Professional bicycle racing came to Brookfield last week when the village hosted the Cycle Brookfield Criterium, which was part of the 10-day Intelligentsia Cup series in the Chicago area.
Hundreds of bike racers, ranging from novices to experienced pros, raced around a nearly one-mile, zigzagging course, which started and ended in downtown Brookfield. The day featured nine races in various categories and a family fun ride of a couple laps for recreational cyclists.
Crowds grew throughout the day. Spectators were sparse when the first races began after a morning thunderstorm, but spectators gathered as evening approached, especially along the 3700 block of Grand Boulevard.
There, the sidewalks were packed, especially by the start/finish line, by the time the professional women and men raced in the evening. Spectators and racers came from all over, including — for the racers at least — from as far away as Australia and New Zealand.
Many of the spectators had never seen a bike race in person before and they were impressed as bikers whizzed raced by in tight groups. In the final sprint to the finish line, the men’s pro division winner, 32-year-old Robin Carpenter, of Philadelphia, hit 45 mph as he overtook second-place finisher Hugo Scala.
“It’s exhilarating,” said Joe Remiasz, of Brookfield. “I just think the atmosphere is cool, the sound’s cool, the place is cool, I like everything about it. I just think it’s a pretty cool little experience in our little village here.”
“It’s just impressive to see how fast these guys are,” added Brookfield resident Wally Ottenhoff.
Both the men’s and women’s pro races lasted 70 minutes, with the men riding about 32 miles and the women doing a little less.
Danielle Morshead of California, a 26-year-old graduate of Brown University, won the women’s race with a powerful sprint, edging fellow Californian Kendall Ryan and picking up the first place prize money of $500.
Morshead, who works part time as a marketing manager for the National Eczema Association in addition to being a professional bike racer, said that she liked the Brookfield course.
“This course was really technical and it had a long sprint, which is pretty unique,” Morshead said. “Not too many courses are both technical and long sprint. Usually, it’s one or the other.”
The day of racing was sponsored by Cycle Brookfield, which worked with the village to put to event on. Chris Valadez, the president of Cycle Brookfield, said that a number of people told him that they had never seen a bike race before but now wanted to see more.
“People were really jazzed about seeing more of this,” Valadez said. “It was really cool to kind introduce my community to crit racing, but also to see the reactions from people who had never seen it before.”
The event also brought local restaurants and bars some new business.
Dan Velcich, a co-owner with his wife, Brenna, of Burger Antics on Grand Boulevard, said that the event brought new diners to his gourmet burger restaurant saying that he was doing more business than a normal Wednesday.
“And regardless of what happens today when it comes to our final checkout, it’s an amazing event and it’s going to be really awesome to have all this exposure,” Velcich said. “We have so many new people.”
Down the block at Paisan’s, business was slow in the afternoon. One cashier said that a number of people had cancelled lunch orders because there was no place to park since Grand Boulevard was closed to car traffic for the day of bike racing.
Village President Mike Garvey said that he thought the day was a success.
“This is our first time doing this and I’ve got to tell you I want to do it again,” Garvey told the crowd from the awards stage before handing out awards to the top three finishers.
Garvey said the event exposed many to downtown Brookfield for the first time.
“I think it will make an economic impact today, but also when people come and see Brookfield, they’ll want to come back,” Garvey said.
Village Manager Tim Wiberg said it probably cost the village approximately $20,000 to put on the event, mostly for overtime costs and traffic control measures. Wiberg said that the village viewed the cost as an investment in economic development.
“It seemed like the businesses were enjoying a strong customer base, which was kind of one of the goals of this and I think it achieved that,” Wiberg said. “It was great to see our bars and restaurants doing special things to take advantage of the fact that were some people right outside their doors, at least on Grand Boulevard.”
Approximately 80 volunteers, including about a dozen from the Brookfield Women’s Club, helped put on the event and kept things running smoothy.
Only a couple of local riders participated in the competitive races. One was 56-year-old Eddie Rivera of Brookfield, who was competing in his first bike race. He’s a former runner who got more into cycling when he had his left knee replaced a few years ago.
Rivera rode in the first race of the day, the men’s novice race, which lasted for about 30 minutes. Although he finished 15th in the field of 16 who finished the race, Rivera said that he had fun.
“I thought I would represent the town,” said Rivera, an active member of Cycle Brookfield. “I thought it would be kind of neat to have somebody in the race.”
Former Brookfield resident Robert Sedivy, 33, finished sixth in the men’s novice race.
The woman’s pro race was marred by a nasty crash coming out of the turn by the library. The cyclist was seriously injured, and the race was stopped as paramedics treated her and eventually transported her to a hospital.
The delay, which came with six laps to go, was difficult for the lead group.
“We don’t like to stop, especially within the last 10 laps,” Morshead said after the race. “Our engines are hot and we’re cruising and we’re in the flow and in the zone and when you stop, it breaks all of that.”
Carpenter finished third overall in the men’s pro division of the Intelligentsia Cup, which is based on results in all 10 races. The men’s overall winner was Ben Oliver of New Zealand. Oliver finished ninth in the Brookfield race.
Morshead finished 10th overall in the women’s professional standings. The women’s overall winner was Samantha Schneider, who finished seventh in the Brookfield race.
The race in Brookfield was a homecoming for Todd Busteed, the lead announcer for the Intelligentsia Cup. Busteed grew up in Brookfield and graduated from Riverside-Brookfield High School in 1978. Busteed now lives in Winfield. He said he hadn’t been back in Brookfield for decades.
On the morning of the race, he rode the course and also to his alma maters S.E. Gross and RBHS. As a kid he rode around Brookfield delivering newspapers on his bike.
“It was surreal experience to see all those places after 45 years,” Busteed said.