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Lake Bluff Twilight Criterium debuts Friday afternoon in Illinois, part of USA CRITS Series

Critical CRITS Series points are up for grabs in Friday's inaugural Lake Bluff Twilight Criterium race; Debbie Milne pursues title alone

When Marco Colbert walked into the Activator Cycles shop in Lake Bluff, Illinois, last summer he didn’t realize an idea he had in his head had already taken root without his knowledge.

“One day I walked into the shop and I started talking to Nick Christofalos, the owner,” Colbert said. “And I said ‘Hey Nick, what would you think about a bike race right here in Lake Bluff?’ And he said ‘Gee Marc, that’s funny because I was just talking to the village administrator about the very same subject!’ So they were already pondering a bike race and that’s how it all started.”

And so was born the Lake Bluff Twilight Criterium, with the inaugural event taking place Friday afternoon.

Colbert had been involved with both the Glencoe Grand Prix in 2010 (when it was the site of USA Cycling’s Professional Criterium National Championships) and the Evanston Grand Prix, prior to coming up with the idea for the Lake Bluff Race. He had also been on the operations side of the Advantage Benefits-Endeavour squad as well as Team Type 1.

“It dawned on me that it was time for me to do my own bike race, so I dove into the world of promotion,” he said.

With enthusiastic support from Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, the chief of police, the fire chief, and Lake Bluff village administrator Drew Irvin, all Colbert had to do was secure backing and settle on a course.

He came up with a six-turn, 1.2km course that goes right through the heart of the business district.

“It’s a long finish that’s slightly uphill, which the sprinters ought to like,” he said. “A couple of the corners are tight on the back of the course, so I suspect that you wouldn’t want to get too far back at that point or you might have trouble moving up. The only place, in fact, that might be really feasible to move up might be on the finishing straight.”

The first-year race is on the USA Crits Series calendar and going into this weekend’s event, Oscar Clark (UnitedHealthcare of Georgia) maintains only a 38-point lead over Luke Keough (Mountain Khakis-SmartStop) midway through the series.

On the women’s side of the series, Erica Allar (RideClean-Patentit.com) holds the lead over two-time masters champion Debbie Milne (Absolute Racing-MSMOC).

Wily veteran chases USA Crits title on her own

Milne is a mother of three who’s faced off against top-shelf racers for nearly 10 years now, mostly without the support of a team. She’s looking forward to the race, but said she’d prefer a few corners to break up the momentum of a galloping leadout train, or which might favor her in a solo escape.

“Most of the cornering comes after the start/finish line,” she said of the course. “I wish it were going the other way. I kind of like a lot of cornering before the final.”

She started racing a little over 10 years ago for fun, but began competing regularly in 2003.

“I used to ride my kids around in a Burley (cycling) trailer and that was like 80 pounds or something I was hauling around, and that made me kinda stronger. So when I would race I would have pretty good luck regionally. As they got older I started racing more and more.”

Six years later she won the USA Cycling Masters Road Nationals, and again in 2010, the same year she won the US 10K Road Race in Atlanta. Since then she has become the dark horse of the US women’s criterium circuit, snatching up race primes and being an overall threat in general. Now she sits right behind Allar for the USA CRITS title.

“When I was in Tucson (at the Old Pueblo Grand Prix) I was only 7 points behind her, so during the middle of the race I kept sneaking laps and had the (Orange) jersey in the middle of the race,” she said laughing. “But it was so dry out there and I got dehydrated and blew the finish, so I dropped back in points behind her again.”

Although she has no team support in the series, she recognizes that if she does get picked up by a team for 2013, her strengths are more apt to shine when contesting crits in the future.

“I spend a lot of energy in a race and I need to be more patient. I can finish up or down and I’m not as predictable.”

Following Lake Bluff, Milne will forgo the Glencoe Grand Prix and head to the Liberty Classic.

“I went up the Manayuk Wall eight times when I was in the area a couple of weeks ago. I’ll be there with Laura Van Gilder’s Mellow Mushroom team, and as far as that climb goes, I may not be the fastest one up, but I know I’m not going to be the slowest. Generally, I’m 118lbs and I think I have a good rhythm figured out for it.”

Following the Liberty Classic Milne will concentrate on piloting a tandem rig for Paralympic medalist Karissa Whitsell over the summer at the Olympic training center in Colorado.

“Hopefully if all goes well I can help her get to London.”