Philadelphia International Bike Race

Philadelphia International Bike Race. Riders attack” The Wall” in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia.

There are two days a year I’d would be rather be in Philadelphia than anywhere else. The first is New Year’s Day. While many people watch football on television while nursing hangovers, we Philadelphians make our way downtown to watch the Mummer’s Parade. The Mummer’s Parade is a day long procession of String Bands in elaborate costumes and magnificent floats, kind of like a one day Mardi-Gras.

The other day I look forward to, is the first Sunday in June (tomorrow) when Philadelphia hosts the top cycling teams from around the world.

The race, now in its 24th year, was always named after a big bank but mergers and losses in the mortage sector, have left this years race without a major sponsor. The race is now simply called The Philadelphia International Bike Race.

In the early years I photographed the race for the original local sponsor. I had a press pass, transportation around the course and I was paid well. That bank is long gone. Now it’s a family outing with my wife and son. I take a camera but without access to the course it’s hard to get good shots of the racers. The constant changes in helmets and cycling attire emblazed with ever changing corporate logos date the images, giving them a short life span for a stock file. I’ve let go of the angst, shoot what I can and just try to have fun.

Our friend Neil lives in Manayunk, only one block from the infamous Wall. Each year he opens up his house and patio for a bike race party. We use to live on the same street so it’s good to see some of our old neighbors again, some we only see once a year at Neil’s party.

We socialize, drink beer and eat burgers from the grill until we hear the helicopters overheard, telling us it’s time to stroll over to The Wall to watch the riders’ arduous accent. Then back for another beer or another burger and watch the race on T.V. until we hear the helicopters again.

If you plan on visiting Philadelphia to watch the race get here the day before or take public transportation. Septa’s R6 Norristown train will drop you off right at foot of the Wall. It will get crowded, very crowded, especially after Noon. If you have a car, park it! Do not even try to drive anywhere near the race course! Take public or better yet ride a bike!