Guide To The Philadelphia International Cycling Classic
KYW Newsradio is one of the sponsors of the 27th Philadelphia International Cycling Classic this coming Sunday, June 5. The 156-mile classic remains the longest running and most important single-day cycling road race in the United States.
Beginning at 9 a.m., cyclists complete 10 laps of a 14.4-mile course between Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Manayunk, home of the legendary Manayunk Wall—a steep half-mile climb that’s become a favorite spot for race watchers.
The pros will finish around 3 p.m. with three laps of Lemon Hill and Logan Circle, having logged 156 miles in one of the biggest special sporting events in the country.
The championship is actually two races in one. The day also includes the Liberty Classic, with more than 100 professional, international women cyclists competing. The 57.6-mile race consists of four laps of a 14.4-mile circuit through Philadelphia, with four steep climbs up the grueling Manayunk Wall. The Liberty Classic is held during the men’s International Championship on the same course.
KYW Newsradio will provide live reports and race updates throughout the day Sunday. – Steve Tawa, KYW Newsradio
It’s the most important, single-day professional cycling race in the U.S., according to co-founder Dave Chauner.
“We’re at the highest international ranking. It’s called one H-C. There’s no other race in the U.S. that has this ranking,” Chauner says.
And, you don’t need a ticket to get a front row seat. Chauner says it’s free and open to the public, except at two locations where tickets are required. They include the tented VIP Lounge at the Start/Finish line on the Ben Franklin Parkway, and the Top of the Wall Club, at the summit of the climb in Manayunk.
The race course is a nearly 15-mile circuit through the streets of Philadelphia, including the majestic Parkway, scenic Kelly Drive, raucous side streets in Manayunk and Lemon Hill.
One longtime fan says once you check it out, you’re hooked:
“It’s a good mix of people who don’t know anything about cycling, and say yeah, it’s a bike race, and people who could pick out riders they know.”
The race is drawing stage winners from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Tour of California, plus Olympic champions, and some of cycling’s most promising, young talent.
Race co-founders Dave Chauner and Jerry Casale mapped out one of the sport’s most epic courses back in 1985. Chauner says top pros from all over the world will have to negotiate the now famous Manayunk Wall 10 times.
“Anybody that has ever ridden in Philadelphia or heard about it always asks about the Manayunk Wall,” Chauner says. “Very few of them can pronounce it right, but it’s definitely an iconic feature of the race.”
The wall is a punishing, up-to-17-percent grade hill on side streets that rise nearly 250 feet in a half-mile.
“And we made the riders almost come to a complete stop at the bottom by having them go under the trestle and some brick surfaces before they started up the hill to make it even tougher,” Chauner notes.
But unlike Europe’s mostly point to point races, during which fans see the riders once for a matter of seconds, spectators here catch the cyclists doing laps:
“We really want to give the spectators the opportunity to see the race unfold.”
Figure on just over a half hour for each of ten big laps from the Ben Franklin Parkway to Manayunk and back.
While we will be checking out teams that include stage winners from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Tour of California, new talent also will roll out on race day.
Dave Chauner says many young Americans, including his son, Michael, will see a life-long dream come true.
“It looks like there will be about 6 Pennsylvania riders now that will be in the race.”
One pro with local roots, Scott Zwizanski, a native of West Chester who now lives in Downingtown, rides for United Healthcare, one of the top domestic teams in the race.
“There’s no better atmosphere than racing through Manayunk ten times through the day,” Zwizanski says.
Each team has eight riders who do specific duties, like fetching food and water, or riding in front of designated sprinters, who save their energy and draft like Nascar drivers.
“At the end of 156-miles, you want him to be as fresh as possible for that sprint,” Zwizanski explains.
That’s when their lead out riders move aside, and the sprinter guns it for the last stretch between Logan Circle and the finish line on the Parkway.
Where To Watch
The spectacle of the race is unique. Not only can you hear the whoosh of the Peloton, the group of riders going by, but fans feed off the intensity of the sport:
“Who can withstand the 10 climbs up the wall, and then the climbs of hell through Lemon Hill to get set up for the sprint?”
One of your best vantage points is the start/finish line on the Ben Franklin Parkway. Another go-to spot for fans includes side streets off of Main Street in Manayunk, where the pros will grunt up the Manayunk Wall.
“My son was inspired to learn about bike racing. He’s now racing in national caliber events as an 18-year old. We watch it on the Manayunk Wall.”
On Kelly Drive, they hit the gas. Folks in the know also stake out a spot on Lemon Hill, between Boathouse Row and the Art Museum.
Other fans say it’s awesome to witness the orchestrated chaos in the feed zone along Kelly Drive, near the museum.
For a map of the race course, click here.