A Cyclist’s Guide to Illinois

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The races and rides you’ll want on your calendar this summer

Illinois cyclists may have to spend a good half of the year pedaling indoors on the trainer or in spin class, but the Land of Lincoln is far from lacking in cycling events. You can take to the trail or the track, you can ride for hours—or days—on the road, you can race a criterium or time trial, you can slog through the mud and hop obstacles (wait for fall’s cyclocross season) or you can leave your bike on the rack and just watch. With so many two-wheeled event options, we’ve got your guide to cycling the great state of Illinois—and you can always check the Chicago Athlete event calendar for more.

 

Mountain


Palos Meltdown, palosmeltdown.com

Chicago’s not exactly known for its mountains or rocky terrain. But 30 minutes southwest of downtown, you’ll find a mountain biking mecca at the Palos Forest Preserve with trails carved and maintained by Chicago Area Mountain Bikers (CAMBr). Available for our casual riding pleasure outside the muddy season, that singletrack goes into beast mode on July 21 when it hosts the Palos Meltdown, a mountain bike race for all abilities of mountain bikers. Natural obstacles such as quad-burning climbs and speedy descents will challenge riders, and this year, the race will be the site of the Midwest Regional XC Championships.

 

Or try: You’ll have to trek it to northern Wisconsin, but the three-day Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival in September attracts plenty of Illinois riders.

 

Time Trial

Wolfgang Freitag Memorial, www.midwestmasters.com

It’s you and your best cycling buddy–whether that’s strongest, fastest or favorite person to ride with is your choice–partnering up to pedal 50 kilometers, about 31 miles, in a team time trial. The Midwest Masters Cycling Team organize this event, held in Herscher, Ill. on July 14. The time trial is part of the Mid-America Time Trial Series, which races around Illinois and Wisconsin all summer. And just who is Mr. Freitag? Freitag was a founding member of the Midwest Masters, a dominant sprinter in criteriums and a national-class Masters racer, according to team treasurer Nancy Beck. After he died in a car accident in 1999, the team named their time trial in his honor.

 

Or try: Check out the Mid-America Time Trial Series calendar, www.midamericatimetrialseries.com, or American Bicycle Racing, www.ambikerace.com for more TTs.

 

For Women

Venus de Miles, www.venusdemiles.com

It’s only the ladies who’ll be riding 25 or 61 miles at Venus de Miles on July 28. Gather the girlfriends and tackle the roads of Lake County where you’ll be treated to Whole Foods Market-fueled rest stops, complimentary cocktails, and a post-ride celebration that wouldn’t be complete without massages. It’s empowering, it’s a supportive environment and it’s for a good cause, the Greenhouse Scholars. As Teresa Robbins, Venus de Miles’ director, says, “There’s nothing close to it.”

 

Or try: Ten 27 Betty Rides depart Sunday mornings from the new Wheel & Sprocket store in Evanston, www.wheelandsprocket.com.

 

Track

Ed Rudolph Velodrome, www.northbrookvelodrome.org

Come summer, there’s almost always something happening at the Ed Rudolph Velodrome in Northbrook so it’s hard to highlight one event. You’ll find training on Mondays and Tuesdays, a Thursday night racing series, and a Friday night development racing series that has served as a first race experience for some of the sport’s champions. That’s not including the trophy races or the inaugural Franco Panveno Masters Cup on July 27. And it’s just as exciting to watch the track cyclists spin around the sloped oval as it is to ride it yourself—or more if you’re scared of sliding.

 

Multi-Day

CowaLUNGa, www.cowalunga.org

Whether you want the challenge of saddling up for multiple days or the honor of riding your bike for someone who has been affected by lung disease, you’ll want to get training for the CowaLUNGa Bike Tour. This annual fundraising event for the Respiratory Health Association runs August 3-5, offering one-, two- and three-day options. Ride 18 or 65 miles in one day, 130 in two or 190 in three. You legs might be saying ouch already, but how can they complain when they get to tour northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, starting in Gurnee, spending nights in Williams Bay and Whitewater, and ending in Hubertus, Wis.?

 

Or try: Ride from the southern tip of Illinois up to downtown Chicago at Bicycle Illinois, www.bicycleillinois.com. Riding 500-600 miles over six days—this year it’s July 6-13—you might have to save this event for next year so you can plan ahead.

 

Criterium

Intelligentsia Cup Prairie State Cycling Series, www.prairiestatecyclingseries.com

When the Prairie State Cycling Series starts on July 12, Illinois and Wisconsin cycling aficionados will be treated to eight competitive cycling events in 10 days. You’ll find criteriums in Kenosha, Wis. (July 12), Chicago (July 13), Crystal Lake (July 14), Beverly (July 18), Elmhurst (July 19), Lake Bluff (July 20) and St. Charles (July 21), plus a road race in Sharon, Wis. (July 17). Four of these crits are on the USA Cycling National Criterium Calendar. Not only does this series offer a lot of cycling for professionals and amateurs, but it’s complemented by plenty of activities to entertain the crowds.

 

Or try: The Winfield Criterium, July 27-28, features 17 events for varying abilities and ages, www.winfieldcriterium.com.

 

Century

Wrigley Field Road Tour, worldbicyclerelief.akaraisin.com/2013wrigleyfieldroadtour

It’s not every day you can say you rode 100 miles to and from Wrigley Field, but you can on August 25 at the Wrigley Field Road Tour, which benefits World Bicycle Relief and the Chicago Cubs Charities. Cyclists depart from the ballpark in the morning and return 100 miles later to a special celebration on the hallowed grounds. With events for the kids, music, refreshments and a chance to play catch in the outfield, the celebration might be as good as the ride.

 

Or try: The Bike Psychos Century, held in Coal City on August 18, turns 30 this year, www.bikepsychos.org.

 

Tour

Alexian Brothers Tour of Elk Grove, www.tourofelkgrove.com

Maybe you’ll watch every stage of the Tour de France this month. But instead of sulking when it’s over, you can get your cycling fix by watching the real deal at the Tour of Elk Grove. The village turns into a cycling mecca August 2-4 with a three-day stage tour, entry level and category races, fun bike rides, and kids races.