Joan Iacocca and Kathy Francis rode their bicycles from Lansdale to Philadelphia in the brutally humid weather to watch the TD Bank 26th International Cycling Championship yesterday.
Decked out in colorful bike-racer jerseys and helmets, Iacocca, 64, and Francis, 68, didn't stop at their favorite watching place, the "Manayunk Wall." Instead, they scoped out the Art Museum and then pedaled back to Manayunk.
"We particularly like riding throughout the race, seeing it at every stage, not locked in to being in the same spot," Iacocca said. "Some years when we come, we see them [the racers] at the top of the wall, and then go over to the museum
These two enthusiasts were among tens of thousands of fans, according to officials, who watched male and female professional cyclists pedal their hearts out during the 156-mile race.
During the first half of the race, hundreds of spectators poured out of the Manayunk SEPTA train station every 40 minutes and crowded the sidewalks at the base of the Wall.
At Levering and Cresson streets, the base of the Wall provided spectators with a front-row seat for one of the hardest parts of the race course.
Two of those spectators were Bob and Denise Webb. Denise, who has watched the race twice before, brought her husband for his first race.
"I'm in love with this event," she said. "I usually get here at 9 a.m., but I wanted to sleep in."
Bob Webb, who was wearing an orange Flyers T-shirt, was enjoying the atmosphere but couldn't wait for last night's hockey game.
"The race is exciting, but there's one every year," he said. "The Flyers playing for the Stanley Cup - not so much. That's more like once every 23 years."
Nearby, Ellen Nelson, 28, was standing among high-school friends from out of town, enjoying the culmination of the weekend.
"I bike everywhere in Philly, and I love this race," she said. "It was a good excuse for all of us to get together because we don't see each other very often."
Former national cyclist Aubrey Gordon, 53, stood on the north side of the Parkway as the men's race finished. Gordon came from his home in Reading to watch the race, and he was confident the constant threat of rain wouldn't ruin that for him.
"This race has always had good weather . . . it's truly blessed," he said. "I always come here every year. I don't miss it for anything."
The racing team HTC-Columbia took home first place in both the Pro Men's Race and the Women's Liberty Classic. German Ina Teutenberg and Australian Matt Goss won the women's and men's races, respectively.