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Sit back and enjoy bike races Sunday in Philly

Surely there's a better way to spend a 90-plus-degree day, which Sunday is supposed to be, than riding a bike competitively.

Surely there's a better way to spend a 90-plus-degree day, which Sunday is supposed to be, than riding a bike competitively.

Here's an idea: How about watching professional riders pushing themselves around the 14.4-mile course over and over and over again? Sit back, grab a cool beverage and enjoy.

It's that time of year again as our city hosts the premier bike race in America, the Commerce Bank Philadelphia International Championship. For the 25-team field that will make up the men's race, the course begins and ends on the Ben Franklin Parkway, taking the riders through Roxborough and, of course, up that famed Manayunk Wall. They will complete the course 10 times before three finishing circuits up and over Lemon Hill.

This is the 24th year of the men's race, and, oddly enough, there has never been a multiple winner. Last year, it was Team CSC's Juan Jose Haedo who won the 156-mile race.

Haedo, nicknamed the "Argentinean Rocket," edged out teammate Matthew-Harley Goss to become the 12th international winner and took home the winner's share of $15,000. His time was 5 hours, 45 minutes and 51 seconds.

The men will begin on the Parkway at 9 a.m. and will be followed by the start of the women's race, the Liberty Classic, at 9:10.

The women will complete the 14.4-mile course four times before finishing up.

Team High Road's Ina-Yoko Teutenberg has ruled this race lately, winning two of the past three races. So dominant has the German been in this event that some are wondering if she will be able to equal the record of seven wins here by fellow German Petra Rossner. Teutenberg was a teammate of Rossner's on four of her seven victories.

There are some of the facts about the ride and the riders. But make no mistake about it, most of the expected 300,000-plus who will line the streets in Center City and party along the course around that dreaded Wall in Manayunk will be having a good time as much as watching the race. So we'll give you some sound information you can store in your memory bank, so as not to feel like you're going to the race solely for the partying.

* With temperatures expected in the 90s and hazy sunshine, this should be the 24th straight year that rain has not accompanied this race. That's a pretty amazing streak.

* If you're into watching the start of the men's and women's races, it's not a problem. The crowds that early in the morning on the Parkway are usually pretty light, and there are bleachers on the south side to make viewing easier. There are shuttle buses (near Logan Circle) that will take spectators up to Manayunk and bring them back down near the finish line.

* Should you decide to try to make it back down for the end of the women's race from Manayunk, plan accordingly. The race usually finishes around 11:30. That means start heading to the pickup area around the Wall about 10:30.

* If you are a bike enthusiast, there are plenty of vendors around the Art Museum area where shirts, bike shoes, visors, sunglasses and much more are available.

* Pack a cooler. With a lot of people and a lot of walking, it's better to have your refreshments ready when you need them, instead of having to search out a vendor. Water, obviously, should be the beverage of choice if you're walking or riding around the course. (Unless you're in Roxborough or Manayunk. Then all bets are off.)

* There are usually plenty of bike racks around the starting/finish line, if you want to ride your bike and then walk around.

* Sunday's race is the third of the Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling. The other events include the Lehigh Valley Classic, which was run on Tuesday, and yesterday's Reading Classic. On the men's side, Yuri Metlushenko won the race in Allentown and Oscar Sevilla took yesterday's Reading Classic.

For the women, Teutenberg captured the Lehigh Valley race and yesterday's ride in Reading. That was her fifth win in a row in Pennsylvania as she swept all three Triple Crown races a year ago.

Each year, riders comment after the races on how great the Philadelphia crowds are and how the rowdiness makes it easier for them to conquer the Wall. The best quote last year came from Goss, the runner-up: "Manayunk is a great atmosphere. Every time you go up there, the people get more drunk and louder and louder. It's great." *