Philadelphia will play host what is anticipated to be the largest collegiate race in history this weekend from March 10-11. While collegiate teams normally focus on competition within their conference during the season, this Pennsylvania-based event will serve simultaneously as the second stop on both the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC) and the Atlantic Collegiate Cycling Conference (ACCC) road calendars.
It will feature teams from Delaware, New England, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, DC, Virginia, North Carolina, and West Virginia. Building on the success of the 2006 event, promoters are expecting nearly 600 student racers, which would make the race larger than both the Boston Beanpot or Nationals.
University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, Villanova, Temple University and Johns Hopkins have teamed up to host the three-event cycling weekend. "What the Philly and Johns Hopkins coalition has done is remarkable. Never before has such an important expanse of downtown metropolis been completely closed to host a collegiate cycling event," said ECCC Conference Director Mark Abramson.
The weekend of racing kicks off Saturday morning with the Schuylkill Challenge Circuit Race along the banks of the mighty Schuylkill River. "This course is going to be epic, as the course features a number of climbs that will test the early-season legs of both conferences," stated race director Joe Kopena of Drexel. "Plus, this course is in downtown Philly and is completely closed to traffic. Outside of the USPro championships, this simply has never been done."
Sunday morning, a 14km Trophy Bikes team time trial will take racers on a flat course along the banks of the Schuylkill and feature views of downtown Philadelphia. Squads of up to four riders per team. "The team time trial event is one of the best parts about Collegiate Cycling. Team-building tests such as this are usually reserved for epic stage races such as the Tour de France," said race promoter Jim Devlin of UPenn.
The weekend of racing will wrap up with the "Philly Phlyer" crit in the heart of the University of Pennsylvania campus. A new course for 2007, the one-kilo meter course will test of handling and sprinting prowess of the master tacticians of collegiate cycling. "On-campus events such as this bring our sport to the heart of the school so everyone can see how much excitement and fun there is to be had with collegiate cycling," explained Clifton Smoot of Johns Hopkins University.
New for this event is an "intro to racing" category for both men and women to ease the learning curve for road racing. These events will have a coached portion, where racers work with experienced riders on racing skills and then go off to race against each other. The category was tested successfully in 2006 at several events and at the ECCC opener at Rutgers last weekend.