The bikes are back on the racecourse.
After being sidelined in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Lake Bluff Criterium is back on Saturday, July 24, from 10 a.m. to 8:15 p.m., rain or shine.
The Criterium will feature 11 professional and amateur men’s and women’s races with 600 riders from more than 40 states and many foreign countries competing in several races for prizes totaling over $6,700. Sponsored by Northwestern Medicine, the event is free and open to the public.
“Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital is proud to sponsor this world-class cycling event and to serve as the official health care provider for the Lake Bluff Criterium,” says Thomas J. McAfee, President, Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital. “Our health system strongly believes in promoting the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle for our community.”
Marco Colbert is the Race Director of the Lake Bluff Criterium and a co-owner of the Intelligentsia Cup, a series of 10 criterium races that take place in the Chicago area on consecutive days in July (only nine this year due to a loss of one venue due to COVID-19). The Lake Bluff Criterium is the 8th in the series this year.
Unlike traditional road races such as the Tour de France, criterium racing takes place on a course set up in suburban towns and in Chicago, similar to a Formula One course. Spectators can watch each lap around the course as the race unfolds.
“The Tour de France is point to point. It’s starts at Point A and ends at Point B, 100 miles away. If you’re a spectator, the cyclists go by in about 25 seconds and then they’re gone,” Colbert says. “What we’re doing is called criterium racing—a bicycle race on a closed circuit, a closed-loop—usually between a mile and 1.2 miles long. The Lake Bluff course is .75 miles in length.”
The advantage for spectators, Colbert says, is that the riders come around quite frequently, for the fastest riders about every two minutes or so. It provides much more entertainment for those watching the race.
“Criterium racing is a very intense form of racing. It’s highly competitive. It’s a team sport because teammates help each other,” Colbert says. “Sometimes one member will sacrifice himself or herself for the sake of another teammate by getting in the front—providing a draft for the person behind them or blocking out competitors, making it more difficult for them.”
For this year’s Lake Bluff Criterium, there will be 11 races throughout the day, staring with amateur races and finishing with women’s and men’s professional races. The races get longer throughout the day, with the professional men’s race lasting 90 minutes.
In past years, the event has featured “kiddie” races for little but this year, to achieve social distancing, there will be a Family Fun Ride for parents and kids to experience riding the course. Parents can register their families at the Lake Forest Bank & Trust, 4 E. Scranton, from Monday, July 19, to Friday, July 23, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. or on Saturday, July 24 from 8:30 a.m. until noon. Registration will also be available at the Fire Station on Saturday, July 24, from noon until race time.
“The Family Fun Ride is sponsored by Lake Forest Bank for families, Mom, Dad, and the kids to all get on to the racecourse together and ride around just like the pros for about half an hour,” Colbert says.
Bicycle racing is heavily reliant on sponsorships and in addition to Lake Forest Bank and Northwestern Medicine, Knauz Auto Park BMW will be sponsoring a pace car. Additional sponsors of the festivities include ULINE, supplying zip ties for the entire Intelligentsia Cup series; The Jane Lee Team RE/MAX Top Performers, (Lake Bluff); Lake Forest Country Day School, (Lake Forest); Lindemann Chimney, (Lake Bluff): DiVinci Painters, (Highland Park); Pasquesi Home & Garden, (Lake Bluff); EJ’s Place Restaurant, (Skokie); David Morris Law, (Lake Bluff), and Mosquito Joe (Lake Bluff).
“Without Northwestern Medicine and our other sponsors this event couldn’t happen,” says Colbert. “It’s as simple as that,”
In addition to the action on the racecourse, there will be a food court set up in Village Green featuring fare from five Lake Bluff restaurants, including Bangkok Tokyo, Luke’s, Donati’s, Tacos el Norte, and Suzy’s Swirl. Craft beer from Lake Bluff Brewery will be available throughout the afternoon and evening.
“The Village Green is adjacent to the racecourse and an excellent vantage point, a great place to watch the bike racers go by and eat some good food and if you’re so inclined, to drink some beer,” Colbert says.
For more information about the Lake Bluff Criterium, visit lakebluffcriterium.com. Caption TK. PHOTOGRAPHY TK