Monday, December 29, 2014

Congressman Bob Brady puts the bike race back in the saddle

Pull on those bike shorts - the Manayunk race is back!

Congressman Bob Brady puts the bike race back in the saddle

Congressman Bob Brady saved the 2013 bike race that was renamed the Philly Cycling Classic.
Congressman Bob Brady saved the 2013 bike race that was renamed the Philly Cycling Classic.

The bike race is back on.

Although Bob Brady has not yet publicly identified financial backers, the congressman on Thursday said he had formed a nonprofit to organize a race he is calling the Philly Cycling Classic, to be held on June 2, the date previously reserved for the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship. That race was cancelled in January when organizers could not find a sponsor.

Brady, who prides himself on preserving events such as the Mummers Parade and the Dad Vail Regatta that he says define Philadelphia, immediately began seeking ways to save the bike race, best known for its climb up Manayunk’s Levering Streets and Lyceum Avenue, a section of the course known as the wall.

“As long as there is a wall in Manayunk there will be a world class cycling event in Philadelphia," Brady said.

Alan Morrison, co-founder of the Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon, said he is “150 percent” certain the race will happen.

“We're going to get this done,” he said.

He and the other organizers said they will announce a title sponsor and other funders over the next few weeks. They will need at least $500,000 and possibly more, several sources said.

The race is sizing up to be significantly different from last year’s, which was 124 miles. It will be shorter, which could reduce costs charged by the city because fewer streets would be shut down, and could generate more crowd excitement.

"Shorter course circuit racing is the most popular and spectator-friendly form of bike racing in America today. We are planning an extremely fast race on a course winding through city streets where spectators get up-close and personal watching world-class athletes whizzing by,” said Ryan Oelkers, who is working with Brady and is a former professional cyclist and co-founder of a nonprofit that uses cycling to teach skills to young people.

The race will have a new director, too.

Robin Morton of G4 Productions will be in charge.

Morton said that while the she and the others working with Brady still must find money, she is confident the race will happen this year, especially because of Brady’s involvement.

“He wouldn't stick his neck out if he didn't think it would happen," Morton said.

Until 2005, Morton worked with Dave Chauner, the previous race director. He was unable to pay most of a $345,000 bill from the city for police and other costs associated with the race and could not find a new backer after TD Bank ended its sponsorship in 2012.

The failure to pay the city bill made it impossible for Chauner to continue as race organizer. He’s also embroiled in a lawsuit filed in Montgomery County by the estate of his late partner Gerard Casale. Casale’s family says Chauner was supposed to buy out their father’s interest in the race company but did not. Chauner says he had continued paying Casale long after he became ill and no longer could work. Those payments, in addition to his firm’s financial difficulties, make the family’s accusations “totally untrue.”

But Chauner, who said he was happy that Brady seemed to have found a way for the race to continue, also lost the confidence of others involved in the race.

Patrick Cunnane<NO1>cq<NO>, president of Advanced Sports International, which owns Fuji, Kestrel and three other bike brands, and who has been involved with the race for many years, said Chauner had run the event “in crisis mode” for too many years.

Cunnane said he felt the city had been unfairly blamed for the race’s financial problems.

Asked what the city would charge for this year’s race, Mark McDonald, a spokesman for Mayor Nutter said, “Thus far, the city has received no information about this proposal. We look forward to learning more in the coming days.”

Other race organizers are Richard Adler, chief executive of the Insurance Triathlon; Karen Bliss, vice president of marketing for Advanced Sports International; Bob Clowry, co-owner of Winnie’s Le Bus in Manayunk; and Jane Lipton, executive director of the Manayunk Development Corp.

 

Click here for Philly.com's politics page.

About this blog

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Chris Hepp, Tricia Nadolny, Julia Terruso, and Claudia Vargas take you inside Philadelphia's City Hall.

Inquirer City Hall Staff
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected