Thousands come to West Chester’s Benchmark Twilight Cycling Classic in spite of persistent rain
Intermittent heavy downpours didn’t dampen the numbers or the enthusiasm of the thousands of spectators who lined the streets of downtown West Chester to watch professional bike racers navigate tricky, rain-soaked streets at speeds in excess of 35 mph during the 14th annual Benchmark Twilight Cycling Classic, sponsored by Benchmark Federal Credit Union.
“It’s really impressive that so many people came out with all the rain we’ve had,” said Mark Yoder, President of the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce, organizer of the event.
Pro racing fans found plenty of excitement by the time the 75K Iron Hill Pro Men’s Criterium closed out the evening at 9:44 P.M. For the first time in recent history, the race ended with a bunch field sprint with Corey Davis (Cyclus Sports Starlight Factory) breaking out for the win at 40.07.5 ahead of runner-up Tom Gibbons (Automatic Endurance) with Frank Travieso (EDA/Evolution Cycling Team) taking third.
On the pro women’s side, Laurel Rathbun (Colavita/Bialetti) held the lead for much of the 40K Brumbaugh Wealth Management Pro Women’s Criterium. With ony two laps to go, Sam Schneider (ISCorp Pro Cycling) broke away from the chase group, caught Rathbun and held on to sprint across the finish line for the win. Six tenths of a second later, Beck Wiasak (Fearless Femme Racing) came in second, with teammate Kristina Clonan finishing in third place. Taking sixth place was Pocono native and fan-favorite Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers). The early leader, Laurel Rathbun, finished 12th.
In the 35K Rothman Institute Amateur Criterium, Sean Guydish (Young Medalists) of Easton, PA, went from start to finish as the race leader beating Kevin Westover (Spokes’n Skis) by over 8 seconds.
Thrills and laughter mixed freely during the very popular Tolsdorf Trike Challenge as 16 teams faced off against each another in a series of heats on over-sized tricycles. After two years of dominance, Kelly’s Sports had to hand over the giant Trike Trophy to Brandywine Valley Heating & Air Conditioning by virtue of a close victory over Dave’s Automotive Repair Enterprises.
Although bike racing garnered most of the focus, visitors found plenty of other activities to enjoy between the rain drops. With its wide variety of inflatables and games, the My Benefit Adviser Kids’ Zone was a magnet for the children, while the Northwestern Mutual Community Festival attracted visitors with its potpourri of vendors of all descriptions showing off all the latest must-haves and services, food and information booths. Those looking for local, hand-crafted beer were not disappointed as Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant once again hosted their popular beer garden.
By 10:30 P.M. the streets began to empty as the West Chester University Football Team spearheaded the process of taking down and packing up 5,000 feet of fencing, the announcing stage and hundreds of miscellany that go into making this iconic West Chester event a reality.
“Our riders love coming here [West Chester]. Criterium racing across the nation is held in a lot of cities. We have a lot of athletes who look forward to this stop because of the atmosphere. You can’t recreate it,” commented Gene Dixon, Director of USA Crits, promoter of the event.
The West Chester race is definitely on everyboy’s radar. How awesome the crowds are here! It’s such a great community, and we are thrilled to come here and race,” added Samantha Schneider.
The Benchmark Twilight Cycling Classic is sponsored by the Benchmark Federal Credit Union and presented by the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce.
About Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce:
The Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce, located in the heart of Chester County, PA is a membership based not-for-profit organization providing resources, advocacy and educational opportunities to help local businesses and entrepreneurs build relationships, promote their business, grow their network, address their most serious business challenges and become an integral part of the community. www.GreaterWestChester.com