The largest professional cycling event in the Midwest kicks off Friday in Elk Grove Village with a growing field of national and international teams and riders.
The eighth annual Alexian Brothers International Cycling Classic Tour of Elk Grove, which runs through Sunday, features 12 professional and amateur races awarding roughly $66,000 in total prize money.
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Tour of Elk Grove detailsPro/amateur races: On village streets 4:30-7 p.m. Friday, 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.
Viewing locations: Along Elk Grove Boulevard from Ridge to Victoria where the start/finish line is located.
Sponsor/vendor expo: Grove Junior High School, 777 Elk Grove Blvd.
Parking: Athletes can park at Elk Grove High School, 500 W. Elk Grove Blvd. at Arlington Heights Road; spectators and athletes can park in Queen of the Rosary, Rev. Morrison and Elk Grove boulevards; Ridge School, Ridge and Delphia avenues; Elk Grove Fire Administration building, JFK/Rev. Morrison boulevards and Brantwood; Clearmont Elementary School, Ridge Avenue and Clearmont Drive.
Detour routes: No traffic will be allowed on the racecourse except for emergency vehicles. Use detour routes along Cypress Lane, Ridge Avenue, and Lively Boulevard.
Ÿ 3:30 p.m. Friday: "Mayor's Charity Time Trial" benefiting Elk Grove Village's Soldier's Memorial Fund.
Ÿ 9:45 a.m. Sunday: Village Trustees' Fun Ride (1 lap)
Ÿ 10:15 a.m. Sunday: Shimano Kids' Big Wheel Race
Ÿ 7-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday: Community block party with live music, food, fireworks, and meet-and-greet with riders. Classic rock tribute band 97 Nine will perform Friday, and Rock Candy will perform Saturday. Admission is free.
More information: tourofelkgrove.com
Source: Elk Grove Village
Eight women's and nine men's teams will compete in the weekend's showcase professional races, including teams from Canada, South Africa, Italy and the United States.
Among them is the South African team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung, which is competing for the first time in the United States and creating a buzz on social media, said Jeff Curtin, who is handling marketing for the Tour on Twitter and Facebook.
"They are real big into giving away bikes to the underprivileged of Africa," Curtin said. "They are working their way up through races to make it to the Tour de France."
The eight-member team, which consists of riders from throughout Africa, is going from Elk Grove to participate in the Tour of Utah next week.
Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung is Africa's first professional continental cycling team registered with Union Cycliste Internationale, the international governing body for competitive cycling.
The team races to build exposure for Qhubeka -- a program of U.S.-based nonprofit World Bicycle Relief in South Africa -- and its rural initiatives, while inspiring potential new athletes. The volunteer-run organization has distributed more than 40,000 bikes since 2005, according to the group's website.
The tour's professional men's race is one of just five races in the U.S. that earned the highest racing designation from the world governing body for sports cycling, Union Cycliste Internationale.
"It just shows how the race is growing and its international appeal," Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson said. "To get (Qhubeka) all the way here in Elk Grove is really a coup for us and a coup for them. They are a very strong charitable organization. What they are trying to do is to expand cycling in Africa."
Johnson, race director and himself an avid cyclist, has long been a proponent of cycling.
"It's an event that can be done anywhere," he said. "You don't need a stadium. And it's a healthy lifestyle."
The tour's premier competition is the three-stage men's pro race held over three days with nearly $41,000 in total prize money. The women's pro three-day, three-stage race has $17,500 in total prize money.
The single cash prize for the overall individual winner of the men's race is $12,595 and for the women's race is $5,500.
The men's pro race has 70 cyclists signed up, and registration is closed. The women's race has 60 riders and teams may still register.
It's the largest field of professional women cyclists the race has ever drawn, Johnson said.
The professional women's race is on USA Cycling's National Racing Calendar. It's also the only women's cycling event in the country that will be televised nationally for one full hour, like the men's race has been, Johnson said.
This year's race announcer is acclaimed professional cyclist Bob Roll, a three-time Tour de France racer who has written several books since retiring in the early 1990s and is a cable TV sports commentator.
The start/finish line for races, viewing areas, a sports/food/merchant expo and kids' playground area all are at the intersection of Elk Grove Boulevard and Ridge Avenue.
Stage 1 of the men's and women's pro races -- a 4.5 mile time trial -- will kick off the weekend of racing at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
But it's not all about serious competition.
The Mayor's Charity Time Trial this year will feature the youngest member of the Johnson clan -- Johnson's barely 18-month-old grandson Noah.
"He will be the official youngest racer in the history of the Tour of Elk Grove," Johnson said. "We wanted to show that biking is a true family event."
Noah will be sporting a Team Mayor jersey and be securely seated in a wheel cart attached to the rear of the mayor's bicycle.
"I'm going to go for the best time I can," said Johnson, explaining the added weight of his 28-pound grandson might slow him down a little.
"Last year I did it in 12 minutes. This time my goal is between 17 and 18 minutes. ... I think a lot of riders are going to be beating the mayor's time this year. But as long as it promotes family fun, it's worth it."