For a lot of the younger crowd carrying half-cases of beer to Manayunk, Sunday's cycle race, to be sure, was all about the forbidden excitement of drinking in the morning.

But to so many others at the TD Bank Philadelphia Men's International Cycling Championship, it was all about tradition.

It was the tradition of the Siren Guy - Anthony Andrews, 46 - sounding a fire truck siren that had belonged to his father as each group of racers passed.

It was the tradition of the Water Guys, who took over spritzing riders with a hose when they bought their house from the previous spritzer a few years ago.

And it was tradition for Melvin Moore, 56, who has worked at the race for 24 years. On Sunday, he was a marshal, blowing a loud, shrill whistle to alert people when riders were approaching.

Putting even more oomph into his unofficial job, he cheered the riders as they slogged up the hill on Lyceum Avenue, so steep it is called "The Wall."

"You can do it!" he shouted, waving them on.

Some spectators always opt for Lemon Hill, where they say true fans can tell a lot by how a rider descends and makes that right-hand curve.

Others, like Ashley McNamara and Andrew Menyo, both of Lafayette Hill, head for the area near the east end of Manayunk, "where they're going fast," McNamara said.

So fast that he hoped the folks organizing the rooftop spectator party would be able to hook up a TV so he could also watch a big tennis match.

But "The Wall" is the place to be for hordes of others. During the 156-mile race, the men tackled it 10 times. The women in the 57.6-mile Liberty Classic scaled it four.

All along it, spectators rang cow bells and sounded clappers and cheered as the cyclists passed, followed by support cars carrying spare wheels and first aid.

Police were also a big presence Sunday along with state liquor enforcement officers, and signs saying "Enjoy the bike race responsibly," all in response to some neighborhood concern that rowdiness could emerge.

Andrews was ready for the cyclists with his siren, which has been in the family for more than 40 years. Its main duty is to sound off when the Flyers score a goal during playoff games.

But for the bike race, the siren gets so much action that Andrews keeps a spare battery charging inside.

Officials have told him the cyclists expect the noise by now - "Yep, that's Tony."

Farther up the hill, Dan White, 30, turned on the hose at 9 a.m. It would be going all day, he said. Never mind that it would double his water bill this month - from $35 to $70.

Continuing the spray tradition, White has upgraded the equipment, adding car-wash nozzles.

Sean Moran of Pottsgrove always stakes out the steepest stretch of the hill. "This is where you see a lot of fatigue," he said. "You can really tell the character of the rider."

A high point of Sunday's race for him was when one of the female riders began to flag. He heard her tell a teammate she couldn't make it, and then she began to dismount to walk up the hill.

Just then a spectator grabbed the seat of her bicycle, ran with her a few yards and gave her a shove. As the crowd went wild with cheering, she kept on pedaling.

Up at Lyceum and Pechin - the top of the hill, where some of the riders smile and wave - was Dominic Matteo, 66, of Upper Roxborough. He always comes, and not just for the cyclists. "It's everything," he said. "It's the people, the crowd, it's exciting."

The day also represented an unhappier tradition for one longtime Lyceum Avenue resident who did not want to give her name because she doesn't like the race and because she's 85.

In the 1980s, she said, officials told the neighborhood the cycle race would be held for only three years. This year is the 27th.

A few years she's left town. But then she had to clean up a mess on her front steps when she came back.

So most years, she sits in a chair outside her door, more or less on guard.

One sight, however, always moves her. The first group up the hill in the morning is a phalanx of police officers, all on motorcycles, 20 at least.

"It chokes me up, and I feel like crying," she said. "It's just so beautiful to watch."

Contact staff writer Sandy Bauers at 215-854-5147 or sbauers@phillynews.com.