Bill Frieske, of Chicago’s Morgan Park community, awaits the start of the Homewood Downtown Classic bike races. | Mike Nolan Sun-Times Media.
Updated: August 9, 2013 6:24AM
Bill Frieske admits he’s something of a “late bloomer” when it comes to competitive bicycle racing.
The 53-year-old resident of Chicago’s Morgan Park community said he started racing two years ago, joining a team of racers that is sponsored in part by Beverly Bicycle Shop.
Members of that team were among the more than 200 cyclists taking part in the Homewood Downtown Classic on Sunday. It was a series of bike races held downtown, with participants ranging from beginners and advancing through the afternoon to a final race showcasing the “creme de la creme” of competitive cyclists, Steve Feehery said.
Feehery is president of the South Chicago Wheelmen, a Homewood-based bike racing team that sponsored the event with GoodSpeed Cycles in Homewood.
A different organization held a similar bike racing event for two years in downtown Homewood. This was the first year the Wheelmen and GoodSpeed had taken over organizing the race.
Feehery said he spent some 25 years taking part in bike races but no longer competes. His 22-year-old son, Shane, is a member of the South Chicago Wheelmen and was racing in Sunday’s event.
Feehery said the Downtown Classic was designed to appeal to all levels of racers and drew professionals as well as bikers such as Frieske, who are beginners in the sport.
“I have always been a fairly healthy person,” riding a bike for both pleasure and the health benefits, Frieske said.
“It’s way easier on the legs” than jogging, Frieske said. “I can stay on my bike a lot longer than I can run.”
He started riding with the Beverly Bike-Vee Pak team three summers ago, and this summer has taken part in races in Galena and Peoria.
“All of us have day jobs, and we’re trying to fit cycling into life,” Frieske said.
Some competitive riders might spend five to seven hours a week training, while others devote as much as 25 hours, riding 350 miles weekly, said Don Solomon, of Romeoville, who’s been with South Chicago Wheelmen nearly five years. The group was established in 1923.
“We encourage bike riding,” Solomon said. “We try to foster junior development in cycling. If it progresses into racing and they enjoy it, all the better.”
Feehery said the planning for the bike race began “in January or February,” and that the original route, which would have taken racers past village hall, had to be modified. A section of Dixie Highway between Ridge Road and 183rd Street was closed to traffic to accommodate the race.
Before the races, families were offered the chance to ride their bikes up and down Dixie Highway and through surrounding neighborhoods. That plus the bike race helped to show off how bike-friendly of a community Homewood is, said Steve Buchtel, executive director of Trails for Illinois.
A Homewood resident, Buchtel said it’s a rarity for him to get in his car to run errands such as grocery shopping or stopping for a frozen treat at Dairy Queen.
“There is no place in the village I can’t get to by bike,” he said.