Cyclists from around the state will be in Champaign County this weekend for the Illinois State Time Trial Championships.
It will be the first time the event has been held in central Illinois. A local racing team, Scarlet Fire Racing, won the chance to organize the race through a competitive bidding process by the Illinois State Cycling Association.
The race has been held the past few years in northern Illinois (and, before that, near St. Louis). Many riders in the central and southern part of the state haven’t wanted to travel that far for the race, said Mark Swartzendruber of Scarlet Fire Racing.
“It really wasn’t much of a true state championship. I’d call it a Chicago-area championship,” he said, adding he believes a central Illinois location will bring more representation from throughout the state.
“The riders will be coming from more of a wide geographic area,” he said, noting cyclists from Springfield, St. Louis and Bloomington-Normal who haven’t ridden the time trial championship in the past few years are planning to ride here.
Saturday’s race is part of a state championship series that includes a road race championship held in O’Fallon and a criterium championship in St. Charles.
“It’s nice to be able to host a state championship,” Swartzendruber said. “You’ve got to have a history of putting on successful events in order to even be considered. To get a state championship is one of the nice things that you can get awarded when you’re putting on an event.”
Scarlet Fire Racing — along with Wild Card Cycling, another local racing club — organizes the annual Tour de C-U criterium in the spring.
Swartzendruber said the time trial race will attract significantly fewer cyclists than the 350 or so riders who do the Tour de C-U, mostly because fewer people ride time trials than do criteriums or road races.
In a time trial race, there is no mass start. Instead, riders start at 1-minute intervals and race against the clock. Unlike in road racing, drafting is illegal and there are no team tactics.
There is a greater emphasis on aerodynamics, with cyclists using aerobars, solid disc wheels and different style helmets.
Swartzendruber said time trials tend to attract endurance riders rather than sprinters.
“You’ll get people that really just don’t care for mass start races, just because of the danger factor of crashing,” he said. “There are guys and gals like me that do mass start races but aren’t sprinters. We tend to really enjoy time trialing because it’s just you and the road and your bike and how fast you can make it go for how far.
“It’s a type of racing that is pretty friendly,” Swartzendruber continued. “It’s competitive, but since you’re not racing directly against somebody else at the same time, riders tend to be a lot more friendly and supportive, as opposed to having rivalries.”
Swartzendruber said another factor in bringing the time trial championship here is the nice course layout. The 40-kilometer course starts and finishes at Unity West Elementary School in Tolono, and cyclists will ride County Road 600 North west through Sadorus and Ivesdale. They’ll turn around about a mile south of Ivesdale on the Bement road and cover the same road back to Unity West.
The competition gets underway at 9 a.m. Saturday.
“We’ve got a really nice 40K course,” he said. “The pavement is perfect. It’s a lightly-traveled road.”
There also is a 20K course for junior riders, new riders and older riders.
Swartzendruber mapped out the course about five years ago when he decided to put on a race.
Wild Card Cycling, which also is helping Scarlet Fire put on the time trial championship, uses the course for an informal time trial every Thursday, Swartzendruber said.
“Local people who do time trials are pretty well familiar with it,” he said. “It’s really proven to be a good course, and it’s pretty fast.”
And he holds the course record: 51:36 for 40K.
Swartzendruber, who relocated from this area to Chicago but is still active in Scarlet Fire, should do well in the race. He’s a 14-time state time trial champion and has won all of his time trial events this year.
Online registration for the Illinois State Time Trial Championships closes Wednesday for USA Cycling license holders. Those who aren’t license holders can register on the day of the race by buying a one-day racing license. For more information, visit www.scarletfireracing.com and click on the tab for “Races” or visit Scarlet Fire Racing’s Facebook page. Racing gets underway at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Photo: Mark Swartzendruber rides in a time trial race in O'Fallon in June, part of the O'Fallon Grand Prix Stage Race. Photo provided by Mark Swartzendruber.