Guts and Glory: The Glencoe Grand Prix
“If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard, ‘Wow! I never realized how cool bike racing is,’ I wouldn’t have to solicit sponsorships,” says Jon Knouse with a laugh. Knouse serves as Race Director for the Glencoe Grand Prix (GGP), a fun-for-the-whole-family bike race and block party held in downtown Glencoe on June 25. The GGP, sponsored by AT&T, covers every racer on every level. It is receiving extra recognition this year, due to its inclusion on the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar. Not only is the GGP a part of the Illinois Cup, the organization is proudly hosting this year’s State Criterium Championship, held for the first time in Glencoe.
Besides Race Director and all-around cycling enthusiast, Knouse, has also served for the past six years as President of the Glencoe Education Foundation, the beneficiary organization of the GGP. The race raises much needed funds for the local community children and brings the North Shore together in a way no other sporting event can.
Here, Sheridan Road sits down with Knouse, to find out what it takes to get a bike race off the ground and keep it pedaling into the future.
This is the fifth year for the GGP. In what way has the event grown since the first race?
In every way possible! Our first year, we had to beg, borrow, and steal to make the race work. It took two years of thinking about actually having a race to get up the courage to do it!
Since the first year, our sponsorship has increased, rider participation has tripled, and the community has embraced it. Last year, through hard work and a lot of luck, we were selected to hold the USA National Criterium Championships that put us on the map nationally. And, of course, the amount of money we raised has increased substantially—from $7,000 in year one to $50,000 last year. Year one, nobody except our friends knew who we were. Year five, we are at least one of the top 35 one-day races in the United States.
What was last year’s Professional Race winning time? What is the average race time?
Last year’s race winner, David Veilleux, covered 65 miles in two and a half hours for an average pace of 26 miles per hour! This year, the main event kicks off at 6 p.m., covers 85 km, and should finish in just under two hours of racing. This GGP will feature some of the best Criterium racers from around the United States and the world.
The funds raised from this race go directly toward Glencoe schools. Have you seen any of the proceeds put to use firsthand?
Absolutely. Funds raised from the GGP have been used to purchase SMART Technology for every teaching space in Glencoe schools. [SMART Boards are interactive teaching tools, combining the simplicity of a whiteboard with the power of a computer in a classroom setting].The testimonials we receive from teachers, parents, and students are endless and very gratifying.
How many total racers and spectators would you say will descend upon Glencoe on June 25?
We expect to have nearly 600 racers of all ages participate in our series of races. We also expect to host nearly 10,000 fans during the whole day. This is the first time the race has been held in June. Historically, it has been in August when many are on vacation. We’re excited about this new timing and introducing the North Shore to racing and creating new fans.
Tell me about the block party.
After the race, we’ll have live music in downtown Glencoe from 8 p.m. into the night, complete with food, a Goose Island Beer Garden, and Mouton Cadet Wine. Current Miss Illinois Whitney Thorpe-Klinsky will make an appearance, and we will have some other surprises.
If I want to participate in the race, where/how do I sign up? What if I would like my child(ren) to participate in the races for children?
All amateur USA Cycling sanctioned racers can sign up through our website. If you would like your kids to participate in the noon kid races (please bring own bike and helmet), parents can come to the Glencoe Educational Foundation Information tent located near the start finish line at Vernon and Hazel. Kids’ races are for children aged 4 to 9. Children aged 10 and above can participate in the Junior Race.
For more information about the Glencoe Grand Prix, or to register for the race, visit glencoegrandprix.com.