Presented by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and sponsored by TD Bank, yesterday was the pro cycling tour of the Philadelphia International Championship for men and the Liberty Classic for women. The cycling circuit is a 14.4 mile loop starting from the Benjamin Franklin Parkway around Logan Circle to Manayunk and then climbing the infamous Manayunk Wall with its 17-percent grade rise, ascending close to 250 feet in a half-mile and then onwards to Lemon Hill in Fairmount Park. The men make the 10 loop trek completing 156 miles while the women make the four loop trek completing 57.6 miles.
Many people might not be aware of the reason why Benjamin Franklin Parkway is chosen. The founders, David Chauner and Jerry Casale, wanted the ending similar to the Tour de France where it ends on Champs-Élysées in Paris, France. For those of you who don’t know, Benjamin Franklin fashioned the parkway after Champs-Élysées.
This year marked the first time the women cyclists caught up with the men, marking their impressive hallmark in women’s cycling. The men’s race began at 9 am, with the women’s beginning ten minutes later. There may have been initial confusion with the women cycling along with the men, but make no mistake women have come along way in the world of cycling.
This is the most important single day cycling race in the United States.
The race almost got cancelled due to the city’s budget problems and the downfall in the economy. The monetary gap of $500,000 needed to cover the race came in the nick of time with a couple more sponsors coming in at the last minute.
Having been a spectator for this event on different occasions throughout the years, there’s one thing in particular I love about this race. As the clustered cyclists whiz by, the sound that’s created is like the buzzing of dragonflies. These dragonfly racers are clocking upwards of 45 mph. It’s one thing to watch, it’s another to hear them.
Capturing action shots, learning a lesson and bringing home two great souvenirs—a cowbell and one of the Swedish racers’ water bottles—made this event one of the most memorable. Crouching precariously low to take a photo while the cyclists were on their last loop, something flew straight at me like a torpedo. Concerned for my safety, I moved and missed the shot. It was a water bottle. Lesson learned: who the hell cares what’s coming at me, take the damn shot! It would have made an excellent photo with their slanted frames away from me with a high-speed water bottle in the foreground coming straight to the camera’s lens.
The 2009 pro race results are: men’s: Andre Greipel, Greg Henderson and Kirk O’Bee. Women’s winners are: Ina Teutenberg, Joanne Kiesanowski and Shelley Olds.