Power to the pedals

Variety of human-powered vehicle race at Washington Park Velodrome


By James Lawson


They came from as far away as Toronto. There were 9-year-olds and 60-somethings. There was even a whole family suited up for a day of pedal-powered racing Sunday at the Washington Park Velodrome.

Some rode upright racers. Some rode low-profile recumbent bicycles. And others raced around the oval track in aerodynamic streamlined bicycles that looked like race cars.

All came to pedal to their hearts content in the 22nd annual Cheddar Challenge, a series of races varying in distance from one kilometer to 14 miles.

Twenty-five racers participated in the event. Moreover, some had raced the day before in another human-powered race event in Northbrook, Ill.

“You can say they really like to race at these types of events,” said Dan Glatch, the race director. “I guess you can say some are fanatics, and others just like to be on a bicycle.”

One of the biggest events of the day was the 70-lap streamliner race featuring a person pedaling a low-profile bicycle completely enclosed with a hard fiberglass shell.

As they circled the track at speeds more than 20 mph, they looked more like a Formula 1 racer than a bicycle.

They were brightly painted and had numbers, just like race cars. Some had names, such as Milwaukee Flyer, representing the origin of the person inside, and Great White, with a set of shark's teeth on the front.

Family affair

The junior race featured 9-year-old Genna Kowalik, who is a member of a racing family. Her siblings, Cecelia, 11, Mathias, 13, and Anastasia, 7, travel with their father, Francis, to various pedal-powered race events throughout the Midwest.

Sean Coston from Arlington Heights, Ill., raced in one event and then watched as his son, Jonathan, 11, also raced.

“My dad raced a lot, and I saw how much fun he had. I got started racing because of him,” Jonathan said, adding he has ambitions of becoming a champion racer. He plans to race in the Illinois championship.

Jim Iwaskow of Toronto raced on a low-racer recumbent bicycle. He has an unbridled passion for human-powered racing, building his own racing bicycles. One of his pet projects is a low-profile racer he has been working on for the past four years.

After one of his friends kidded him about taking so long to build the racer, he said.

“You know why it's taken me so long to finish that one? It's because I have something else to ride,” he said. “If I didn't, I would have finished that one a long time ago.”


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