Why the Tour of Lake Ellyn is a must-see event in cycling series
The Tour of Lake Ellyn is a standout leg in a 10-day bicycling series around Chicago and the suburbs next month.
The organizers think so. Professional athletes think so. And the spectators will, too, when they claim a spot July 15 along a scenic course that winds around a neighborhood lake in Glen Ellyn.
"You just can't ask for a better venue or a better afternoon," organizer Jim Burket said.
Burket and former pro Ben Raby are the driving force behind an effort that began in late February to save the must-see event. The tour made its debut in the Intelligentsia Cup series last year, but its future was in doubt when the local sponsor, INTENT Inc., a Woodridge training center, declined to back races this year.
Burket and Raby are building on the success of a well-received event that drew about 2,000 people to Lake Ellyn park last July. Organizers are expecting to double that number as word spreads about an exhilarating course designed by two-time Olympian and Glen Ellyn native John Vande Velde in 1969.
The original Tour of Lake Ellyn had about a decadelong run, and its reincarnation still holds appeal among professionals around the globe.
"It's both physically demanding, but also mentally demanding," Raby said.
With nearly a dozen turns, a roundabout and two elevation changes, the 1.4-mile course poses a unique challenge for riders.
"The pace continues to elevate because positioning is key in a race like this," said Raby, who hit a maximum speed of 43 mph last year.
Burket, a longtime cycling enthusiast, recommends moving around the course to get a look at the action over the 10-hour event. But there are some prime spots coming out of the roundabout down Lake Road and the straightaway to the finish line on Lenox Road.
The tour is the second stage in the Intelligentsia Cup series. It's considered one of the largest of its kind in the country, and it's expanding to 10 days of racing this year. More than 500 professional and amateur cyclists are expected in Glen Ellyn, series spokesman Mark Zalewski said.
Parents and kids also can take their two-wheelers for two laps around the course during the Greentarget Family Fun Ride starting at 3:45 p.m., while the professional men warm up for their race and the professional women cool down after theirs.
Those premier races have moved up earlier in the day so crowds can check out the pinnacle of the sport and go on to attend evening concerts at an outdoor jazz festival downtown.
Spectators also can sample food from Catering Made Simple, Heavenly Hot Dogs and Muscle Maker Grill. And in the spirit of what organizers call a community event, the Glen Ellyn Food Pantry will set up a tent to raise awareness about its mission. Organizers also plan to make a donation to the pantry.
Raby and Burket say they remain committed to keeping the tour going.
"Everyone talked about Glen Ellyn last year, and everyone's anxious to come back," Burket said.
If you goWhat: The Jerry Haggerty Chevrolet Tour of Lake Ellyn
When: The first race starts at 10:05 a.m. and the last at 7:45 p.m. Saturday, July 15
Where: Lake Ellyn Park, 645 Lenox Road, Glen Ellyn; The start/finish line is at Lenox Road and Linden Street
Admission: Free for spectators