As a kid, riding your bike was a fun way to spend a day with friends, while bike riding as an adult can be a nice, leisurely way to spend an afternoon.
But the bike races hitting the area this summer are something entirely different.
From fundraising rides to USA Cycling-sanctioned racing, the slate of biking events hitting the ‘burbs is bringing excitement not to be missed.
With 10 full days of continuous racing at different venues, the Intelligentsia Cup is one of the premier bike racing events in the United States. As one of the largest race series (behind the Tour of America’s Dairyland), the Intelligentsia Cup draws thousands of the top racers to the northern Illinois area with hopes of winning cash prizes.
The race may only be seven years old, but it was built on the foundation and legacy that Superweek had built for 40 years throughout Wisconsin and Illinois before coming to an end in 2012. Some of the races, including the 16th annual Beverly Hills Cycling Classic, which opens the cup on Friday, July 20, are even the same courses that Superweek once used.
This year, the cup will feature seven criterium and three road races, including the Illinois State Road Race Championship, which will be held at the Elgin venue on Sunday, July 22. Road races are long races that are run on distance rather than time, while criterium races are short courses that the racers go around many times.
While any rider is technically welcome, all racers must be licensed. Beginners are put into category 5 races, while the more experienced riders are in the higher levels. Category 1 racers are generally the top national racers, while pro races consist of competitors who have been picked up by a team and sponsor.
“We cater more towards the elite categories and prize money, but we have categories of all kinds,” says Mark Zalewski, marketing director for the Intelligentsia Cup.
One of the most exciting additions to the circuit this year is a road race at the Autobahn Country Club on Monday, July 23.
“It’s going to be on the auto racing track, with full closure so we don’t have to worry about any traffic,” Zalewski says. “We really think the racers are going to appreciate that.”
Other locations for the cup include Lake Bluff, West Dundee, Elmhurst, Niles, Glen Ellyn, and South Chicago before ending at the William Blair Grand Prix at the Goose Island Beer Co., which is next to Intelligentsia’s roasting works in Chicago.
“If it’s close to your area, you should go and support your local venue,” Zalewski says. “Events in the suburbs are more family-oriented ones, while the one downtown at Goose Island has a lot more beverages flowing.”
Another exciting change this year is that the Intelligentsia Cup will be paying equal prize money across genders. The rise in women’s participation justified the move for organizers.
“It’s a big deal,” Zalewski says. “We’re trying to lead the charge in parity, and we’re one of the first events at our level to do it.”
All races are free to attend, but there are plenty of activities to enjoy as a spectator. From kids races and family fun rides to food, drinks and games, attending a bike race is an affordable, family-friendly event perfect for a summer evening.
“The best thing about bike racing is that it’s fun for spectators,” Zalewski says. “In criterium races, they come around many times, and there’s fast speeds, it’s technical and there’s occasionally some crashing. It’s NASCAR on bikes, with high energy and high action.”
A full schedule of events and more information on how to register can be found by visiting www.intelligentsiacup.com
GLENCOE GRAND PRIX
The Glencoe Grand Prix is back for another year as Downtown Glencoe hosts the USA Cycling Pro Road Tour race. The one-day event is held on Saturday, June 2 and runs from 8 a.m. to the last, most advanced race at 5:45 p.m.
The 12th annual event features two beautiful courses with the start and finish at Vernon Avenue between Hazel Avenue and Temple Court. The short course is a classic four-corner flat 0.8-mile criterium course, while the long course is a 10-corner 1.3-mile lap that has a small rise and descent on the western portion of the course.
Race entry for pro categories is $35 with the chance to win up to $750 in prizes, while the USA CRITS series is $35 with $5,000 in prize money.
But it’s not all business – there are plenty of family activities throughout the day for all ages to participate in. At noon, there is a children’s race that all kids are welcome to race in, and there’s also music, food and vendors and a wild block party throughout the day.
All proceeds from the event benefit the Glencoe Educational Foundation, which supports special education projects in Glencoe, as well as programs and schools around Chicago.
TOUR DE FARMS
While not an actual race, the Bike MS: Tour de Farms is a ride designed to raise awareness and funds for muscular dystrophy. This ride is in its 37th year and is just one of 77 rides nationally for the cause, which is the largest fundraising cycling series in the United States.
While it was previously held at Northern Illinois in DeKalb for over 10 years, it has been moved to the Kane County Fairgrounds this year.
“It’s a really big deal for us to be in our new location this year,” says Valerie Brod, Bike MS senior development manager. “We’re really excited to be in the area.”
The ride spans two days, but participants can choose to ride in one or the other, or both. Saturday’s rides range from 35, 50, 75 and 100 miles, and Sunday offers 35, 50 or 75 mile rides.
“Anyone can ride,” Brod says. “It’s really good for both the novice and experienced, because they can choose how far they want to ride.
“Some people ride because this have MS, some people ride because they have a loved one with MS or has lived with MS, and some ride because they love cycling.”
Last year, the local ride raised more than $1.2 million dollars and around $70 million nationally. There is a $300 minimum for fundraising to participate in the race, but Brod says they work with people to provide support and help if the minimum is an issue.
“Whatever their connection is to the disease, the cyclists know they’re doing something very powerful,” Brod says. “We at the MS Society envision a society free of MS, and we are hoping to live up to that vision.”