Back to the Future, a Race Revived

Intelligentsia Cup - Tour Of Glen Ellyn 2016

It’s 1972 and the townsfolk of Glen Ellyn have removed their chevvy vegas and olds cutlass’ from the roads around their pretty, eponymous lake, to make way for a bike race.
Some of the houses fronting the course sport Nixon signs, not many McGovern ones. The high school is closed for the summer, its lofty towers empty. The kids are at the pool, or dazed and confused smoking weed behind the library.

The riders are tuning up their 6 speed Campagnolo or Huret gears, pumping up their silk tubs, tweaking the 36 spoke aluminium hoops that cost a weeks paypacket. Short shorts and wool jerseys are sported as the shaggy haired riders line up helmetless astride their steel machines to take on the course….

It's 2016 and I’m in the middle of a three wide cornering pack on the same course. I’m banging through the sram shifts while praying my GP4000s hold. A stench of pads on carbon rims pervades, as the colorful helmeted lycra clad pack race on up the hill astride carbon frames. Kids are playing pokemon go, while trump and clinton signs are a rare sight in a few of the immaculate gardens. The residents japanese and german cars are re-exported to side roads for the day.

So it’s back to the future today at the 70s revival of the Tour of Glen Ellyn. Unlike that simpler time this course isn’t simple. It’s impressively long and tough, with a technical layout of turns and hills in beautiful parkland around the lake. And it’s hard to get right. Some of the turns are downhill chicanes, the hills are little kickers that exhaust, there’s a 120 turn with a high curb to watch for by the high school, a pinching roundabout, a rough road on the fast downhill sweeper, oh and a U turn at the fastest point on the bottom end of the course. As a challenge it’s up there with the Glencoe long course, maybe beyond. They didn’t mess about in the 70s.

My race is stacked with solid mid-west contenders and a few from further, and they pace up the opening laps. Nobody wants to yield, so it’s 3 wide and hairy through turns, going so deep on the tires, bumping shoulders on occasion. After a few laps I’m feeling exhausted and slipping back in the pack. I take a gamble on the so called gamblers hill, a lung-bursting lunge up to first place and then racing line round the bend to the start finish. I’m back in contention and glad I made that move, as soon the sound of crashing carbon hits my ears. Don’t look, do go hard. This race is terrifying and awesome.

Coming up to the bell lap I’m maybe 5th wheel. Two go down ahead on the last turn. A sickening spill, and a front wheel shoots across the road still attached to shattered forks as I go by. Big crash. Up to the high school jinking right left over the roundabout then under the trees at full gas down to the U bend. 3 wide of course and I’m in the third row of riders. After some inevitable argy bargy I’m on the outside - where I don’t want to be, and take the turn bracing for dubious lines wiping me out. Make it round using the gutter and I’m locked on the wheel ahead, but the gambling money is going around on the left as we turn up the hill. I’m blocked and losing places by the second. Wait, there’s a sliver of space on the right opening up, a got wind rider sees it and accelerates into it. I follow and get back some slots before the last turn. Turn hard and sprint my exhausted body over the line in 8th.

It’s been a privilege to ride this revived old course, imaging the old champions and 70s heros who preceded us, and the superb challenge they established - so different from many modern 4 corner three quarter mile flat criteriums. So vivre this tour, lets keep it out of the vault from now on.

P8 of 50+ starters
~Bevan Brookfield