2018 Intelligentsia Cup
After having the pleasure of attending the Intelligentsia Cup’s Elmhurst Cycling Classic and Tour of Lake Ellyn, I sat down to record my thoughts on the 10 days of great racing in and around Chicago. As usual, I won’t be writing up detailed race reports. Instead, I’ll share my thoughts and opinions on the event.
A New Face to Chicago
Chicago can get a bad rap for being a city known for violent crimes, government corruption, and traffic. Bucking these unfair stereotypes, the Intelligentsia Cup showcased Chicagoland as the thriving metropolis that it is with neighborhoods that exude their own unique culture and flavors. After strolling by the coffee shops, bistros, and bike shops, I was convinced that I needed to pull off Interstate 294 a little more often when I’m driving through Chicago. Some of the favorite gems that I ran across during the weekend were Kozy's Cyclery on Milwaukee Ave in Chicago, Glenn Oak Café in Glenn Ellyn, and New York Street in Elmhurst.
During the Elmhurst Cycling Classic, I saw a group of riders from Roxsolt Attaquer arrive at the racecourse after a day of being tourists in downtown Chicago. Those riders were bursting with excitement wanting to tell everyone how much fun they had. Too often, that kind of contagious fun is missing from the news headlines about Chicago. Events like Intelligentsia Cup bring it to the forefront and reshape the face of metro.
Intelligentsia: A Perfect Sponsor
Another thing that I learned about Chicago, is that it has a great coffee culture. Coffee shops all over the place and, unsurprisingly, every restaurant served a local brew…more often than not, a brew made by the race series’ sponsor, Intelligentsia. Coffee shops aside, Intelligentsia was everywhere! At the races, The Meteor/Intelligentsia and Intelligentsia-Allied teams were out in full force exciting every stage. Plus, there seemed to be countless other Intelligentsia-sponsored and -affiliated riders speckled throughout the field of every rider category.
Intelligentsia seems to take their cycling very seriously and is making a serious investment in the sport. As cyclists, we have a responsibility to support the brand and buy their coffee (and tea). And remember to let them know that you’re buying their products because of their cycling sponsorship (contact them here). I want Intelligentsia to stick around for a long time and be a sponsor that continues to help grow the US cycling scene.
Besides, you deserve it, buy yourself a real cup of artisan coffee and bag of beans from this quintessential American brand.
Bring on the Star Power
Obviously, The Meteor/Intelligentsia was going to be racing at their sponsor’s home race, but they weren’t the only big team that showed up to race at the Intelligentsia Cup. Some of the most successful teams from the past summer of racing were represented including Hagens Berman Supermint, Roxsolt Attaquer, Papa Johns p/b Trek, UnitedHealthcare, and Fearless Femme. With that combo of talent, the racing was going to be explosive.
The best part of the weekend was watching World Tour star Valentina Scandolara, riding for Roxsolt Attaquer, fighting Hagens Berman Supermint’s Lily Williams (likely a World Tour star of the future) for the overall omnium. The strength of these two ladies was amazing. Both were so evenly matched; Valentia’s edge seemed to only come from her greater years of experience racing bikes. Every moment was must-see racing.
Keep an eye on A Cyclist In A Strange Land over the next month. I had an opportunity to sit down with many of the stars racing at the Intelligentsia Cup and will be rolling out those interviews over the coming weeks.
Fans of the Homestretch Foundation
Last week’s interview with Daphne Karagianis on the Homestretch Foundation (link here) was extremely well received and even helped drive donations to my favorite 501(c)(3) charity (donate here!). The excitement for the Homestretch Foundation continued into the Intelligentsia Cup where, while wearing my Homestretch Foundation t-shirt, riders and fans alike stopped me to talk about the great work Kathryn Bertine is doing to improve women’s cycling. The tide continues to turn as women’s cycling gets more of the attention and interest that their on-track action and personalities deserve.
Elmhurst Cycling Classic: FAST!
The Elmhurst Cycling Classic was flat and fast; a perfect place to introduce a friend to bike racing. My photographer, who’s previous work has primarily been focused on ball and stick sports, couldn’t believe his eyes as the cyclists zoomed by at over 30 miles an hour. I think the thrill from the speed alone was enough to convert him into a cycling fan!
Even though Elmhurst looks like a basic four-corner criterium course, each of the four straightaways has its own flavor for race fans to explore. The front stretch shows off Elmhurst College’s beautiful facade and the Wilder Mansion’s elegance. The next straightaway gently curves around Elm Park Ave’s numerous block parties and cookouts; the perfect place to bum a brat or beer while checking out the cycling-themed lawn decor. The third straight, probably the quietest of the four, is dotted with residents taking a keen interest in the action, cheering on their favorite cyclists by name. The final straight is the place to go to meet riders. Many teams line their tents along the straightaway to watch the races and the riders that are hanging around are always eager to meet fans and sign autographs.
Bonus tip: Be sure to pop into the Elmhurst Public Library on the outside of turn 4. Check out the cycling-themed displays in the entryway and get a bird’s-eye view of the track from the upstairs reading room. On your way out, purchase a cup of Intelligentsia Coffee at the library’s bistro.
Tour of Lake Ellyn: The Perfect Course?
Too short to be a circuit race? Too technical to be a crit? I’m not sure what you’d call the Tour of Lake Ellyn’s course other than fabulous. Designed by the legendary John Vande Velde, it reminds me of a child’s dream racecourse that’s come to life. I think that we need more of that childlike creativity when designing racecourses since almost all of the racers that I talked to said that the Tour of Lake Ellyn one of their favorites!
Although most spectators will congregate along the long front straightaway, you’d be smart to walk the very technical course where every turn presents its own challenges and encourages passing. You won’t regret the walk, but you will struggle figuring out which spot on the track is your favorite. The course begins on top of a short strip of bricks followed by a series of quick chicanes. The course then jumps up a short, sharp climb leading into a flower-lined street. That street loops around a roundabout (how European!) and then dives down a hill taking the riders along Lake Ellyn’s shady waterfront towards a sharp, hairpin turn. Finally, the 1.44 mile course ends with a narrow lefthander that dumps riders back out on the brick start/finish line.