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The bike race propels parties & good causes

For some spectators, the bike race was a party. For others, it was a chance to raise money for charity.

For some spectators, the bike race was a party. For others, it was a chance to raise money for charity.

Catherine Bucks and Kate Taylor sipped drinks on the third-floor deck of a Levering Street rowhouse overlooking the legendary Manayunk Wall.

"You have to go to the bike race," said Taylor, who was watching the race for the third year yesterday. "It's one of the few times everyone [in Manayunk] comes together."

The TD Bank Philadelphia International Championship and Liberty Classic cycle races almost didn't happen because of funding issues. Like many spectators, Taylor was relieved that it did.

Some race-watchers wore costumes for the occasion: a Viking, a tiger, a caped invader, a Speedo-ed lifeguard, an Athenian.

When asked why he wore a toga, Raymond Jones, 34, a personal trainer from Fairmount, said: "The only answer to why is, 'Why not?' "

Three years ago, he had dressed similarly for the bike race. Two years ago he was a " '70s guy - but the Afro was way too hot," said Jones, who was with the others at the Wall.

Jones recalled attending his first race after friends teased him ruthlessly, he said. "I got scolded by my friends. They said, 'You've lived here for four years and never gone? You should be ashamed!' I had no idea how fun it was."

He has shown up each year since. Like Taylor, he was relieved that the race took place this year. "I would have been devastated if they hadn't had it," he said.

A few houses up, the "Caped Invader" sold lemonade. That would be Garrett Nyce, 5, who with his mother, Juanita, and his father, Randy, raised money for a charity that helps South American children who are infected with parasites.

Garrett came up with the idea himself, his mother said. "He heard about it at his Sunday school at a Mennonite church in Montgomery County," she said.

At a raucous party across the street, Jordan Magaro, 26, a self-described "bike-race aficionado," held a sign proclaiming: "You wave, we drink."

"This is my second race," he said. "But I go hard every year."

Andre Sowa, 52, drove down from East Norriton Township with his three children. The area and race have changed since he started watching 25 years ago.

"When I grew up you tended to move out [of Manayunk]," he said. "Now, it's become a desirable area."

A few blocks up the hill, Diana Reading, 24, and Jeanette Pasquitlo, 23, sold T-shirts to raise money to fight breast cancer. The childhood friends had slept overnight in a tent in Manayunk.

"You can either sleep on a couch with a table with beer on it, or you can sleep in a tent that doesn't smell like beer or urine," Reading said.

The area around the Wall was crowded, and downtown was even more so. Doug Long, 53, a carpenter from Allentown who drove part of the way into the city, watched the race's finish near Logan Circle.

"I've biked all my life," he said, leaning against the Trek bicycle that he'd ridden along the course before yesterday's race.

After he learned that the race had been in jeopardy, he decided to watch it, he said.

"I'd seen it on TV," he said. "But this year, when they were talking about not having it, I knew I had to go. All races like this deserve our support."