Velothon kicks off Philly Cycling Classic

Veronica Bourgon, center, racing for Infinite Nutrition/Cyclepower, guts it out on her second trip up "The Wall' during the 2013 women's Philly Cycling Classic Race. We chronicle the color and fun of the Philly Cycling Classic that begins and ends in Manayunk. (Michael Bryant/ Staff Photographer)

This Sunday, June 1, brings the Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic to our local streets. This year’s event marks the 30th year that Philadelphia has hosted a major cycling event in early June, starting as the Philadelphia International Championship (USPRO Championship) until 2005 and continuing in the same format under the names of various sponsors.

2014 mark the second year for the current incarnation of the event, the Philly Cycling Classic. New to the event this year, however, is Velothon Philadelphia. Velothon offers local riders the opportunity to compete on the same course as the pros.

As part of a series of amateur events hosted by the International Cycling Union (UCI), Philadelphia joins worldwide destinations such as Berlin, Germany and Vienna, Austria as major cities to host Velothon events. Velothon starts the day of cycling at 6:45 a.m., with the women’s race to follow at 8:30 a.m. The men’s race serves as the finale, beginning at 12 noon.

“Velothon is a 30-mile, amateur ride that we put together in order to take advantage of the unique opportunity to ride the same course as the pros,” summarizes Richard Adler, producer of the Philly Cycling Classic.

Roads will be closed and riders will be offered a fully chip-timed race, complete with competitive and non-competitive waves of riders. Post-event hospitality—food trucks and other local vendors will be present—is offered at Lemon Hill in Fairmount Park, a prime viewing spot for the rest of the day’s festivities.

“This model of race started in Europe under the same scenario,” continues Adler. “There’s a big, professional race with top riders and an iconic course that we offered to amateurs.”

Adler refers to the Berlin event, which earlier this month attracted some 11,000 riders. Adler doesn’t expect that many here on Sunday—500-600 is a fair estimate—but he says the UCI is looking to expand mass participation in cycling.

“Philadelphia is the first United States city to launch as part of the UCI Velothon Majors,” says Adler. “We’re distinct because we’re so closely affiliated with a major professional race.”

The race includes 1 ½ laps of the course on which the pros compete, plus a fast, fun five-mile trip through Center City—racing down the Ben Franklin Parkway, through Chinatown and past Independence Hall before finishing behind Lemon Hill in time for the pro races.

Of course, no Philadelphia cycling experience is complete without the iconic Manayunk Wall—a fact that wasn’t lost on Richard Adler and the race’s organizers, who were sure to include the landmark in the Velothon course.

“When you talk to people in cycling and Philadelphia comes up—people talk about ‘The Wall’,” Adler acknowledges. “We believe that’s a big selling point.”

Of course, he admits, the Wall can be a bit of a double-edged sword. “It’s extremely challenging—a half-mile long with a 20 percent grade at some points,” says Adler. “That may scare some people off, but this is a big cycling town. We’ve had great support, and we think the Wall will play a big role in continuing to grow this event.”

Registration is open until 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. Velothon Philadelphia costs $79 and includes some event ‘swag’ and a medal for each participant. As an added bonus, each entrant is registered to win a new FUJI Sportif or Fuji Finest road bike. Don’t miss your chance to be part of the newest feature in an historic cycling event!

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