Smile Politely

Back to Tour de Champaign for 2011

Though the Tour was a two-city event last year, it is back to Champaign for both days this year. Organizer Mark Swartzendruber shares why and what this year’s Tour holds for C-U cycling fans.

This year’s races are on May 21 and 22, but only in Champaign. Why?
Ironically because of street work to improve bike safety in downtown Urbana. The city couldn’t guarantee that the work wouldn’t conflict with the scheduled race dates so that took Urbana off the table for this year. But, we were able to come up with alternate venues in Champaign.

So, you wanted to return to Urbana even after the condition of the streets last year? (Note: Last year race officials changed the Urbana course immediately prior to the races due to unsafe street conditions. The resulting changes necessitated adding a hairpin turn.)
Ideally, a two-city event would be great, but we just couldn’t make it happen this year. As for the hairpin, people who did well, loved it. People who didn’t, didn’t. It certainly added a new element.

Will you be using Research Park for the Saturday races?
No, this year’s Saturday course will be in Mid-Town around the new Second Street detention ponds.

What will the layout look like?
The start and finish will be on the bridge on White. Racers will take White right onto First, to Clark, University, Third, and back to White. (Google Map Here) It will be a 1km course, which is comparable to the length of the downtown Champaign course two years ago. For safety, we’ll be blocking off a second lane of University in addition to the one for the course.

What made you decide to use Mid-Town?
There’s brand new pavement around the detention ponds. And, when I was talking with TJ Blakeman and the city planners they liked the idea of doing something there. The location also lends itself to helping the Tour become more of a community event.

Will the downtown course be the same, or are there changes for it, as well?
We’re right in the heart of downtown this year. There are going to be lots of good places to watch the race from: Guido’s, Boltini, Cowboy Monkey, Merry Ann’s, as well as Kopi, Radio Maria, Esquire as in previous years. Carlos Nieto has brought the maker of Fat Tire Ale, New Belgium Brewery, on board as a sponsor, so look for Guido’s and Cowboy Monkey to have specials on that. We’ll also have some fun things for fan involvement. Sunday’s races, which are the Illinois Cup Races, are going to be more technical. There will be a chicane by Merry Ann’s. So the racers will have to make a quick right and then a quick left and then turn left onto Washington. (Google Map Here)

So, more like the criterium races in larger cities like Saint Louis? That should attract some top level racers.
Yes. People are headed in from San Diego and West Virginia for the Pro 1 and 2 events. There’s also a group from Nashville, and top amateur teams like Nuvo from Indianapolis, Texas Roadhouse, ABD, and Panther Cycling. There also will be more opportunities for women. We’ll have a Category 4, 3, and a 1,2,3 on Sunday. Last year we had 400 individual racers participating.

Does that mean there will be podium men as well as women?
I’ll see what I can do about that.

Will you be racing yourself?
My hunch is no racing for me. With the change of venue, I have taken over primary organizing duties.

What about your team?
Several local people from my team, Scarlet Fire will be racing.

What about racers from other local teams?
Jason Rassi from Wild Card was one of the winners last year, so I look for them to field several racers. In all, we’re expecting about 100 people from the local area to race.

Are you looking for volunteers like the Illinois Marathon?
Absolutely, we’re very interested in having people help watch corners on the courses. Course marshals get a front row view of the race, and we’ll need several of them, especially on Sunday. Shifts can be as short as an hour or as long as three or four. We’ll provide food and beverages for people with longer shifts.

Your teammate, Dave Stone, is helping coordinate volunteers. How can people get in touch with him to volunteer?
Email him at [email protected]

Where can people find out more about the events and race times?
The race flier is online here:

Photos courtesy of Wild Card

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