Events: Saving the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic
(2017) One of my fondest memories as a child regarding the city of Philadelphia was the regular appearance of professional cyclists in the summer for the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic. For one day the city would shut down fifteen miles of roadway while its citizens turned out en masse to witness iconic segments of American cycling. This year, though, those icons are heavily threatened.
One. Million. Dollars. It’s what separates the city of Philadelphia from another UCI 1.1 race. Without a major sponsor willing to shoot forth thunder, the race will disappear maybe for one year, but it could be more once people get used to not looking for it on the calendar. Short of having one million dollars, cyclists and concerned citizens, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia launched a petition that garnered an amazing 1,000 signatures in the first day and a half it went live.
Without this race, some kid out there would not get to see some of the incredible experiences of bike racing. Though the course has been altered somewhat, I still remember watching the cyclists fly down the Ben Franklin Parkway. I remember another year when I actually climbed the Art Museum steps and rang the hell out of the complimentary cowbells distributed by that year’s sponsor (still got ‘em). I remember curiously watching a guy on an exercise bike, wearing a hockey helmet, pedal for the race’s duration on the sidewalk near the feedzone.
I watched Lance Armstrong win the race one year. I chased after water bottles one year while chasing beer bottles on Lemon Hill another. I sat in a tavern at the bottom of the Manyunk Wall while getting out to see them climb. Progressively I watched the men come through one year and hold my position on the sidewalk as the women came through a short while later. I even managed to get out and ride the course with the Missus and her father one year. It would be the first time I would lay eyes on a fat bike. I couldn’t quite figure that one out a decade ago.
Before tomorrow, I am hopeful people can log on and sign the petition to ‘Bring Back the Classic.’ I am unsure how cycling would have affected my life if I had not attended all those years of pro level cycling. I can say with certainty that it inspired me to ride hard and then to enjoy watching the pros ride harder. Let’s hope one million dollars doesn’t stand in the way of the next generation getting the feel of the peloton breeze. Otherwise, that guy riding the exercise bike may have to turn to Watopia for his static cycling inspiration.
Cover photo lifted from phillymag.com. The source can be found here. I do not own the rights to it.