Without funding, annual Evanston bike race canceled for 2012

Joseph Diebold

One of Evanston’s largest bicycle races, formerly known as the Evanston Grand Prix, was canceled this year due to a lack of sponsors.

Marc Colbert, who hoped to organize this year’s race and call it the “Great Evanston Bicycle Chase,” said he withdrew his application for a special event permit after struggling to find sufficient funding.

“We just weren’t able to come up with a title sponsor in time,” he said. “We didn’t want to do a bad event in Evanston; we wanted to do a good event in Evanston. When it looked like we wouldn’t have sufficient funding we decided it was better to just take a year off.”

Last year’s race was pulled off without a title sponsor. Chris Mailing, owner of Turin Bicycle, 1027 Davis St., organized the event from its first year in 2007 until 2011. He said the race is not sustainable without a title sponsor.

“Last year I came very close to canceling it, and it was really just through very unusual circumstances I was able to pull it off,” he said. “To find a way to organize and run that race without a title sponsor is very difficult. Last year we did a lot of crazy things that are not repeatable in order to pull the race off.”

Colbert said he may attempt to bring the event back to Evanston next year, and he enjoyed working with the city.

“Evanston is a great venue,” Colbert said. “It has a wonderful race course. The spectatorship is usually good. I very much like working with the city of Evanston. They have been supportive of bike racing in Evanston since it started.”

Mailing said race organizers estimate 20 percent of spectators are new to the area and the race attracts 15,000 to 20,000 spectators annually, generating about 10,000 customers for local businesses. He said he hopes to work with Colbert to bring the race back to the city in 2013.

“If people realize that here’s a summer institution that’s been good for the community, maybe some people will think, ‘Hey, that’s something I can get involved with,'” he said. “We can start now on lining up sponsors.”

The race would have been held June 3, but local cyclists will have other options for racing that weekend. Colbert also organizes the Lake Bluff Twilight Criterium, which will be held June 1. Another race, the Glencoe Grand Prix, will be held June 2.

“We were trying to create a three-day weekend,” Colbert said. “The vision we had for that weekend, 66 percent of it is still happening.”

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