Last week Wisconsin’s cycling cup truly did runneth over, and the result was a great bike racing in Illinois. Everyone knows our state is the center of the bicycle industry in the United States and those companies export bikes and accessories around the globe, but since Wauwatosa-based Team Sports started the Intelligentsia Cup Prairie State Cycling Series a couple years ago, we now export bicycle events too.
Since race organizer Tom Schuler also owns the Pedal Milwaukee Building, that houses his Team Sports, Inc., the Bike Fed’s Milwaukee office and Fyxation’s world headquarters, it is only natural that I took the train down to cover some of the action. A former pro and Cycling Hall of Fame inductee, Tom is a founding partner in Wisconsin’s Tour of America’s Dairyland, now the nation’s largest road race series. He started the Prairie State Series in 2012 with just one race, but with the help of title sponsor Intelligentsia Coffee, the Illinois race has grown rapidly to eight days.
I took the morning train to cover the racing all day, and I’m glad I did. Wisconsin racers were definitely representing, with Badgers Chad Hartley (Athlete Octane Cycling) and Samantha Schneider (TIBCO) in the Omnium Leaders Jerseys. Even Peter Armstrong, one of the Bike Fed’s Safe Routes to School instructors crossed the line first in the Category 4 men’s race. Way to go Peter!
While the series offers lots of opportunities to watch people riding fast and furious on bicycles in towns around the Chicago area, I was psyched to shoot Saturday’s Fyxation Open, a fixed-gear criterium race held on the streets of the Second City. Similar to the famed Red Hook Criterium, fixed-gear street crits on brakeless track bikes require a unique combination of fitness and urban fixie skills.
At the start line for the fixed gear crit was a mix of enthusiastic t-shirt wearing youngsters on vintage lugged track bikes to skin suit-clad veterans on shiny new carbon rockets. Watching the pack of forty or so racers take off as the start whistle blew, it seemed the only things they all had in common were bikes that passed pre-race inspection and an inability to coast for the next 30 minutes.
It didn’t take more than a couple laps before the speed of criterium racing took it’s toll and some of the less experienced racers were lapped. Like most crits, the race organizers pulled the lapped riders as they were passed to keep things safe. With six laps to go, a group of five were asked to leave the course, just as they got to turn one where I was taking photos. While they were a little bummed, the crew watched the remainder of the race from behind the barricades, cheering on their friends still put there pedaling.
Between what I shot and the other series photographers, we literally have thousands of great photos from Intelligentsia Cup. Check back with series organizer Tom Schuler and the brothers Ginster at Fyxation to see more images soon, as they are talking about putting together a book, similar to the Spectacle on Wheels book we did for the Tour of America’s Dairyland.
With the Intelligentsia Cup growing as fast as it is and the huge population density around the Chicago metro area, it might not be long before the Prairie State Series rivals the Tour of America’s Dairyland for the title of biggest road racing series in the country. But since the race is a Wisconsin export, I don’t expect a Packers/Bears kind of cross-state rivalry. Getting more butts on bikes is good for everybody, no matter where it happens.