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Businesses have mixed reaction to bike race
By Alissa Groeninger | Daily Herald Staff

Cyclists compete in the Masters Men 30 (+) race at the Arlington Heights Criterium International Cycling Classic. The 35 mile race with a purse of $700 dollars on a 0.7 mile course was one of several held Tuesday in downtown Arlington Heights.

 

George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

At the starting point on Vail Avenue in downtown Arlington Heights, the race announcer gives instructions to contestants in the Cat 3 Men's 35 mile race.

 

George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

Karystien Pac of Poland cools off in the fountain in downtown Arlington Heights after competing in the first two races of the day at the Arlington Heights Criterium International Cycling Classic. Pac was here for two weeks of cycle racing.

 

George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

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Published: 7/15/2009 12:00 AM

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The Criterium bike race returned to Arlington Heights Tuesday after a four-year absence and garnered mixed reactions from area business owners.

This year the event was part of the International Cycling Classic, which features 17 dates in different communities. There were six races of various lengths and skill levels on Tuesday. Racers came from 20 countries and Olympic, World Championship and Tour de France competitors were among the mix.

Palatine resident Sbiros Kalantzis, who used to own a restaurant near the race site, said the closed streets kept people from businesses. He said having the event on Tuesday does not work because not as many people can attend.

"This is ridiculous," Kalantzis said. "It kills all the business."

The city had no control over the event's timing and could not schedule it for a weekend because it had to fit in with all the other dates for the tour.

Other agreed it hurt business, but took a more positive view. Reija Thouma, co-owner of The Remember Frame Shop, said it only happens once a year. Greg George, who owns Randhurst Shoe Repair on Dunton Street, said he enjoyed watching the races and businesses could see benefits in the future if more people come out. Gary Grana, who owns a business on Arlington Heights Road three blocks from the race site, said too many streets were blocked, but expressed confidence the village will work out the bugs.

"Next year they'll figure out a better way to do it," Grana said. "It's great to bring something down here to create more interest for the businesses, especially in these times."

Tim Barrett, operations supervisor for the Arlington Heights Police Department, said there had been no significant traffic problems as of the afternoon.

Some businesses saw a clear benefit. Colleen Barrett, of Arlington Heights, said Urban Harvest, a food store on Dunton Street that she works for, saw more customers than normal. And, not surprisingly, Campbell Street Bicycle Shop owner Peter Barson, a race sponsor, said his store saw a lot of business.

Crowd estimates for any one time varied from hundreds to thousands, given that attendees covered multiple streets and counting was difficult. Officials managing the event said they were pleased.

"It's a very vibrant feel," said Diana Mikula, assistant to the village manager and coordinator for the race.

Calling the day "electric," Eddy Van Guyse, announcer for the professional race, said Arlington Heights could one day see 30,000 visitors like Evanston does. "This is the ideal location for a bike race," he said.

Race watcher Megan Brunet said she especially enjoyed watching her husband Steve Brunet compete.

"To have something here in town was really exciting for him," the Arlington Heights resident said.

Mikula said business owners should stay open to see new customers, as opposed to closing for the day, which many stores did. "We hope that they're at least open to trying it and exploring it," Mikula said.

Mikula said the village will look into holding the race again in the future and will speak with business owners before making a decision.