VILLA PARK – Cycling fans who enjoy following major races won't have to watch competition online or on TV this weekend. Professional and amateur cyclists from across the Midwest will congregate in town for the Villa Park Grand Prix.
The event is sponsored by RDS Cycling Team and Club, a member of the United States Cycling Development Foundation that produces different bicycling races throughout the Midwest, said Robert Di Silvestro, the club's race organizer.
"It's going to be a nice little show," Di Silvestro said.
The event is scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to about 4:30 p.m. Sunday, and should draw close to 300 racers, he said. Throughout the day, the cyclists will be divided into races depending on their age, gender and skill level. The professional racers will ride for about an hour at speeds of 30 miles per hour, Di Silvestro said.
This is the second consecutive year Villa Park has hosted the grand prix, although RDS Cycling also hosted a similar event in town several years ago.
"(Last year) it was really well received," said Villa Park Deputy Police Chief Bob Budig, who is cooperating with Di Silvestro to coordinate the event. "A lot of people enjoyed it and asked if it's coming back."
Budig said many residents brought chairs out to watch the races last year and people living on the course set up viewing tents on their front lawns. This year, the village is hoping to generate more local support around the event to ensure that RDS Cycling comes back in the future.
"We're making a big deal about it," Budig said. "We want to create excitement and make it a good event. We want him to come back."
The police department is responsible for closing roads, and members of the Villa Park Fire Department will also be on site, but the event is being predominately coordinated by RDS Cycling and Di Silvestro.
Food vendors, entertainment and a course announcer will be located near the start of the race at Yale Avenue and Park Boulevard, and racers will ride in a clockwise loop along Park Boulevard, Princeton Avenue, Washington Street and Harvard Avenue. The skill level of each race dictates how many laps the riders will complete.
"The best way to watch a race is to take a chair, have a drink and a sandwich and listen to the announcer," Di Silvestro said. "That's the only way to learn."
Although he doesn't race himself, Di Silvestro said he's a serious cyclist. He was born in Italy and grew up in France before moving to the United States. Cycling, he said, is one of the most popular sports in the world and is growing steadily in the United States.
His overwhelming goal for the Villa Park Grand Prix is that is educates local residents about the sport of cycling and inspires the children in the crowd to one day compete.
"We want children to see this," he said. "We want them to take a good look at the sport."