Cycle Brookfield hopes for January decision for village to host pro bike race series. | INTELLIGENTSIA CUP CHICAGO

Although they won’t give an official go-ahead until early next month, Brookfield trustees on Dec. 12 appeared to favor backing a plan by the local nonprofit Cycle Brookfield to bring a professional bicycle race, known as a criterium, to the village next summer.

If the village board gives the go-ahead, as expected, on Jan. 9, Cycle Brookfield will become the lead local organization, partnering with the coffee company Intelligentsia, which has sponsored the 10-day Intelligentsia Cup in Chicago and the suburbs for the past 11 years.

The event draws both amateur riders as well as professional riders and teams, who compete for thousands of dollars in prize money at each of the 10 criterium races held on consecutive days in July. 

According to Christopher Valadez, president of Cycle Brookfield, the races draw thousands of spectators daily, adding that in its first year as a host, Brookfield might expect to draw 2,500 to 3,000 visitors – in addition to the competitors and race crews – for the event.

“You are getting eyes, ears and attention on a national scale to your village,” Valadez said. “This possibly could be an opportunity for Brookfield to draw attention to what it has to offer.”

While there’s an opportunity to draw hundreds or more people to Brookfield for the first time – and for repeat visits in subsequent years if the event is a local success – being part of the Intelligentsia Cup will also cause some inconveniences for one day.

The date being eyed for Brookfield is Wednesday, July 26, and the area around the proposed racecourse will be barricaded and closed to traffic all day. There will be multiple races and fun rides anywhere from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., with the professional women’s and men’s races capping the criterium in the evening hours.

Professional racers (above) zip through the streets of Lombard during the 2022 Intelligentsia Cup last July. Brookfield would like to host the series in 2023, and organizers have settled on a preferred course route, which begins and ends in the downtown area. | INTELLIGENTSIA CUP CHICAGO

“Residents obviously will have concerns that we will want to accommodate,” Tom Schuler, a retired professional bicycle racer who is managing partner of the race series, told elected officials on Dec. 12. 

Cars will need to be moved from streets where the race will take place, and unless residents have access to their homes via an alley or other street, they will have to park elsewhere and walk to and from home to get around on race day.

On the other hand, Schuler said, in other towns where the races happen, residents often organize block parties around the event.

“There’s no doubt the [race] route disrupts residents, but the flipside of that is it’s a celebration,” Schuler said. “People will have lawn parties, bounce houses … bands. That’s part of Cycle Brookfield’s job, is we will have resident meetings to say how to throw a party, what are your concerns on the event day, how can we accommodate you?

“We want this to be a win for Brookfield, not an inconvenience.”

Valadez laid out the preferred racecourse for the Brookfield criterium, which showed that the start/finish line would be at roughly the midpoint of the 3700 block of Grand Boulevard.

Such a location will also require the Prairie Avenue railroad crossing to be closed all day to vehicular traffic and shift vehicles to other crossings, principally either Maple Avenue or First Avenue.

Racers would head south from the start line and make the sharp turn north onto Prairie Avenue then east on Grant Avenue, then north on Sunnyside Avenue, then west on Lincoln Avenue and then back southeast on a long Grand Boulevard straightaway.

The course would be a little less than a mile long and competitors would do multiple laps of the course. According to Valadez, the amateur and novice races last anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes or 15 to 20 laps, with professional races lasting about an hour, at 60 to 70 laps.

“It’s fun because it’s unique,” said Valadez, who has participated and worked the event for many years. “I don’t envision many Brookfielders have seen a professional race before in person, so this is a really different caliber. They’ll be able to see what a real bike team looks like when the pros go through at 40 miles an hour. You’re literally blown back by the wind. It’s awe inspiring.”

It’s not necessarily cheap to put on the event, and much of that burden will fall on Cycle Brookfield, which will need to come up with the $10,000 entry fee, $5,000 in prize money and another $4,000 or so for advertising, T-shirts, food and other race ancillaries.

They’re asking the village of Brookfield to cover the cost of public works and police overtime to help prep the course and provide security.

Cycle Brookfield will recruit local sponsors to help them raise the money they need to pull off a successful event.

“We want to give businesses in town the opportunity to be a sponsor for this,” Valadez said. “We want to be about elevating Brookfield, highlighting Brookfield.”