Manayunk’s Winnie Clowry trains for charity race up the Wall

Three intense months of training will soon come down to one challenging morning.

With her white and teal Cannondale Synapse in tow, Winnie Clowry, co-owner of Winnie’s LeBus in Manayunk, will ride this Sunday in the Bicycling Magazine Open.

The brand new amateur event gives cyclists of all skill levels the chance to pedal through the same course the professionals will tackle the same day during the 28th Annual TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship.

“I feel strong, I feel good, excited about it, a little nervous and anxious,” said Clowry.

The avid runner has biked with her husband and business partner Bob Clowry around the hilly neighborhood of Manayunk, but has never attempted anything like the Open.

Not to mention the infamous “Manayunk Wall,” an impossibly steep stretch of Lyceum Avenue that has long been a highlight of the competition’s 14.7-mile circuit.

Conquering the Wall

To help her push past the half-mile section and the rest of the three-lap event, Clowry enlisted Dana Walton of Walton Endurance, which sits just feet from Winnie’s LeBus on Main Street.

Walton, who will compete in this year’s professional race, said conquering the Wall is mostly a mental game.

The trick: Don’t kid yourself about the task at hand. No matter what you do, it’s going to hurt.

“No one goes up the wall and doesn’t have leg pain,” said Walton, who has put Clowry to the test both inside her studio and out on the pavement.

Overcoming the mental hurdle 

The cheering crowds do help offset some of the physical toil, she added.

Getting over that mental hurdle has, at times, been tough for Clowry. Though she’s successfully simulated going up the Wall on a bike machine, staring up at it in person is different, she said.

Sometimes the nerves set in mid-climb.

“I get to a point when I look at the hill and it looks monstrous,” said Clowry.

Walton said the Wall should take between three and four minutes to complete. But it doesn’t always feel that way to Clowry.

“When [Dana] puts it like that to me, it seems so manageable,” said Clowry. “I say at the bottom of the hill, ‘Oh my gosh, this is probably going to take me an hour to get up there.'”

An opportunity she couldn’t pass up 

Clowry won’t time herself during the event. Her goal is simply to finish and enjoy riding the same course that has flown past her restaurant’s windows over the years.

“I have been the biggest fan of this race,” she said. “It’s so family-oriented to me. People come here with their kids with backpacks and they sit out front and they eat breakfast and they watch the race go by. When this opportunity came up, that an amateur could do it, I had to jump on it.”

Many participants in the Bicyling Magazine Open have the option of turning their rides into fundraisers for their favorite charities. Through Charity of Choice, Clowry will be raising money for North Light Community Center in Manayunk.  To make a donation to her cause, go to the Charity of Choice website. 

The Bicycling Magazine Open will run between 7 and 10 a.m. on June 3. The professional men’s and women’s races will follow, starting a 10:45 a.m. on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. 

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