Inclement weather cancels final bike races for Tour de Champaign

The final races of Tour de C-U were canceled due to weather complications late Sunday afternoon. After an hour-long weather delay, a group of racers anxiously awaited the final decision for the last two races of the event. Dark clouds from all directions swarmed in as a tornado watch was issued for the area.

Mark Swartzendruber, the event coordinator, was forced to announce the final cancellation.

The men scheduled to participate in these races, Pro 1,2 and Men 3, were the most experienced at the event, nearly all biking for over 10 years.

While some cyclists may be disappointed in the cancellation, participant Keith McMahon said it was in the best interest of the racers.

Minutes before the weather delay was called, McMahon crashed his bike in the Master 1-4 race, leaving him with cuts covering his legs. McMahon, a Chicago resident originally from New York, has been cycling for over 20 years.

“The wind swept in wide and the racer in front of me hesitated, causing me to be pushed into the curb,” he said.

Despite the weather conditions Sunday, the overall race proved to be relatively safe for the participants.

“One man broke his collarbone yesterday, but other than that, there were no injuries more than road rash,” Swartzendruber said.

The third annual Tour de C-U was an all-day event on Saturday and Sunday with many participants, volunteers and spectators in attendance.

Cyclists ranged from children to women to the most experienced athletes in the sport. Many of the cyclists came from Illinois, but some athletes traveled from as far as California, Texas or Missouri for the event.

Swartzendruber said there were fewer cyclists than he had hoped for, but it was still an exciting weekend.

“There were about 350 cyclists and 50 volunteers this year,” Swartzendruber said. “The event was still extremely successful, and everyone seemed to have a great appreciation for the effort that was put into (Tour de C-U). The atmosphere was incredible.”

Prior to the event, some participants and organizers were concerned with the weather for the weekend, with forecasts predicting stormy weather for Saturday.

Marla Deval, spectator and long time friend of Swartzendruber’s, said the weather on Saturday turned out to be a perfect racing environment, with the storms delayed until Sunday afternoon.

“Being in the crowd, I heard nothing but positive comments. The feedback about the course (on Saturday) was that it was extremely well-organized, and it was a great course, especially for the experienced bikers,” Deval said.

Deval was also the Podium Girl, which meant she delivered the awards to the winners of the races at the end of the event.

“I have been the Podium Girl each year. I’m great friends with Mark and his wife, and we love coming out each year to see what the races bring,” she said.

Swartzendruber himself has been cycling for over 15 years. Even though the end of the event had to be canceled, Swartzendruber said he was very satisfied with the entire weekend of races.

“(Tour de C-U) is the biggest race I have been in charge of, and I am proud of the effort and success we have had these past three years,” he said.