Philly race saved by new sponsors
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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Philly race saved by new sponsors

by Steve Jones at 10:12 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 

For 25 years Pro Cycling Tour President Dave Chauner has been bringing a big time bike race to Philidelphia. In fact, what is now a Philidelphia tradition has been in place since before Greg Lemond won the first of his three Tours de France. Its storied history includes wins by America's dynasty teams 7-Eleven, Coors Light, Motorola, Saturn, US Postal, and Navigators Insurance - names like Heiden, Armstrong, Yates, Hincapie, and Rodriguez all have notched Philly into their racing palmarès.

This year cycling history almost lost the chance to repeat itself as the event, now called the TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship, found itself scrambling for sponsorship money in a time where the worldwide economy is in shambles.

The first sign of trouble was when the race lost a number of sponsors, two of those were key partnerships providing $225,000. To complicate matters the city is facing its own set of financial problems, and announced it would no longer be able to waive the cost of the police and sanitation services for the event. That meant that nearly $250,000 in additional funding would need to be secured.

After 10 long days of uncertainty for the organizers, two sponsors along with many fans of the race have stepped up to the plate to make sure "The City of Brotherly Love" would once again provide a showcase for the sport of cycling.

"We are pleased to report that today we secured enough new sponsorship funding to produce the race as planned, and will announce the event’s new partners next week," Chauner announced yesterday. He said that the strong response to their Embrace the Race Campaign VIP ticket sales were a big help in closing the $500,000 funding gap the event was facing a week ago.

If you have ever been to the Manayunk Wall on race day, you would see...no, you would "experience" the potential for cycling to become the next big sport in the US. The featured climb of the 156 mile race has a gradient of up to 17%, and as the race enters the final laps it takes its toll on the riders creating a spectacle for the crowds.

But "The Wall" is much more than a climb, it's become an institution. It's more like an annual neighborhood block party featuring live local bands, house parties, and throngs of crowds that roar with the intensity of a Sunday NFL game as the riders labor their way up the climb. It doesn't matter if a rider is in a breakaway, in the main group, or ends up out of contention and five minutes off the back - each racer is embraced by a supersonic Wall of sound that follows them from the base of the climb and wills them all the way up to the top.

Manayunk certainly isn't for everyone, but there are other great places to watch the race, like Lemon Hill or one of the many corners where the riders impress with their handling skills. No matter your preference, you can be sure to find the perfect place to enjoy the day. Each spot brings with it history, and the opportunity for chance meetings over the years to become friendships. That's what an event with longevity can do for a community - that's what the race promoters have cultivated in Philly.

So you might ask - what saved Philly this year? It wasn't just luck, you can be sure of that. In the end, I think it was 24 years of hard work that allowed the race to weather this storm. One can only hope that 25 years down the road that US cycling will have more events like this to promote growth in the sport. I have plans for June 7th - it will involve a 2.5 hour drive, my camera, and hopefully some good pictures for future news here on VeloNation!

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