Last week, the City of Philadelphia announced that the annual Philadelphia International Cycling Classic, a Women’s WorldTour event, will “take a break” in 2017 due to a lack of funding.
The race featuring the infamous Manayunk Wall and Lemon Hill has been an iconic event in American racing since 1985. And, since gaining World Cup and Women’s WorldTour status, it has also been a rare opportunity for American fans to watch cycling’s biggest stars on home turf.
The news was met with disappointment and sadness from the cycling community, so much so that Philadelphia’s Bicycle Coalition has launched a petition, asking the Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney to “find a way” to bring back the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic, slated for June 4.
The petition, which has been spread online by professional race teams and local Philadelphians alike, is nearing 2000 supporters at the time of publication, and many left encouraging and touching messages as to why they would like to see the event saved.
“The professional bike race in Philadelphia has been a June tradition for me and my family for nearly 30 years. A great expression of community spirit and an incredibly entertaining sporting event, and one more reason to spend a weekend in one of America’s most historic cities. Please don’t let this tradition die!” writes one supporter.
These kind of messages is exactly what the Bicycle Coalition is trying to collect, said the Coalition’s Executive Director, Sarah Clark Stuart.
“The strength of this petition is in the wonderful and positive messages we have received. It has brought together the numerous voices across the city, region and country on why the race is so loved and it explains the value of the event,” Stuart told Ella CyclingTips.
“We are trying to capture the enthusiasm that’s out there about this event and about bicycling, and when we have the opportunity, we will present this to some of the decision-makers.”
Stuart said that the event is important not just for racing fans but for the region as a whole. Not only does the event attract thousands of tourists and millions of dollars of revenue to the City and small businesses, it also promotes the city, the region and bicycling.
“The most meaningful aspect of the race is that it showcases Philadelphia and the region as wonderful assets for cyclists of all kinds,” said Stuart.
“The course goes along the famous trail Schuylkill River Trail, Fairmount park ad city streets, and shows what an incredible city and region this is for bicycling. By channeling and funneling all this wonderful enthusiasm for bicycling, it helps reinforce the need to continue to support more people to use their bike. This race provides the opportunity to talk about bicycling as an important regional amenity.”
Whether the petition will serve any good in terms of garnering financial support, however, Stuart could not say.
As it stands now, there is a gap in the UCI Women’s WorldTour calendar. The Philly Cycling Classic, won by Women’s WorldTour leader Megan Guarnier (Boels-Domans) in 2016, followed the Women’s Tour of California which made it a worthwhile block of racing for Europeans coming overseas. As of right now, there will be no racing between the 3+ weeks that separate Amgen Women’s Tour of California in May and the Aviva Women’s Tour of Britain in June.