Lance Armstrong, Eric Heiden, George Hincapie and Tom Schuler have won the Philadelphia International Championship, formerly known as the CoreStates USPRO Championship. But on the eve of its 25th anniversary edition, the race is in jeopardy of cancellation due to a US$500,000 budget shortage.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the race organisers has raised only $1.2 million of the $1.7 million it needs to hold the 1.HC-rated UCI event. Despite title sponsor TD Bank's contribution, the race still faces the shortfall due to the City of Philadelphia's own budget crisis.
The newspaper also reported that the city, which used to provide police and other services for free, has decided to charge the race organisers for the city's services this year. Jerry Casale, who co-founded the race, didn't blame Philadelphia.
"The city has been a great partner for 24 years. Everybody is facing an economic crisis," he said to the Inquirer.
Last year Danish rider Matti Breschel (Team CSC-Saxo Bank) prevailed on the 251km Philadelphia course, which takes in the famous Manayunk Wall, with a gradient of up to 17 percent.
"This is an event that adds so much to the quality of life and vibrancy [of] the city," said Loree Jones, former city managing director, who now is executive director of the Manayunk Development Corp. "It would be a terrible loss."
City Councilman Curtis Jones knows the importance of the race. "We understand there is a recession, but we don't want to lose this. I'm going to try to rally some people with deep, deep pockets and see what we can do."
George Hincapie celebrates his win in 1998
According to race organisers, the event more than pays for itself by bringing between $15 million to 20 million in revenue to the city.
Recently, the 23-year-old Tour of the Gila faced a budget shortfall, only to have SRAM Corporation step in and take over title sponsorship for the next few years. Will the Chicago company share some brotherly love with Casale?