The professionals won't have to conquer "The Wall" as many times during this year's Philadelphia International Cycling Championship, but for the first time, amateur riders will get to test themselves on the same course, including the iconic 17 percent grade incline in Manayunk.
Race organizers are shortening the professional race, knocking it down from 10 trips around the 14.7-mile course to seven, but instituting a morning ride for amateur enthusiasts, who will get to complete three circuits.
Dave Chauner, president of Pro Cycling Tour, said the changes come amid tough economic times. This is the final year of TD Bank's deal as the prime sponsor, and in 2009 the city began requiring events to pay the full cost of city services, such as police protection and street cleaning. Certain ethnic parades and festivals have since been exempted from police costs.
The race has an annual budget of about $1.2 million, Chauner said, and city services can run between $200,000 and $300,000. He estimated that the race generates from $15 million to $20 million in economic activity in the city.
He said the city "has bent over backward" to help the race, even if it can no longer absorb the cost of the services.
"I think they realize the value of this event," Chauner said.
Amateur riders will have to pay an entrance fee of $85 — among the benefits is having their rides timed. Chauner said from 75 to 100 people have been signing up every day, and he's hoping for 2,000 to 3,000 riders on race day, June 3.
The amateurs will ride at 7 a.m., with the pros set to go off at 10:45 a.m.
Organizers also are looking at other ways to raise money and interest in the race, including an "Embrace the Race" campaign with local merchants and a mobile app to track the cyclists.
Chauner also said taking the pro race from 156 to 124 miles is "more in line with what's happening in cycling today." Races now are expected to be shorter, faster, and more competitive, he said.
Organizers also are expanding the number of trips the pros must make around the closing circuit between Logan Circle and Lemon Hill from three to five. The closing circuit and finish are the most spectator-friendly parts of the course.
Chauner, who was one of the founders of the race 28 years ago, said that keeping the tradition alive is a "labor of love."
"As a cyclist," he said, "it's something that's hard to give up and not try to reinvent."