This year's bike race in Manayunk almost didn't happen after the 28-year-old annual Philadelphia International Cycling Championship was cancelled in January following the withdrawal of lead sponsor TD Bank.
But thanks to Congressman Bob Brady, who within a week of the announcement pulled together a new community-based nonprofit to assemble a retooled race, Sunday's inaugural Philly Cycling Classic rolled along – albeit with a shorter, 12-mile course, separate rather than concurrent races for male and female professional cyclists and equal prize money for both.
The race's start and finish lines were both moved from the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the top of the Manayunk Wall, uniting the infamously steep Wall climb – a challenge undertaken by bicyclists from around the world – with the previously-detached excitement of the race's end.
Despite the differences, revelers cheering from the sidelines near the heart of the course said they noticed little change in the festive atmosphere.
"It's just as fun," said Kristina Mitchell of Roxborough, who attended the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship for its final three years.
"And it's the same, the same fun," her friend Robin Bolduc added.
Though, as in years past, college kids toted coolers and red cups and signs warned against public urination and underage drinking, police on the scene said they had no major incidents involving illegal intoxication as of Sunday afternoon.
Tom Detwiler of Chestnut Hill, who was taking in the course with his wife and three young children, said he noticed the partying was tamer – Sunday morning, at least.
"It's always crazy here," he said.
But when asked how the Philly Cycling Classic stacked up to the International Championship, he replied, "I like it much better."
"I like this format, the fact that there's 10 laps again instead of seven and the fact they finish at the top of the wall. It's going to make it a different race."
His wife Emma added they'll be returning.
"We used to come every year, but we had three kids so it got a lot harder," she said.
"Now, we'll be back."
USA's Evelyn Stevens won the Philly Cycling Classic Women's Pro Race with an unofficial time of 2:23:27.
USA's Kiel Reijnen took the Philly Cycling Classic Men's Pro Race championship.