JERRY CASALE: The PEZ-Clusive Interview
“Son, it’s not cold outside. Get out there and ride.” These are the words I remember from my early days on Team Hill / Hill Bicycle Club, from Jerry Casale. He set the stage for a lifetime passion of cycling as mentor for many cyclists. Today, Jerry is the Chief Operating Officer of Threshold Sports, and responsible for giving us the Wachovia Cycling Series.
With the 20th anniversary upon us this PEZ reporter wanted to share with the cycling world why Jerry Casale is great for cycling. His office doesn’t just have one of Lance’s jerseys or pictures of Eddy Merckx, (which it does), but rather it has countless photos of amateur teams and riders who still have a burning passion for the sport as a result of their time spent with Jerry. Jerry inspires everyone he comes in contact with which is why the Wachovia Cycling Series remains so successful.
You don’t get a rolodex that size by sittin’ on yer butt all day…!
Along with a desire to see the framed race posters, memorabilia, and years of stock footage stored on videotape, I went to the Threshold Sports headquarters outside Philly to talk to the man who had such and affect on me and to continues to influence me greatly.
Dave: Jerry, this is the 20th year for the Corestates, First Union, and now Wachovia Cycling Series. Did you expect the event to become so big and popular?
Jerry: The race was initially just an idea that started after working for the US National Team at The World Championships in 1984. We wanted to put on a world class event. We thought one or two years to start but no, I didn’t think we’d be talking about this twenty years later.
Other than the obvious fact that you have been a fixture in the Philadelphia cycling community for years, having produced riders such as Bruce Donaghy, John Eustice, Danny Fox, and Alan “Big Al” Rodzinski, what made Philly your choice for such a venue?
It’s my hometown. My family started Hill Cycle in 1929. We staged early races such as the Keystone Open and an Olympic qualifier event later in the 1970’s. A teenage David Chauner, now President and CEO of Threshold Sports, started coming to Hill Cycle for bike repairs and the relationship was formed. Through trips to Europe and in consultation with professionals, Hill Cycle became the premier shop in the area, full of the latest top quality products that no one else had.
After returning from the 84 World Championships, David Chauner, Jack Simes, and I approached the City of Philadelphia about putting on a race. They told us to pick a course and they’d give us a permit. The city thought we would have just a short loop on the Ben Franklin Parkway but we wanted a hill and also for the race to go through a local neighborhood. That’s how we found “The Wall,” named by Dave Chauner, and Manayunk. Mayor William Greene and John B Kelly Jr. supported the race and partnered to make it happen.
Just some of the huge collection of memorabilia at the Threshold Sports offices.
You are known for taking care of your friends and family. How do you feel when you look around at the end of the day and see your family and riders from the last 20 or 30 years working with you on a full time or “event” basis?
First, I don’t do this alone. Everyone I have worked with in the past and work with now has made these events happen. I’m just one of the guys. But, the sport is fragile, and I feel very lucky, very fortunate, to work with such great people. My friends, my wife, sons, cousins – everyone is involved.
When a tractor trailer pulls up, which it just always does on schedule, doctors, lawyers, dentists, and accountants all roll up their sleeves and get to work unloading French Barricades, hay bails, platforms or signage. We’ve created our own custom equipment; lighter, easier to handle all in the course of our normal business.
In addition to working the early feed zone, moving around French barricades, and transporting water at the Philly races, you gave me the opportunity to work at the Atlanta Olympics. I recall one early morning when you were on the truck with us; Merckx drove by to check out the course, spotted you, and got out of his car to give you a hug. What was putting on that race like for you? It was amazing just being there for me.
We’ve done 185 cycling events over the last 20 years and it took 125 people to work for us in Atlanta at the 96 Olympic Games. I’ve personally met Tour de France winners and made good friends from the cycling community. The morning you are referring to was pouring rain and Eddy came by with the Belgian team car behind him however the course was locked down. He saw me and asked if they could get on the course so we opened the hay bales for them, then closed it right back. An official came by and yelled “Don’t open the bales” I said you’re going to tell Eddy Merckx he can’t come on the course?
Your events are run so well, tell me about the other events, past and present that have come out of your success at the CoreStates, now Wachovia Cycling Championship.
For various reasons sponsors’ change their focus and needs. Our events in Lancaster, PA, Trenton, NJ, and of course the Wachovia USPRO Championship became the model for all our races. We have linked them as the Pro Cycling Tour, which now includes the BMC Software New York City Championship, PCT Rocky Mountain Classic at Vail and the T-MOBILE INTERNATIONAL, presented by BMC Software in San Francisco. These are all great events. In the past we have done races in West Virginia, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, San Jose and Houston. When we pulled up with twenty trailers full of barricades at the Olympics there were some concerns about us finishing in time. But, my crew has canned everything. That is we have the logistics down, own all of our equipment, staging, and sound systems.
Nothing is firm yet but look for a HUGE race out west in the near future.
LeMond, Jalabert, Tafi, who hasn’t come to Philly that you wish, had? Also, what’s next for Philly, US racing, and Jerry Casale?
We all wish the boss would come – he has raced here twice before. Something we’ve just announced is a Founders’ Ride and “Legends” Luncheon for all the past winners of the race and founders to the event. It will take place the Saturday before and leave from the Lehigh County Velodrome and end on the parkway in Philly, followed by a luncheon at the Wyndham Franklin Plaza. It will also benefit the Nicole Reinhardt Memorial Fund. Details are being worked out but hopefully a parade ride of 100 – 125 riders will make the trip. (Plus one reporter from PEZ.)
Bobby Julich is coming and riding strong with his CSC team. Great since CSC is also a race sponsor. The ever powerful USPostal team Also, the passion from Wachovia Bank and the City of Philadelphia will help keep the atmosphere festive.
We’re working on a major stage race out west and also some family oriented events. On June 25th to the 27th the Bell To Bell Ride Weekend from the Liberty Bell to Valley Forge Park will take place. A sister bell exists, made around the same time as the actual Liberty Bell. The ride is to commemorate the 85th anniversary of women’s voting rights. It will be fantastic event full of activities for everyone. The Bristol Meyers Squibb Tour of Hope is a benefit ride for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. There will be a 20-person team of riders making a cross-country trip beginning October 1 in Los Angeles and concluding in Washington DC on Saturday, October 9. We will be staging a ride for several thousand from Baltimore to Washington that day.
Any predictions for this year’s race?
Yes, big crowds and good weather.
Finally, we’re having a big party the Friday before the race. Will you come if your schedule permits?
I’d be honored to, but I am extending the same invitation to you for a dinner that week.
Thanks Jerry, I can’t tell you how much this means that you spoke with me – and let me tell our PEZ-Readers about the great work you’ve done, and continue to do!
Get more info on the Wachovia US Pro Cycling Championships, Threshold Sports and the Pro Cycling Tour at the official website: