by Walter Fox
The late Gerard F. “Jerry” Casale Jr., proprietor of the former Hill Cycle Shop in Chestnut Hill, has been inducted posthumously into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame for his lifetime contributions to the sport.
The induction ceremony was held Nov. 8 at the University of California, Davis, where the organization’s headquarters and museum are located.
Casale, who died in 2012, was instrumental in making bicycle racing a major American sport and was one of the founders in 1985 of the first U.S. Professional Cycling Championship race in Philadelphia. He had been operations director of the race since its inception, overseeing all of the physical preparations for the 156-mile event.
Casale had worked at Hill Cycle for more than four decades with his father, Gerard F. Casale Sr., who opened the shop at 8135 Germantown Ave. in 1929. For most of its history, Hill Cycle was more than a business: It was a mecca for the area’s racing community and fostered the careers of many prominent cyclists.
A bicycle racer himself during the 1960s and 1970s who won several Pennsylvania track championships, Casale made the bike shop into a place for imported high-end racing components and frame sets. In the late 1970s he built his own line of custom road and track racing frames, and in the 1980s he and his son Nick, an engineer, created a prototype for a monocoque carbon-fiber racing frame.
When his father died in 1993, Casale closed the shop to devote himself entirely to racing productions and event management. By then he was a partner and operations manager of what is now Pro Cycling Tour, an organization that produces major cycling events.
As founder and president of Special Events Suppliers, Casale was responsible for staging the road and track cycling events for the 1996 Olympic Games and Para Olympic Games in Atlanta. He also had coordinated staging, crowd control, security and communications for major public events like the presidential inauguration parade, World Series victory parades, Fourth of July celebrations and Philadelphia’s Vintage Grand Prix.
Mr. Casale said he had gotten the idea for the Philadelphia race while serving as chief mechanic for the U.S. professional cycling team during the 1984 World Championships in Barcelona, Spain, where the race passed along a wide boulevard before heading up Montjuic Hill. He said later that the race setting reminded him of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia.
Born and raised in Chestnut Hill, Mr. Casale attended Our Mother of Consolation parish school and graduated from Northeast Catholic High School. After graduation he served in the Army Signal Corps in Korea.