Taking a page from cycling icon Lance Armstrong, the Pro Cycling Tour launched a bracelet effort to encourage the community to show its support for the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship.
Pro Cycling Tour director Dave Chauner said Monday the "Embrace the Race" campaign exists to further cement the professional bike race, which garners a lot of attention for Manayunk, as an iconic Philadelphia event.
"The important consideration is that the race has always been free to the public. We'd like to keep it that way. The 'Embrace the Race' campaign allows people to share a small amount of money and show their support in the community," he said.
Merchants can purchase a jar filled with grey "Embrace the Race" wristbands or "em-bracelets," and either sell or give away them in their stores. On race day itself, June 3, 2012, people can download a free bike race app, and those with bracelets will also be clued in to sponsored give-aways.
Racers from all over world will take to Philadelphia next month for the race—including U.S. Olympian Bobby Lea. The race occurs only a few weeks before the Tour de France and 2012 London Olympics.
A Good Idea, But...
However, with the race only a few weeks away, some feel it may be too late to get this effort of the ground.
Jane Lipton, executive director for the , displays the jar at the nonprofit's Main Street office. At this point, she is a little skeptical about the campaign's 2012 success.
"I've sent it out to my businesses, and I can't say that I've had a strong, positive response. There certainly is some interest; I just think it's a little bit late," Lipton said.
The Pro Cycling Tour—which runs the 124-mile race through Philadelphia, down Main Street and up the Manayunk Wall into Roxborough—has worked with the MDC and the party atmosphere. Lipton said the idea of a campaign like this has been discussed before, but isn't sure if May 2012 is the best time to implement it.
"I'm for the idea. I've had this idea and talked about it all of last year. I hope it draws a lot of support, but I think maybe something could have been done months and months ago," she said.
The Bike Race's Finances
Chauner and the Pro Cycling Tour have stated the race needs better financial footing for it to continue. Titled sponsor TD Bank will not stay on in that role following the 2012 race. If the bike race can't lure another lead sponsor—which needs to sign on for three to five years—before Sept. 30, the race could discontinue.
The "Embrace the Race" campaign is one of several ways the Pro Cycling Tour has attempted to react. Although —to save money on police costs and potentially attract a better TV contract—went south, the tour announced a .
That event will allow anyone to ride up to three laps of the entire course Sunday morning before the race officially begins. So far, several hundred people have signed up, Chauner said, with the expectation being about 2,000.
"We're excited to have the Bicycle Open and maybe, one-day it will be a huge event with 10,000 people in it... I think with the new bike paths and the amateur race, this will boost Philadelphia to be one of the most bike friendly cities in the United States," he said.
In addition to monetizing the amateur portion, the Pro Cycling Tour concurrently made the Bicycling Open a fundraiser for charities, through Charity of Choice. Chauner said 14 groups have already signed up.
The move altered the race, lowering it from 156 miles and decreasing the number of times up the Manayunk Wall from 10 to seven. The race will end with five finishing circuits between Logan Circle and Lemon Hill.
Lipton said she's confident the race will stay in Philadelphia and Manayunk, and that the 2012 running will not be its last.
"I do not think it's the last bike race. Of course, there's many things beyond my control, but I'm always a believer in positive thinking. I do believe the bike race is important to Philadelphia. I can't imagine that Pro Cycling, the city and the residents would want it to go," she said.
View the Pro Cycling Tour's website for more information.