CRYSTAL LAKE – Bob Karlow was tucked between two riders while heading into the final lap of the Tour de Crystal Lake – one stop in a seven-town series called the Prairie State Cycling Series.
As he raced down sectioned off streets in downtown Crystal Lake, his wife, friends and those from the McHenry County area cheered him on. They wanted to see a local winner.
The three riders were several seconds ahead of the pack of 35 riders and it became clear that it would be a tight finish.
Karlow, a Crystal Lake native racing in the Masters 35 and older 1/2/3 category, finished in fifth place in the first leg of the Prairie State Cycling Series on July 12 in Kenosha, Wis.
Now he had a shot at first place on his home turf.
When the bikers emerged from the final turn and into the home stretch, Karlow had the race locked up and won by several lengths as he crossed the finish line with both hands above his head.
“I’m a good sprinter so I knew that if I was there at the end, I would have a chance,” the 44-year-old said between gulps of water.
“It truly feels amazing,” he continued. “Just to be able to do this in front of my hometown people really gave me that extra boost. I really wanted to win it for them and they gave me that boost.”
Karlow, racing with team Enzo’s Cycling, finished the 70-minute race ahead of Scott Pearson and Andrew Rizzo. He and his teammates formulated a plan of blocking and drafting which helped him secure the victory.
Fellow Crystal Lake resident and avid racer Michael Zellmann finished 23rd in the event, although he was racing with the top group of riders but suffered from cramping with about five minutes remaining and fell behind.
Zellmann lives just three blocks away from the course and rode his bike to the event and said that he was very excited to race in front of his community.
“This was the first time that I was able to put on my bib from home,” he said. “I’ve always had to put it on in my car or something so this was nice to be so close to the event.”
Zellmann’s passion for racing goes beyond competing. He works for a bike shop and blogs about the sport. He will be traveling Tuesday to the Tour de France to interview riders for his company and site.
The race was the first of its kind in Crystal Lake, as all levels of riders participated in nine categories from amateur to professional. Many people came out to experience the new event on a Sunday including Ray Johns, a Cary resident, and his family.
“We sometimes come down and enjoy the day downtown here, and we thought this could be a change of pace,” he said. “It is really cool. I bike on trails a bit but seeing these guys go this fast and for so long is pretty remarkable.”
The experience was new even for those working at the event. Accelerated Rehabilitation Center had a blue tent set up near the finish line to assist and treat riders who had fallen or suffered from dehydration.
Athletic trainer Bob Mayerson said that this bike race was new to him but the cases he saw throughout the day were pretty similar to athletes who participate in high intensity workouts. Heat exhaustion and dehydration as well as those who had fallen.
“It’s a whole mix of things that we have seen today,” he said. “You just have to be prepared and, with a bike race, you will see some concussions as well as intense heat issues, or I may just have to give out a bandage.”
Many racers complimented Crystal Lake on the superb conditions of the road and the services provided whether it was medical attention or the accessibility to bike stalls and accommodation tents.
“This was great,” said Gevan Samuel, a professional biker from Atlanta. “I would not be opposed to coming back and racing at this venue once again.”