Dustin Morici works as a mechanic at Sammy's Bike Shop in St. Charles. He's also a dedicated cyclist. For both of those reasons, he was delighted to be part of the Sammy's St. Charles Prairie State Criterium event on Sunday.
The event, the first of its kind to be held in St. Charles, brought cyclists from all over the Chicago area and beyond for a day of intense racing near the Fox River. Organizers say the event was conceived as a kickoff to the Prairie State Cycling Series, a new event expected to hit multiple Illinois communities in 2013.
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"It's great to have riders of this caliber in St. Charles," said Morici, one of the pro-level riders who raced Sunday as part of the Sammy's Bike Shop team. "It's great exposure for the town and for the shop."
The course started and finished in front of Sammy's, taking riders on a scenic (and challenging) ride through the downtown area. Races started at 10 a.m. and continued into the evening; the 90-minute Pro Men race got started at 5 p.m., bringing the day to a close.
Sammy's worked with Midwest Cycling Series LLC, founder of the popular Tour of America's Dairyland racing series in Wisconsin, to bring the criterium to St. Charles.
"It's really exciting," said Kyle Selph of Naperville, another pro-level rider who was part of the shop's team. "This is a major event, and everyone has done such a great job -- the promoters, the organizers. I think people will take notice and future events here will be huge."
Organizers made sure Sunday's event had a family-friendly feel. A family bike ride was held during the afternoon, and businesses in the Fox Island Square held sidewalk sales, cookouts and special activities like face-painting throughout the day.
"My husband and I are casual bikers, but we do like watching people at this level," said Karyn Stallworth of Aurora, a spectator at one of the early races. "Plus, I'm from St. Charles, so it was nice to come out here for this."
For more on the upcoming Prairie State Cycling Series, go to prairiestatecyclingseries.com.