Gov. Rendell has stepped forward to try to save Philadelphia's annual professional bike race, announcing that the state would purchase $50,000 worth of VIP tickets to be distributed to state employees.

Chuck Ardo, a spokesman for the governor, said yesterday that the tickets would be distributed on a first-come basis. The state already contributes $200,000 to run the race.

Dave Chauner, cofounder of the TD Bank Philadelphia Cycling Championship, said that with the state's contribution, his group had raised more than $60,000 through ticket sales and donations since Tuesday, when The Inquirer reported that this year's race was in jeopardy of cancellation. That represents little more than 10 percent of the $500,000 budget gap organizers need to close.

"We definitely have had a real outpouring of support and interest," Chauner said. "We are hoping it will continue to snowball."

Chauner gave 50-50 odds that enough money would be raised or pledged over the weekend to meet the group's self-declared deadline of 5 p.m. Monday. Chauner said the organizers did not need to raise all $500,000 by Monday. Rather, he said they simply needed to feel comfortable by the level of pledges and money raised that the full figure could be reached before the scheduled June 7 event.

At minimum, $190,000 is needed to meet a May 15 deadline set by the city for an up-front payment to cover the bulk of its costs for the race. Chauner said the total figure for city costs now stood at about $220,000 to cover such services as police and cleanup.

Over the last several years, the city has waived its costs as a contribution to the race. That changed this year because of the nationwide recession and the city's budget crisis. The addition of the city's costs and a loss of several key sponsors have left the race with its own financial hole.

The race, now in its 25th year, is a signature event for Philadelphia. It is the most important single professional bike race in the United States as well as one of the city's largest outdoor festivals.

Chauner said he had been overwhelmed by the range of groups and individuals offering help. Former competitors in the event have contacted him from as far away as Australia and Britain, he said.

Many are buying $75 and $100 tickets to the race's finish-line pavilions even though they will be unable to attend the event, Chauner said.

Anyone wanting to purchase finish-line tickets or help sponsor the race can visit its Web site: www.procyclingtour.com

Contact staff writer Christopher K. Hepp at 215-854-2208 or chepp@phillynews.com.