For elite cyclists, by the time the Intelligentsia Cup takes place in July, it’s usually late in the season and their tired legs are running empty.
This year, many of the previous races have been postponed to the fall or canceled altogether due to the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.
This vacuum in the calendar sparked renewed interest in the Intelligentsia Cup, back next month with nine days of pro and amateur racing in the suburbs and Chicago.
After a year of delay, the organizers hope to be able to surpass the turnout in 2019, when the series became the largest of its kind in the country based on the number of admissions – more than 5,300. As for the size of the terrain, the series had an average of more than 550 cyclists per day (runners can enter several categories).
“Due to the lack of races we have seen an increase in the elite professional categories, requests for new teams that have never raced with us before,” said series spokesman Mark Zalewski.
Top-level riders will need fresh legs to chase cash prizes at speeds of up to 35-40 miles per hour. Here is an overview of the routes and route for spectators:
Glen Ellyn, July 17
The second stop in the series has this as its backdrop: stately homes, a sparkling lake, and a high school that looks like a castle on top of a hill.
But Tour of Lake Ellyn cyclists won’t be distracted by the surroundings.
The Glen Ellyn stage is one of the most exciting, with punishing hilly sections and a sharp turn in the sprint to the finish line on Lenox Road.
“The feedback from the riders at the end of this series is always that Glen Ellyn was the most interesting,” said organizer Jim Burket. “You have climbs, which a lot of these courses don’t have. You have a roundabout. You have descents on the bends by Lake Road. You have a hairpin. You have crazy elements.”
The course was originally designed by John Vande Velde, a native of Glen Ellyn and a two-time Olympian in the 1968 and 1972. Now in the fifth year of a revival, the Tour of Lake Ellyn is turning usually quiet streets into a neighborhood festival. The road is lined with tents at the front, and the Lake Ellyn Boathouse has a beer garden.
“It’s almost like a second July 4th,” Burket said.
Winfield, July 18
For many years, a cycling club organized a stand-alone race in Winfield. This year it has been incorporated into the larger series to coincide with the celebration of the centenary of the village.
The Winfield Critérium will offer an enlarged version of a historic route. It will be a tough race on the aptly named Summit Drive.
“It should definitely pose a challenge to our runners, especially the outsiders who come to Chicago thinking we’re flat,” Zalewski said.
Mundelein, July 19
The Mundelein Grand Prix is a new addition to the program. This is another criterium event, or “crit”, which means that the riders will complete laps on a short, closed circuit.
The course is approximately seven tenths of a mile along Seymour Avenue, Hammond Street, Chicago Avenue and Park Street.
Taylor Wegrzyn, city planner and cycling enthusiast, championed the idea of races in Mundelein. The village expects 1,000 to 2,000 spectators. A beer garden is also available, as well as live music and children’s games.
Elgin, July 23
The Dennis Jurs Memorial Race honors the legacy of an Army veteran who helped create a cycling culture in Elgin.
Dennis Jurs took up sports to deal with injuries he sustained in a landmine explosion during the Vietnam War.
He shared his passion by organizing the Elgin Cycling Classic and other competitive events. In 2017, a race bears his name.
Jurs died six years ago after being hit by a car while cycling near Hampshire. The 68-year-old was wearing a helmet.
“In the cycling community the name Dennis Jurs means something, but for most people it doesn’t,” said Eric Larson, chairman of the board of the Northeast Neighborhood Association, the host of the race.
“So we try to bring his spirit and his love of cycling and use that to raise awareness about safety issues and training and get people to cycle safely.”
With that in mind, Elgin Community Bikes will be running bike safety clinics for kids on race day.
Another novelty this year: the switch to the Friday slot.
And the organizers have reworked the course in a more spectator-friendly criterium format.
• Daily Herald editor Rick West contributed to this report.