CBR Interview: Marco Colbert, Race Director Prairie State Cycling Series

Jul 15
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The Intelligentsia Cup Prairie State Cycling Series kicks off this Friday, July 18th, with the Waukegan Criterium and runs for 8 race days through Sunday, July 27th.  Here’s a conversation with Marco Colbert, the Idea Man behind the PSCS, and a great supporter of Chicagoland cycling.
CBR: The Prairie State Cycling Series is now in its 4th year and is getting bigger and better – what has been the mission in establishing the series and how are things going? 

Marco Colbert: We began with the idea to create a series that would bring top-level bike racing back to the Chicagoland area. There is such a rich history of great racing here but in recent years many long-standing events have faded, as is often the case with cycling events. Thanks to our partnership with Intelligentsia, founded in Chicago but with a presence on both coasts, our goal is to make this the premiere racing series in the city, and then down the road the region and beyond.

Each year we have enhanced multiple aspects of the series. Last year we grew from one to seven venues, bringing back existing events like the race in Beverly. This year we have strived to focus on venues in Chicagoland to keep things close and minimize the travel burdens and bringing back an exciting course like Downers Grove. All but one of our venues is next to a Metra stop but we have also partnered with Zipcar to offer a discount for racers who choose not to own a car — it’s a great way to get to races around the city and suburbs.

[link for Zipcar promo]

CBR: Maybe the most exciting news is bringing back Downer’s Grove! But really all the venues are great – what are some highlights? 

MC: There is a lot of exciting news this year but Downers Grove is definitely a big one. It’s such a great course and was a shame that it went away. We were unsure if the Village would be open to bringing it back but were pleasantly surprised when the mayor said he was very excited to have it back. We had great help from many of the downtown organizations to pull it together.

The reaction to it has been immense. A lot of pros raced on it back when it was the national championship. Jonas Carney who is now the director at Optum is sending riders in part because of the Downers Grove course! John Vande Velde was the original course designer back in the 1980s.

Again our goal was to bring all the venues closer to Chicago, and bringing back the Willow Springs venue for our road race was a big part of that. And our Chicago Criterium is going to be a big highlight, now that we have added the Fyxation Open fixed gear crit! 

CBR: The Series has really great sponsors. Tell us about your series sponsors and how you work with the club sponsors. 

Intelligentsia has been a great title sponsor, thanks in no small part to Doug Zell and his support bike racing. He is so passionate about cycling and racing. We have added some new sponsors this year. SRAM has come on in a big way to support new racers by giving a Force 22 groupset to the omnium winners of the women’s 3/4 and master’s 3/4 categories. Zipcar and SIGMA are also sponsoring categories this year with their own Pactimo winner’s jerseys. And we just added Shinola with handmade watches for some of the amateur omnium winners.

We are also partnering with World Bicycle Relief as we are big believers in their mission and feel that our audience is in line with what they are doing.

The club promoters of races have been so great to work with, with each wanting to put on a first-class racing experience. 

CBR: With the entire PSCS schedule within an hour or so of Chicago, the series championship is something anyone can do. Has that been an important consideration for securing venues? 

Tom Schuler, one of our founders, was really behind making this series a truly Chicago series. He lived here when he was racing as a professional and even met his wife at a bike race in Logan Square, so he definitely has a soft spot or bike racing in the windy city!

It’s definitely more expensive putting on races in these bigger venues with nice amenities but we hope that racers will appreciate the experience we provide in these great environments. 

CBR: Any parting thoughts? 

We really want the Chicago racing community to embrace this series as their own. That is who we think of when we make decisions and we want them to be proud of their home series and that racers from around the country will make this highlight of their racing calendars.



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