It's time to ride up the Manayunk Wall once again.
Pro cyclists from 30 countries are expected to attend the annual TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship, America's biggest single-day race on Sunday. Organized by Pro Cycling Tour, the event will give local cyclists chances Saturday and Sunday to compete in races leading up to the championship race.
The six-hour, 156-mile-long race that features more than 200 professional cyclists signifies the unofficial kick-off to summer for some. Local pro and amateur cyclists look forward to the annual competition for varying reasons.
"I will be racing in support of my teammates. I have participated every year since 2005," said West Chester native Scott Zwizanski, who will be riding with the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team.
For cyclists like Kristine Church, it's about community spirit. "I think I win the award for living the closest to the racecourse," she jokes.
"I am looking forward to riding through my neighborhood of Manayunk and seeing all my neighbors, friends, and family along the racecourse!" said Church, who will be riding for her third year with team Human Zoom Cycling.
This year's event will mark the 27th running of the only UCI Hors Category classic road race in the United States. The event's companion race, the Liberty Classic, will mark its 18th anniversary and feature some of the world's top women's teams.
"This is going to be my 11th time in a row competing in the Liberty Classic. It is my favorite race in the world, especially up Manayunk Wall and Lemon Hill," said Seattle resident Jo Kiesanowski, of Team TIBCO/To the Top from New Zealand.
A full weekend of activities is planned, including amateur time trials at 7 a.m. Saturday. Open to the public, this trial uses an eight-mile, professionally timed course that will begin at the foot of the Art Museum. It takes riders along scenic West River Drive and back, providing cyclists of all levels and ages a chance to log their best time. Number pickup begins at 6 a.m.; first rider off at 7 a.m. Registration in advance only.
From noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday is the Philadelphia Cycling, Health & Fitness Expo, located course-side on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Visitors can check out the latest in bikes and cycling gear and explore the region's health, wellness, and fitness resources.
A performance by Funky Fontana is scheduled 1 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday. The show is inspired by James Brown, the Temptations, Michael Jackson, and the Black Eyed Peas.
"We started the race 27 years ago as a way to elevate the awareness of cycling in the U.S. and also to provide the sport and the city with a great event that people can rally around every year," said Dave Chauner, president of Pro Cycling Tour and co-founder of TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship.
Title sponsor TD Bank loves supporting the event to help the environment. "We support the Cycling Championship because it is a great way for us to support our green strategy while encouraging others that biking is an environmentally friendly way to enjoy the City of Philadelphia," said the bank's regional president, Mike Carbone.
VIP packages are available for those who wish to watch the race from the start and finish line on the parkway, at the top of the Manayunk Wall, or both. Packages include access to a catered hospitality tent and other privileges.
Sunday, race day, opens with a wellness challenge from 7:15 to 8:45 a.m. Cyclists of all levels can test their mettle on the Manayunk Wall. Participants will ride the 14.4-mile loop of the professional course before the world's top cyclists start their race. Registration can be completed in advance or that morning beginning at 6 in the main staging area near Kelly Drive and Sedgley, just below the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The fee is $45 in advance, $55 day of event.
Also on Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., is TD Bank Family Fun Zone at the base of the Art Museum steps.
The main race begins at 9 a.m. There are great viewing spots along the route, including the parkway. Live TV coverage will begin at noon on Comcast SportsNet.
The Liberty Classic will be at 9:10 a.m. with 129 international professional women cyclists. This is one of the longest-running, most prestigious women's races in the country. The 2010 champions, HTC-Highroad, planned to return to defend their title.
At 11:45 is the Junior PCT Grand Prix for riders 15 to 18 who qualify to compete. At 12:45, Cadence Cycling Foundation Sprints are scheduled for Philadelphia youth between 9 and 18 who want to learn about cycling. They will be in sprints between Logan Circle and Eakins Oval, followed by an awards ceremony.