With its famous plains, hard-hitting sports teams, and penchant for fast food, Illinois doesn’t produce many world-class cyclists who can fly up the Alpine ascents of the Tour de France. But then there’s Christian Vande Velde. The compact rider from the little town of LeMont, 25 miles southwest of Chicago, has finished twice in the top 10 at the Tour de France and won big races such as the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Like Leipheimer and Hincapie, he was once teammates with Armstrong and last year admitted to doping during his career.
And like the others, he has jumped on the fondo circuit with his inaugural Chicagoland Gran Fondo for 2013. Vande Velde says that although cyclists are vertically challenged in and around Chicago, they’ll make up for it on his personally designed route by doing the fastest fondo of the year.
If you ride, you’ll go down the Kankakee River, wind through the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, and even take in a stretch of Route 66. Vande Velde’s buddies Hincapie and 2012 Giro d’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal are going to be there too.
Christian's Chicagoland Gran Fondo is held in September.