Smile Politely

Urbana street repairs already taking a back seat

Unbeknownst to many observers of the Tour de C-U, the race in Urbana was run on a course far different than advertised.

Racers who had traveled from Chicago and Springfield, Iowa, Indiana, and as far away as California, were surprised to say the least when they arrived at the Urbana course on Sunday morning to find that it had been altered to contain a 180 degree hairpin turn at Main and Vine.

The reason? Racing officials determined that the streets comprising the original northern portions of the course were unsafe.

Despite assurances made months ago by the city to race organizers that the course would be ready, it was anything but. City crews were applying cold patch to the streets of the course at 7:30 a.m. Sunday May 23, just two hours before the races — some of which included children — would start.

Hairpins are not unheard of in bike racing, though courses which contain them are typically advertised as such in advance. Hairpins require higher levels of skill and endurance as racers not only need to be able to negotiate the tight turn, but sprint out of it for 30 or more laps. On a day with temperatures expected to reach the 90s, the hairpin on the Urbana course was anything but a welcoming sight.

See the turn filmed here:

Having already invested in registration fees, food, and lodging, participants opted to go ahead and race. However, it literally cost some of them in flesh and blood. Numerous riders went down on Sunday due to course hazards. Not everyone sought treatment, so exact numbers of injured are not available. However, even the winner of the men’s Category 4 race suffered abrasions due to a crash in the 180 degree turn.

To see the differences in the safety of the courses, one needed only look at the hazards racing officials marked with orange paint. The Urbana course contained as many as five marks in one ten foot section of Race, whereas the Champaign course contained five marks total. Hence, the reason Saturday’s sole crash was due to rider error.

In attempting to learn why the repairs weren’t made, I contacted Urbana council members via email last Monday. Charlie Smyth responded that it was not so much a council issue, but an issue for Mayor Prussing and public works. Although he copied them on his response to me, there was no response from either last week. Further, my calls to the mayor’s chief of staff, Mike Monson on Tuesday and Wednesday went unreturned.

Related Articles