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Sunday, Sept. 19 was a perfect day for a bike ride, and for 2,000 riders and 180 Evanston Bike Club volunteers, the 36th annual North Shore Century delivered.
Riders started checking in at the registration tables on the north side of Dawes Park at 6 a.m. to pick up a wristband (with the number to call for emergency assistance and as an ID at rest stops), a paper copy of the map for the 25-, 50-, 62- or 100-mile ride, and any T-shirts purchased online (to be stored until after the ride). Tables were set up with coffee, water and breakfast foods, and a mechanic’s tent was available for last-minute tune-ups or if air was needed in well-worn tires.
Most of the early riders were those pursuing the classic century ride – a scenic loop totaling 100 miles between Evanston and Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. The metric century (100 kilometers, or 62 miles) and the half-century went as far north as Lake Bluff, and the quarter-century route reached Glencoe before heading back to Evanston.
At the Glencoe rest stop, riders were met by half a dozen cheering onlookers waving signs, shouting encouragement and clapping. They were there in particular to cheer on approximately 90 riders who were cycling the 25-mile route to raise money for one of two charities (Over the Rainbow and Citizens’ Greener Evanston).
Once riders parked and got off their bikes, a small feast awaited. There were plenty of energy-laden treats (bananas, watermelon, orange sections, pretzels), water, restroom facilities and a mechanic’s tent.
The North Shore Century (NSC) is famous for its food. In preparation for the ride, the Evanston Bike Club purchased 93 watermelons, 1,600 Smucker’s Uncrustables PB&J sandwiches and 4,000 granola bars to distribute among the six rest stops and Dawes Park. Sadly, this year riders went without the club’s locally famous homemade banana bread, a pandemic casualty nixed out of caution.
According to NSC Chair Peter Glaser, “Each rest stop has a specialty food. This year, there are bakery items at Northcroft Park in Lake Forest, McDonald’s Egg McMuffins at Viking Park in Gurnee, Culver’s ButterBurgers at the RecPlex in Pleasant Prairie, freshly grilled hot dogs at Bowen Park in Waukegan, pizza from Judy’s Pizzeria at Sunset Woods Park in Highland Park, and gallons of Homer’s ice cream at the Glencoe Metra station.” The ice cream sampled at the Glencoe Metra Station was a delicious and welcome treat.
Later in the afternoon, back at Dawes Park, it was a party atmosphere. Two musicians were strumming classic rock tunes as the century riders returned at a steady pace. Evanston Bike Club volunteers were starting to feel punchy, having been up since 4 a.m.
The RoundTable spoke to several century riders.
Friends John Joyce and Hugo Perez have been training for this ride for more than a year. They go on long rides two or three times a week, and are delighted with the health benefits they see.
Since they’ve been cycling, Joyce has lost 14 pounds and Perez has lost 30 pounds. This was the first time they rode in the NSC.
Nate Harris and his daughter Natalie Harris go on lengthy father-daughter rides almost every weekend. They rode on Sunday with their friend Yalaunda Thomas, and had a great time.
For Bob Burrows, the NSC ride was his second-ever 100-mile trip, and he described the experience as “first-class all the way.”
Erich Muhammed, an Evanston resident, looked positively refreshed when the RoundTable caught up to him. He, too, had a wonderful ride and was impressed with the professional caliber of the NSC.
When the final numbers were tallied, 900 riders had completed the 100-mile century ride. The half-century and metric century rides attracted 750 riders, and the quarter-century pulled in 350 cyclists. The oldest rider was 82 (he completed 25 miles) and there were nine riders ages 8 to 10 years old. Three toddlers under the age of 3 accompanied their parents.
One dedicated cyclist, Ben Schapiro, rode 50 miles pulling a pet trailer with his two labrador retrievers in the cab, and another cyclist rode 25 miles with her 13-pound dachshund safely secured in a basket attached to the handlebars.
Perhaps best of all, the ride raised more than $30,000 for next year’s charitable grant awardees.
Planning for the 2022 NSC begins next month when the Evanston Bike Club ride team conducts a formal debriefing and makes a list of ways to refine the ride. Look for information about the 2022 ride in this space, and mark your calendars for Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. You won’t want to miss it.