Posted by Editoress on 12/7/05
Philly Anchors All-Pennsylvania Triple Crown
The Philadelphia International Championship Bike Race, heading into its 22nd year and infamous for the Manayunk Wall, will now anchor an all-Pennsylvania "Triple Crown" - a three city race series with related community events during the first week in June.
The last time Philadelphia hosted the final leg of a Triple Crown in cycling was in 1993. Then it was three tough professional bike races including a 112-mile race in Pittsburgh, a six day stage race throughout West Virginia and the grand finale, the ninth running of what was then the CoreStates Championship. A young, brash, relatively unknown cyclist named Lance Armstrong scored the impossible hat trick, taking all three races and a $1 million winner-take-all bonus. Six years later, after surviving testicular cancer, Armstrong scored his first of seven Tour de France victories and, last July, announced his retirement from competitive cycling.
"Our race and the Triple Crown first defined Lance as a true champion," said Philadelphia race co-founder Jerry Casale, himself a recent cancer survivor. "Now that the Lance era has passed, we want Pennsylvania to pick the next great American super star."
According to Casale and his partner, Dave Chauner, the best way to do that is to reintroduce the Triple Crown, this time as an all Pennsylvania point series culminating in the 22nd annual running of Philadelphia's International Championship. Although the two first venues are not yet finalized, the first leg on Sunday, June 4 is likely to be in Lancaster, a 100 plus mile race on a challenging circuit through town. "The second race needs to be on a very hilly, tough circuit", says Casale who indicates that Mt. Penn in Reading or a course over some of the tough hills found near Allentown, Bethlehem or Easton, would be ideal. The finale on Sunday, June 11 will remain on the traditional 14-mile Championship circuit in Philadelphia that challenges the riders to climb the steep Manayunk Wall ten times during the long 156 mile race.
The Pennsylvania Triple Crown will continue to be a major highlight of the annual professional cycling season in the United States, in part because the Philadelphia International Championship will be the only single day race in North America that is designated "Hors Category" in 2006 by the Union Cycliste International, the world governing body of the sport. All three races will be Pro Cycling Tour events, an expanding national series that will link the best pro races in the country.
While each of the three races will have its own winner and prize list, the emphasis will be on what rider and team can win the overall series, determined by adding up points scored in each race.
"We love the Triple Crown concept," said Ed Beamon, director of the Navigators Pro Cycling Team, a squad that has consistently had top finishers in Philadelphia including Canadian Mark Walters who won the race in 2002. "It's a lot easier to take one race than to be consistent though a tough, three event series. The overall winners will clearly be the best and the teams with the most depth will prevail."
Although the final prize list has not yet been determined, organizers are exploring the possibility of again offering one million dollars to any rider who can take all three events. That, according to Chauner, will depend upon sponsor interest from any of the dozens of companies being considered to replace Wachovia, the Charlotte, NC bank that recently announced that it was ending the 21-year sponsorship initiated by CoreStates Financial Corp in 1985.
Governor Edward G. Rendell said, "Expanding the Philadelphia International Championship Bike Race, already a highlight of the professional cycling season in the U.S., will make a great new attraction for the commonwealth in June. An all Pennsylvania Triple Crown of Cycling will enhance the tradition started in Philadelphia and will continue to support Pennsylvania's efforts to host unique international events throughout the region. The Triple Crown is an exciting and logical step in continuing Pennsylvania's leadership in promoting cycling, a sport that is exploding throughout the country."
Working closely with city, state and community groups, organizers are committed to creating a week of Triple Crown activities that bring economic benefit to the region and each host venue including a grass roots cycling program for youth, recreational cycling events, significant tie-ins with major charities for fund-raising activities and regional and national television coverage.
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