Deb Dintruff, sporting a lime-green T-shirt, her reddish hair tied up, darts between her kitchen and dining rooms, bright orange drop earrings dancing atop her shoulders. She’s just wrapped another meeting and folks are still filing out the front door. Marco Colbert, sporting gray cargo pants and a black shirt to match his salt-and-pepper hair, is reclining in a dining room chair, unfazed by the commotion. The two are a study in contrasts, his cool-as-a-cucumber demeanor the yin to Dintruff’s colorful, high-octane yang.
Dintruff and Colbert have been the organizational and promotional force behind the Northwestern Medicine Lake Bluff Criterium & Block Party since its inception in 2012. Dintruff, a longtime Lake Bluff resident, is a devoted volunteer who has served on half-dozen or so committees. Colbert, a retired attorney, is a recreational cyclist who competed in bike races for about eight years and has managed two professional cycling teams. It was while assisting some friends who were competing in races in Glencoe and Evanston that Colbert decided to get into the business of organizing bike races. “After 2011, I said, heck, I could do this better,” he laughs. “So in late 2011, early 2012, I started pounding the pavement around Lake County looking for a venue for a bicycle race.”
His search led him to Lake Bluff, where the idea of a bike race had already taken root.
“I walked into Activator Cycles in the fall of 2011,” says Colbert, “and asked the owner if he thought Lake Bluff would like to have a bike race. And he said, ‘you know, it’s funny you mention that. I was just talking to Drew [Irvin, Lake Bluff Village Administrator] and he said the very same thing.’ Long story short, I got in touch with Drew and proposed it. And Drew said, ‘you gotta meet this lady named Deb.’ That’s how it all started, and it’s been like a honeymoon since.”
Some 2,000 spectators turned out to watch 300 cyclists compete in that first race in 2012. The success of that race proved to Colbert that he was on to something. “It was pretty good that first year,” Colbert says. “Residents didn’t know what to expect, yet, I sensed favorable anticipation. Afterwards, it appeared to me that 98 percent of people liked it and looked forward to it happening again.”
Since then, he and Dintruff have worked tirelessly to put the race on the map. “That’s when we brought the race into the series,” says Colbert, referring to the Intelligentsia Cup presented by SRAM, a series of seven criterium races that take place over 10 days in July in Waukegan, Willow Springs, Elmhurst, Chicago, and, of course, Lake Bluff. By becoming part of the Intelligentsia Cup, which is on USA Cycling’s National Criterium Calendar, Colbert and Dintruff hoped to attract more high-caliber cyclists. “Riders come in and they commit to an area and they stay here,” says Dintruff. “So they’re looking to ride a few rides without moving again. They’re roaming NFL teams; they don’t have a Soldier Field.”
“Racers will go to a bike race every weekend twice a weekend all summer long,” says Colbert. “If you can offer five days of bike racing then it makes it worthwhile for teams from California or Florida to come here. You build a critical mass.”
It doesn’t hurt, either, that this year’s purse is $12,000 for the winners of the men’s and women’s professional races, money fronted by the event’s sponsors. “Without our sponsors, the bike race wouldn’t happen,” he says. “Our three main sponsors—Northwestern Medicine, Knauz Auto Park, and Lake Forest Bank & Trust—have been with us since the race’s inception. The event is very lucky to have this sponsorship.”
-By Jenny Quill // Illustration by Kirsten Ulve