Reporting Al Novack
By Al Novack, Syma Chowdhry, Pat Loeb,
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The 2013 pro cycling race, with several new facets, got underway at 8:30 a.m. in Manayunk with the women’s pro race.
The annual bike race was nearly cancelled due to high costs but organizers say it was saved by new sponsors.
“Philadelphia has had a long tradition, a long history in professional cycling,” said Ed Donovan, Philly Cycling Classic organizer. “We have about 200 professional men that are going to be in the race. There are about 125 women.”
The revamped pro-cycling events began Sunday under sunny skies at the Manayunk Wall where everything also ended.
“If you can imagine trying to ride your bike up a children’s slide, that’s probably equivalent of what the Manayunk Wall is,” said Donovan.
This year the women’s five lap, 60-mile race was first, but gone was that huge crowd of spectators with cow bells that once crowded into the expansive area around the Art Museum and Parkway which has been eliminated from the course.
American Evelyn Stevens of team Specialized took first place for the women.
“I just felt it,” Stevens said, “and yeah I closed my eyes and I think I had my eyes closed as I crossed the finish line. I dug as deep as I could to try to get it.”
American Kiel Reijnen was the first man to cross the finish line, completely the 120-mile course in 4 hours, 35 minutes.
The winners from both the men’s and women’s races each received an equal prize of $30,000 – something that attracted female cyclists.
“That is really uncommon and really exciting. It sort of speaks to the gender equality of Philadelphia and this race,” said Annie Foreman-Mackey, cyclist.
The entire focus is on the Manayunk Wall because that has always been a key ingredient and Manayunk residents love it.
Neighbors say they are happy the race is still part of a Manayunk tradition.
“It’s a lot of fun, big party time [we] come down and watch the races, come up and cheer them on. It’s a great thing for the neighborhood,” said Larry Stevenson of Manayunk.
However, many spectators were unhappy about the long walks long to get to the starting area because of the absence of parking and closed streets.