Glen Ellyn leg of Intelligentsia Cup becoming a 'marquee weekend' of bike racing

 
 
Updated 6/12/2018 2:02 PM
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  • The Intelligentsia Cup's Tour of Lake Ellyn will return as the penultimate event in the cycling series on July 28.

      The Intelligentsia Cup's Tour of Lake Ellyn will return as the penultimate event in the cycling series on July 28. DanielWhite | Staff Photographer, July 2017

  • Riders cool down after racing in the Tour of Lake Ellyn last summer.

      Riders cool down after racing in the Tour of Lake Ellyn last summer. DanielWhite | Staff Photographer, July 2017

Organizers who saved the Glen Ellyn leg of a premier cycling series last summer have reached an agreement with a title sponsor to keep the July event in town for at least two years.

Glen Ellyn-based Ray Whalen Builders will sponsor the Tour of Lake Ellyn through the 2019 series in the latest sign that momentum is building around an event that debuted only two years ago.

With its uniquely challenging course, the Tour of Lake Ellyn quickly became a standout leg as the second event in one of the largest cycling series in the country, winning favor with both high-caliber cyclists and spectators who could soak up the action around a neighborhood lake and park.

But this summer, the Intelligentsia Cup will feature the tour as a "marquee weekend" event and the penultimate stage of the 10-day series that stops in Chicago and the suburbs, former pro and organizer Ben Raby said.

The tour will return July 28, meaning the event will no longer fall on the same day as an outdoor jazz festival downtown.

Still, the tour was hardly lacking for crowds last summer. More than 300 parents and kids signed up for the "Family Fun Ride" to experience two laps on the picturesque course, while the professional men warmed up for their race and the pro women cooled down after theirs.

"I thought the Family Run Ride was an exceptional representation of the community involvement," Raby said.

The venue earned a place in local cycling history during the decadelong run of the original Tour of Lake Ellyn on a course designed by John Vande Velde, a Glen Ellyn native who would become an ambassador of the sport and two-time Olympian in the 1968 and 1972 Games.

Today, the 1.4-mile course is still a physically demanding test for cyclists from around the world, said Jim Burket, another organizer and a former village trustee.

Those athletes have to navigate sudden elevation changes and some sections that are more narrow than the traditionally flat courses of other Intelligentsia Cup races.

It's such a thrilling event that last year's pro men's title was won in a photo finish by Brandon Feehery, who pulled ahead of the then-Intelligentsia Cup series leader Julio Padilla by just 0.01 second.

"The course is very unique because of the fact that it has undulations. It has many turns," Raby said.

Raby and Burket were the driving force behind an effort to bring back the event in 2017 after a former local sponsor declined to back races.

The nearly 10-hour event will continue to be run by Raby, Burket and fellow Glen Ellyn residents on the Tour of Lake Ellyn Foundation Team: Anne Elliot, Chip Miller, Barry White and Tom Zurawski.

"It's been a local, collaborative effort with the village staff, with the park district," Raby said. "I feel a privilege to live in a community that has embraced something that's new and different."

The organizers have again named the Glen Ellyn Food Pantry inside Grace Lutheran Church as the tour's charitable partner and plan to donate any proceeds from the event to the nonprofit.

As the new title sponsor, Ray Whalen shares a mutual interest in elevating the work of the food pantry, Raby said. The homebuilder also has expressed an interest in sponsoring the tour beyond 2019.

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