Shortly after Cyclingnews spoke to Threshold CEO Dave Chauner, the company announced details of the 2006 Philly week races.
The keynote race of the week's festivities will now be known as the Philadelphia International Championship and will be held on Sunday, June 11. It will be preceded by the PCT Championship of the Americas on Sunday, June 4, in Lancaster, and the PCT Invitational on June 8 (host venue TBD). The 56 mile Women's Liberty Classic, run simultaneously with the men's race on June 11, will also retain its international status.
Chauner and the city believe it's important for Philadelphia to continue to host a major international race. "Cycling is one of the top two professional sports in the world and it is better for the sport and for the development of USA professionals to compete against a world class field", said Chauner. "Philadelphia, as an international city, deserves a world class event. Faced with the choice of going with a U.S. rider only USPRO Championship or staying with a strong international competition, we made the decision to stick with the 'USA verses the world' format and rename the race the Philadelphia International Championship."
Pennsylvania Governor, Ed Rendell, agrees. "This is one of the most important and exciting annual sporting events in our state and the nation and a unique Philadelphia treasure," he said. "For 21 years, the race has supported our initiatives to promote the benefits of physical fitness, provide economic benefit to the region and foster civic pride for our citizens."
Threshold believes the race now known as the Philadelphia International Championship has been a major factor in the development of professional racing in the US over the last 20 years. When the first edition was held, there were seven US professional riders and one pro team. Now there are 130 pro riders on 12 teams. Eric Heiden won the first edition and the past winners list includes Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong.
The race was originally supported by the CoreStates Financial Corp, a regional bank. Over the years, the bank changed ownership through acquisitions and mergers from CoreStates to First Union and finally, Wachovia, a Charlotte, NC based bank that late this year announced that it would no longer sponsor the race.
Cauner and partner Jerry Casale are seeking a new title sponsor to follow in CoreStates' footsteps. "This event is unique", said Casale. "With a six month build-up, hundreds of thousands of spectators and a reputation as the one of the biggest special events in the country, this is to cycling what the Masters is to golf and a sponsor's dream."