CBR Interview: Tim Radcliff, Race Director of the Elmhurst Cycling Classic

Jul 24
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The sixth race of the Intelligentsia Cup Prairie State Cycling Series, this Friday’s Elmhurst Cycling Classic criterium offers another exciting venue.  The course is fast and just-technical-enough to keep it interesting.  And the town really comes out to support the race.  What better way to spend your Friday?  We spoke with Tim Radciff, of EMC2 and raced director of the ECC.  

ChicagoBikeRacing: Please tell us a little about yourself—how long you’ve been cycling, involvement in race directing, and the Chicago cycling scene.  

Tim Radcliff: I have been racing since the late 80’s and started racing when I lived in Pittsburgh, PA.  I raced with Pittsburgh Pro Bikes which sounds comical as I think about it.  I was never remotely close to “pro”, nor viewed myself as a real contender at 6’4” 185 pounds, especially as we climbed the big hills of Pittsburgh.  I was a pack-fodder Cat 4.  I was hanging on for dear life on the Pennsylvania hills, but enjoying the sport nonetheless. When I moved to Chicago, my crit skills improved, but I never really took myself or racing too seriously.  However, I found that the flat terrains of Chicagoland certainly suited me better than Pittsburgh!  Cat 2 upgrade came after I finally paid attention to whom I was racing against, focused my training a bit more, and improved my strategy a bit.  At 6’ 4” drafting is always a challenge, and I need all the advantage I can get.  So for example, I have learned to use my earlobe fuzz as a “wind-turbulence detector system” – kind of like curb-feelers on a car ;-)   When I line up at a crit, I love attacking or going for breaks to spice things up, and would rather be aggressive and fail than to sit in for a sprint.   It is a hobby gone haywire for me, and I just challenge myself as much as I can.  

Race directing? – this is our second year of the Elmhurst Cycling Classic, and I just keep trying to bring best practices from other venues to our race.

CBR: You ride for Elmhurst Masters Cycling (EMC2), tell us about the team and your teammates.

TR: Well, I met some great guys when I moved to Elmhurst.  They introduced me to the old West Suburban Wheelman training rides, which many “Masters” guys from Chicagoland may know about.  Several of the guys on the training ride had raced before, and now just went out at ridiculously early hours to suffer on the bike.  Solid friendships were formed, but we all raced independently and trained very hard.

Our favorite pub in Elmhurst is Fitz’s Pub, and so I grabbed 5 of the guys, got some beers in them, and proposed the idea of starting a non-sponsored, masters racing team.  Low key, low profile, low pressure, no ego team.  They bought in, and 5 years ago EMC2 was born with some really special guys. We have grown over the years, but have done so really deliberately.  I am incredibly focused on building a positive team chemistry, and at EMC2, we prefer great people over prolific winners.  Certainly we want to win, and we compete hard.   But we want good riders who make us all better people.  I have told our team that when we are done throwing our leg over the top tube, the friendships we make and the lives we impact will carry so much more weight than our medals.  (I know - insert joke about us having few medals)  The cool thing is, we do have guys doing really well!  And at all levels. It’s really fun to watch. 

CBR:  EMC2 sponsored last year’s Elmhurst Cycling Classic, how did EMC2 get involved in the Prairie State Cycling Classic.

TR: It was really pretty interesting timing.  My team leaders had explored the idea of putting on a crit since our roster had grown.  And we had supported ABR already with the MATTS Finale in Garden Prairie.  Just as we started getting serious about the concept,  an Alderman from Elmhurst and the head of the Elmhurst Bike Task Force reached out to me.  They had been approached by a couple of promoters and asked if I would help them bring a race to Elmhurst.  However, I was unwilling to put my team’s name on a race promoted by the guy that approached them. St Charles had just happened, and I heard that PSCS was looking to expand.  So I contacted them, introduced them to the City of Elmhurst, and we all decided to do it.  We knew it was going to be a huge undertaking, but having raced TOAD, we had confidence in Prairie State’s folks.  It has been a fantastic endeavor. Its a second job for me.  I owe my family and team leaders big time.  I really under estimated how much work a race is.  Every time I race now, I can more fully appreciate how paying registration fees is nothing.  When we race somewhere, we are all the beneficiary of someone else’s hard work.  

