Brookfield trustees on Jan. 9 gave their blessing for the village to be one of 10 locations for the Intelligentsia Cup, a daylong criterium bicycle race event capped by races featuring professional athletes zigzagging through streets in and around the downtown area.
While some details of the event still need to be worked out – principally whether or not the Prairie Avenue grade crossing will be closed to vehicular traffic – Cycle Brookfield, the race’s local organizer, are already gearing up for race day on Wednesday, July 26.
“I think this is a major win for the area and will bring a lot of visibility on a national scale to Brookfield,” said Chris Valadez, president of Cycle Brookfield, a local nonprofit which advocates for ways to expand safe, easier bicycling opportunities in the community.
Village Manager Timothy Wiberg told elected officials at their meeting on Jan. 9 that he had sent notices to about 240 households and businesses that would be directly impacted along the racecourse, inviting them to provide input at a meeting at the village hall on Jan. 3.
Just a couple of members of the public attended that meeting. One expressed some concerns about getting to and from home that day and suggested the village develop a safety response plan while another requested the village provide some parking relief on race day. Wiberg said the village also received words of support via email and on social media.
“I feel like we’ve done what we could in the last month or so to receive public input on this proposal,” Wiberg said.
Started in 2011, the Intelligentsia Cup is a 10-day bike race event held in 10 different locations on consecutive days in Chicago and the suburbs. The event draws cyclists of all ages and expertise who compete in races throughout the day prior to the professionals taking to the course in the evening.
Valadez said Cycle Brookfield is also planning a Family Ride on the racecourse in between the women’s and men’s professional races on the evening of July 26.
“It’ll be a fun way to engage the community and encourage people to ride their bikes to the event,” he said.
The professionals compete for thousands of dollars in prize money at each race and often compete in all 10 races. Towns that host the races estimate that the race draws hundreds of people. Valadez has estimated Brookfield could expect to draw as many as 2,500 to 3,000 visitors on race day.
The roughly 1-mile racecourse would start and end in the 3700 block of Grand Boulevard. Cyclists will ride south on Grand and make a sharp left turn to northbound Prairie Avenue, then left on Grant Avenue, and right on Sunnyside to Lincoln Avenue, where riders head west back to Grand Boulevard and then back south toward the finish line downtown.
There will be multiple races throughout the day, with ones for amateurs and novices earlier on. Those races will last 30 to 45 minutes each, while the pro race to end the day will last about an hour.
What still is unclear at this point is whether the village will close the Prairie Avenue grade crossing to vehicular traffic on race day. Immediately north of the railroad tracks is a somewhat complicated intersection where Prairie Avenue intersects with Grand Boulevard, Brookfield Avenue and Fairview Avenue.
If the grade crossing remains open to traffic, northbound vehicles will need to make an immediate right turn onto Brookfield Avenue, since the Grand/Prairie intersection is “turn 1” and a place where many people normally would look to congregate.
“It’s usually the most exciting turn of the race, and usually there are a lot of people there,” said Valadez. “It’s a good sprint zone and coming into that turn is going to be a spectacle.”
If the grade crossing remains open, however, it likely will limit or prohibit people from congregating around that turn and will require serious barriers and monitoring.
Trustee Brian Conroy at the Jan. 9 village board meeting said he felt it was important to keep the grade crossing open in order to avoid long backups at the Maple Avenue crossing – the only grade crossing between LaGrange Road and First Avenue.
Village President Michael Garvey called an open grade crossing a “safety valve” for emergency vehicles needing to respond to a call, although he said residents would be given plenty of advance notice in case of a closure.
Valadez said that his preference would be to close the grade crossing to vehicular traffic – pedestrians would still be able to cross – adding that closure would also allow organizers to perhaps locate the business expo in the area east of the intersection.
“If the course allows for Prairie north and southbound to be open and accessible to car traffic, it’d be something I would absolutely have a goal to meet,” said Valadez, adding that he would defer to the village’s safety experts in coordination with race officials. “However, my commitment is to safety first and making sure that safety is going to be not just for the bike racers but also the residents, pedestrians, the spectators who we are drawing not just from Brookfield but from across the Chicagoland area, who are expecting a safe, sound event.”
It will now be up to Cycle Brookfield to raise the money it will cost to host the race in Brookfield, including the $10,000 entry fee, $5,000 in prize money and about $4,000 for advertising and other expenses.
The first order of business will be landing a lead sponsor, who will get naming rights for the race in Brookfield. The next phase, Valadez said, will be engaging with the local business community.
There will be an expo area in a place to be determined, sort of along the lines of a farmers market, where businesses can interact with visitors to the race and get exposure.
Valadez said Cycle Brookfield will also seek submissions from local artists for branding/logo art that can be used on flyers, posters, banners, T-shirts and other items. They’ll also be putting out a call for race day volunteers – he’s looking for between 50 and 100 – who can serve as course marshals at entry points, crossings and in other capacities.