Race spectators from Columbia. | Evan F. Moore/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 28, 2014 6:36AM
Matt Walsh, the outgoing executive director of the Beverly Area Planning Association, wanted his last day in the post to be memorable, so he linked it to the 12th annual Beverly Hills Cycling Classic, which took place Thursday in Chicago’s Beverly and Morgan Park communities.
“Only two other (Chicago) neighborhoods have a professional bike race,” Walsh said. “It’s bringing something exciting to the neighborhood. People can see their neighbors and enjoy a nice summer night.”
The women’s pro-am bicycle race started at 4:40 p.m. and the men’s at 6:30 p.m., both from 107th Street and Longwood Drive. A Kids’ Big Wheel Race was held in between.
The races as of last year became a part of the Prairie State Cycling Series, which helps draw about 200 competitive bicyclists.
Yussely Soto was in town from Los Mochis, Mexico, to visit family when she found out about the race. She’s a member of Mexico’s national cycling team.
“My family is in Chicago, and I was online and I found out about it,” Soto said through a translator, her cousin Hector. “The neighborhood is beautiful, and I like the course.”
Rudy Peterson, 19, came from Kalamazoo, Michigan, to participate in the men’s race.
“I heard this was a pretty cool event,” Peterson said. “A lot of people are showing up for it so I thought I’d give it a try.”
Paul Weise, owner of Beverly Bike and Ski, 9121 Western Ave., sponsors a cycling team, the Beverly Bike/Vee-Pak Racing Team, that took part in the men’s race.
“We wanted to bring back racing to the South Side,” Weise said. “I wanted to bring a team to this area. Most of our riders are firemen, paramedics, and they’re all local.”
The event is more than a couple of bicycle races. It’s a community festival, also featuring children’s activities, food, beverages and live music.
The Beverly Area Planning Association is a nonprofit organization founded in 1947 that provides programs in housing, business support services, community building and safety.