One of the most rewarding elements of the Elmhurst Cycling Classic race was writing checks to charities with the net proceeds.  My team is a not-for-profit team.  So last year we donated $11,250 to a number charities - they are listed on our site.  Pretty cool.

CBR: Last year’s event was hot—both the air temp and the competition!  I thought the course was great, not your typical 4-corner crit.  Any changes for this year and what should we look for in race tactics.

TR: The course is the same, and some bumpy spots are repaired.  I say a prayer each night that we don’t have another 108 degree heat index day.  2 of the ambulance transports were from heat exhaustion, including Prairie State’s photographer.  He went down like a sack of potatoes.  Superior Ambulance got him quickly to the ER, Elmhurst Memorial popped him back to life, and he was shooting the pro races in a couple of hours.

The two notables of the course: the chicane at turn 2 is a great place to separate those who can corner vs. those who cannot. It is safe, but if you can’t manage your bike or if you’re tentative, you will be jumping to catch the train as it rockets up the back stretch.  The second in the finishing straight.  It seemsflat….but it’s not.  Go too early and you will be gobbled up as you lose momentum on the hill.  That is where United Healthcare blew it last year – 1,2,3 out of the turn and they lost to Ricardo Ensuela of Predator who popped through at the crest of the hill. There is a racer guide on our site this year with a fun preview video that Jostein Alvestad and I shot at, like, 4 in the morning.  www.elmhurstcyclingclassic.com  That dude is a hambone.  And a hell of a guy.

CBR:  As we know these events don’t happen without sponsors—tell us about your sponsors.

TR: Thank you for asking.  Superior Ambulance is our title sponsor.  Their professionalism and thorough planning gives us great comfort regarding emergency response,  They sent us 2 trucks and a roaming medical cart.  These guys work the Chicago Marathon and know event management.  Top notch emergency response.  This year, the law firm of Storino, Ramello & Durkin is our presenting sponsor.  Don Storino is a community-oriented man who has been critical to our success.  Roesch Auto Group will do the pace car again, which is great considering last year I think he left a complete tire’s worth of marks through the chicane after a day of driving.  His Charger was flying through the turns!

We have numerous other sponsors at many levels, and they all are interested in seeing the race grow since it is good for Elmhurst.  Olympia Chiropractic and PT, for example,  works on a lot of our riders.  They sponsored the family fun ride.  Dr Mike Calcagno is an icon in Elmhurst with sports therapy.  Our sponsor page on our site lists them all.  They are really special people and great businesses.

CBR: What else should we know about the race?  I know last year there were some great event activities other than bike racing going on—we stuck around after for food and a couple of beers.

TR: We are really happy to have the race finish right at the Wilder Mansion.  That garden area and the Mansion are the only places you can have alcohol in the park.  So, it is turning into a fantastic beer garden of sorts right at the start finish line.  This year we have 2 passes - a drinks only pass or a fully-catered dinner and drinks pass.  Again, net proceeds go to charities.  The course circles the lovely Elmhurst College and through 2 neighborhood streets.  I keep hearing more of them are getting the parties ready to watch the action near the chicane.  Cowbells will be ringing.

Oh - and for the families who enable us to race:  Bring them!  We have face painting for kids, a great family fun ride, and park activities nearby.    Plus, the shopping and restaurant district is a block and a half away.  Chicago folks can hop off the West line Metra and be a block from the race…literally.  If families need to cool down or take a break, our site lists options for them.  And YES, I bought a misting tent to cool down this year.

Lastly, stay tuned for some fun Pave Liga news.  I am currently working on a prize/award idea for Pave Liga teams.  Stay tuned to Pave Liga for that!



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