Elmhurst Cycling Classic to bring 'energy' for race fans

July 22, 2018

The Elmhurst Cycling Classic will return to Chicago's west suburbs on Friday. (Ethan Glading photo)

maintaining balance is nothing new to cyclists Sarah and Jostein Alvestad. That’s the nature of the sport.

But in addition to their own careers and raising three children, there’s something else that the Alvestads must balance: Planning the annual Elmhurst Cycling Classic.

“It takes months of preparation,” said Sarah Alvestad, president of the DuPage Cycling Foundation. “It’s all of the logistics — from the safety issues, to working with our first responders, paramedics, the park district because we use some of their facilities.”

The Elmhurst Cycling Classic is part of a larger, 10-day series called the Intelligentsia Cup. The series runs from July 20-29 and includes races in Chicago and its suburbs. The Elmhurst event on Friday will be the eighth of the 10 races.

Admission is free, but donations are accepted. The event contributed more than $22,000 to local charities in 2017.

Cyclists come from just down the street and across the globe to participate. There are teams from Australia, Colombia and Germany scheduled to compete, and the Alvestads will participate as well.

“We have some great venues, such as Elmhurst,” said Mark Zalewski, marketing director of the Intelligentsia Cup. “Once we’ve established ourselves in a venue, it’s a lot more turnkey. (Then) it’s just about making tweaks and improvements with our local organizing committees.”

Jostein Alvestad is also on the committee that plans the Elmhurst Cycling Classic. He’s an Elmhurst firefighter with plenty of pride for his hometown.

“I’m a racer myself,” he said. “(It’s important) to bring my own sport to the hometown so that friends and neighbors have the opportunity to see it.”

Last year, about 6,000 people came out to watch the Elmhurst race.

“The residents take full advantage and throw huge parties,” Sarah Alvestad said. “Some of the families even host racers.”

“The host-housing aspect is a really unique part of our sport,” Zalewski added. “(Athletes) will stay with people in the community for the entire 10 days. What we often hear is that (families) build a relationship with them. So, they come back in subsequent years and stay with the same family.”

Zalewski added that one participant recently returned to the same house where he stayed in 2017. That family gave him a framed picture of last year’s race to welcome him back.

The race offers an intimate setting for fans and athletes alike. Part of the course cuts through a residential neighborhood, then along the campus of Elmhurst College.

“Even if you’re not into cycling,” Sarah Alvestad said, “you’ll still get caught up in the momentum and the energy of the day. You just can’t help it.”

The first race at the Elmhurst Cycling Classic is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., with events continuing throughout the day. The final women’s and men’s races are scheduled to start at 7:10 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., respectively.

Pioneer Press

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