyclers’ faces; the crowds screaming at them — well that is a thrill that never gets old.”