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November 17/05 4:18 am - Philly Organizers Announce 2006 Date and Changes


Posted by Editoress on 11/17/05
 

Organizers Announce Date and Changes for 21 Year Old Philadelphia Tradition
Courtesy Threshold Sports

Philadelphia’s annual international pro bike race will roll off the line for the twenty-second time on Sunday, June 11, 2006. The race will continue as America’s top international cycling classic and one of the richest and most prestigious one day races outside of Europe.

According to Pennsylvania Governor, Ed Rendell, “This is one of the most important and exciting annual sporting events in our state and the nation and a unique Philadelphia treasure. For 21 years, the race has supported our initiatives to promote the benefits of physical fitness, provide economic benefit to the region and foster civic pride for our citizens”.

The 21 year-old event has been one of the key driving forces in the development of pro cycling in the United States. There are now 130 licensed U.S. Professional bike racers and twelve U.S. teams, up from 7 riders and one U.S. team when the race was founded in 1985. Since then, the race has named the first American to cross the finish line as the USPRO National Champion, regardless of where he finished in the field. But a new rule established by USA Cycling for 2006 now requires that the USPRO Championship be contested only among licensed American pros, eliminating international riders from the competition.

“Cycling is one of the top two professional sports in the world and it is better for the sport and for the development of USA professionals to compete against a world class field”, said race co-founder, David Chauner. “Philadelphia, as an international city, deserves a world class event. Faced with the choice of going with a U.S. rider only USPRO Championship or staying with a strong international competition, we made the decision to stick with the ‘USA verses the world’ format and rename the race the Philadelphia International Championship.”

The race will also remain the crown jewel of the Pro Cycling Tour, an emerging series of top pro American races that help define standards for the sport, like NASCAR or the PGA Tour, and will continue to be the final event in a three race PCT Championship Series. On Sunday, June 4, Lancaster will host the PCT Championship of the Americas, followed by the PCT Invitational on June 8 (host venue TBD) and the finale, the Philadelphia International Championship on Sunday, June 11. All the top American pro teams as well as many foreign teams will compete in the series. The 56 mile Women’s Liberty Classic, run simultaneously with the men’s race on June 11, will also retain its international status.

Chauner, who with partners, Jerry Casale and Jack Simes, conceived of the event 21 years ago, named the Manayunk Wall and launched the 156 mile event as this country’s first international professional bike race. Since then, the race has featured many of the world’s top cyclists, including Eric Heiden, winner of the inaugural race in 1985; Greg LeMond, three time Tour de France winner and Lance Armstrong who launched his professional career by winning the race in 1993.

According to Brian Walton, a former pro racer and Olympic silver medallist who competed in the event 10 times and now runs the Cadence Performance Center in Manayunk, “Winning the Philly race was always my dream. The excitement, the screaming crowds around the course, the foreign languages, the choppers overhead… are such an adrenaline rush. And the Wall…not even Lance Armstrong could drop me with the support of the Philly crowds. It’s like the Boston Marathon, the one big classic race that everyone wants to win.” Walton finished in the top five three times and was 2nd in 1999.

The race was known for thirteen years as “The CoreStates” after its title sponsor, CoreStates Financial Corp, a regional bank with a mission to give something enduring to the community. Over the years, the bank changed ownership through acquisitions and mergers from CoreStates to First Union and finally, Wachovia, a Charlotte, NC based bank that late this year announced that it would no longer sponsor the race.

With assurances from the State and city of Philadelphia that the Championship Series will continue, Chauner, Casale and their company, Threshold Sports, are seeking a new title sponsor that will continue the strong community-based tradition started by CoreStates twenty-one years ago. “This event is unique”, said Jerry Casale, co-founder and operations director. “With a six month build-up, hundreds of thousands of spectators and a reputation as the one of the biggest special events in the country, this is to cycling what the Masters is to golf and a sponsor’s dream.”

Working closely with city, state and community groups, Threshold Sports is committed to new event initiatives that will capitalize on the event’s high profile awareness and economic benefit to the region including national television coverage, a grass roots cycling program for youth and significant tie-in with a major charity for fund-raising activities.

 


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