Smile Politely

Some real bike racin’

It only took one year for the annual bicycle racing event formerly known as the Tour de Champaign to expand to Urbana, as well. The newly-christened Tour de C-U takes place this Saturday at the Research Park and Sunday in Downtown Urbana. You can download a pdf of the race flyer here and view the full schedule here. There’s no cost to attend the event, which will begin at 1:30 p.m. Saturday with kids’ races and continue through Sunday at 4:45 p.m., when the Tour will conclude with a 70-minute Category 1/2/Pro race in downtown Urbana.

The Research Park course is diagrammed below (north is to the right):

Race organizer Mark Swartzendruber of WildCard Cycling is expecting a big turnout. “We had about 350 total racers last year, and I expect that number to be maybe 100 to 150 higher this year,” he said.

Part of the reason for the expected increase is that a schedule conflict from last year has been avoided this year. “Last year, there was a race in Elgin that conflicted with our race, so a lot of the Chicago market was split, with most of them staying up there,” Swartzendruber explained. “But we don’t have anything that we’re competing with this year, so we should have a lot more people from Chicagoland this year.”

The biggest change for this year’s event is the addition of the Urbana course (pictured below):

Swartzendruber says that the course should add some additional drama to the proceedings. “It’ll be a pretty technical course, because it’s basically eight turns — two square city blocks put together,” he noted. “A course like that is going to lend itself to some very dynamic racing. There’s going to be lead changes on every lap, and some very good action. Racers like to race on courses like that, so it should be a good, popular course with the racers as well.”

While many of the racers are from Illinois, the Tour de C-U attracts folks from far-flung parts of the country, as well. “Last year, we had literally riders from coast to coast,” Swartzendruber maintained. “We had riders from San Jose and San Luis Obispo, and Palo Alto, California. We had riders from Georgia, New Jersey, and South Carolina last year. So, we had a few people who came from quite a distance this year, and I’ve already got the same people from San Luis Obispo again this year.”

The forecast is for hot, dry weather, which will be a big improvement from last year, when morning rain and afternoon wind made for slick streets.

Swartzendruber explained the different classifications for racers. “Each day will start with a beginner-level, that’s called Category 5. Then we’ll move up through the ranks, as the number gets lower, the more skilled the riders are. The Category 4, are usually guys who have raced in more than five races, and Category 3 are a little bit more advanced, a little bit stronger. And then the main event is the Category 1 and 2, which are elite amateurs and professionals. Category 1, 2 and pro all race together in most of the type of races that we’re doing, because there just are not that many. In the entire country, there are only 250 ranked Category 1 riders, so if they have a Category 1-only race, it will be sort of a regional thing unless. So, we put the pros and the 1’s and the 2’s all together.”

There’s still a need for volunteers to help as crossing guards and corner marshals. Please contact Scott Dahman ( or 217-377-0876) if you are willing to help.

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