The history of the Quad Cities Criterium is interwoven with the Quad Cities Bicycle Club, especially in the early years. The seeds of the Quad Cities Bicycle Club were actually sown on a snowy November night in 1963, when three avid cyclists hatched the idea. Fred Blessin, an American; Rene DeLanghe, a Belgian; and John Hood Sr., an Englishman, sat around the DeLanghe kitchen table and conceived of a club to provide local citizens a vehicle for pursuit of widely varied bicycling interests.
At the time, the sport of bicycling was enjoying a national resurgence, spurred by the Kennedy Administration's health awareness campaigns and the "President's Council on Physical Fitness." Between 1960 and 1966, bicycle sales increased from 3.8 million to 6 million. None was more enthusiastic than Blessin, DeLanghe and Hood. Therefore, on January 10th, 1964, interested bicyclists were invited to attend the first meeting of the Quad Cities Bicycle Club. Officers were elected, a constitution drafted and the electorate chose blue and yellow as the club's official colors.
In addition, this small band of pioneers set off to make the Club's vision; to promote, encourage and support safe participation in bicycle riding of all ages and abilities; to anticipate and address the needs and interests of all aspects of bicycling in the Quad Cities area, a reality.
In September of that very first year, a race was held in East Moline, which drew more than 40 participants and an estimated crowd of nearly 3000 spectators. The race was called "The Kermess", Belgian for 'around the house', and although the name would prove to be temporary, the criterium in East Moline would eventually spawn into one of the club's biggest, on going successes in neighboring towns of Moline and Rock Island. 27 QCBC membership cards were issued in 1964, and the club looked forward to planning upcoming social, service and competitive rides.
The success of the East Moline race prompted the start of a race in Moline's 7th Street area in May 1965, coinciding with the 50th Anniversary of the Friends Circle Club. The race was appropriately named the "The Friends Circle Anniversary Race". Total merchandise prizes and trophies were $300 and 51 riders competed. In 1966, the race was named "Moline Criterium" on the official rider entry forms.
With the withdrawal of the VFW in 1969 as sponsor of the Criterium, the club raised funds and sponsored the race for the first time. The Criterium program expanded to include Senior Men, Novice, Junior Men, and Citizens. John Howard, an American road racing legend in the 1970s and 80s, won the Senior Men's race.
The Moline Criterium was not held in 1971 or '72. In late 1972 Mel Bradley, a Davenport racer and Terry Burke, QCBC President, recognized the lack of a Quad Cities race. In spring of 1973, the Moline Criterium was revived, with Rene DeLanghe soliciting sponsors and Roger DeLanghe providing colorful announcing. Although a bicycle-selling boom was occurring at this time, the racing field was less than 150, prizes were overvalued bike parts, and spectators were insignificant. Debbie Bradley won the National Road Racing Championship in 1973 and the Moline Criterium Women's race in 1973 and '74.
Starting in 1975, the Southwest Business Association began to inject marketing and spectator interest into the Moline Criterium. The date was settled on Memorial Day, and the start finish line was moved to 7th Street, in front of several taverns. Bleachers were placed on the 7th Street corners. Jeff & Jacque Bradley became Junior National Champions, and Jeff won the 1978 Moline Criterium Senior Feature race.
The Moline Criterium continued to grow, both from a spectator and rider standpoint, from 350 riders in 1981 to 649 in 1988, with prize lists going from $1,800 in 1981 to $14,250 in 1988. Snow fence and Porta-potties were added to accommodate the greatly increased crowds. Growth continued in spite of 5 years in a row of rain on Memorial Day. Stern Beverage came on as a Title Sponsor in 1983.
The 1986 Criterium drew an estimated 8000 spectators. By 1988, the crowd had grown to an estimated 18,000, with more police and Porta-potties added to control the rowdy crowd that was present in 1987. National teams such as 7-11 frequently dominated the feature races. In 1989, United Medical Center became a Title Sponsor. Family activities were staged in nearby Stephens Park and marketing and advertising expertise was incorporated by United Medical Center.
Fed by the fitness boom and Greg Lemond's victories in the Tour De France, Moline Criterium riders peaked at 649 in 1992. The large crowds continued to be both positive and negative factors in presenting the race. Positives were vendor income and the rider reaction to cheers thru out the primarily residential racecourse, the negatives being the incidents between homeowners and well-lubricated spectators. The possibility of accidents was also a concern. TV 8 became a Co-Title Sponsor in this period, further adding to the advertising punch. The prize list went to $20,000.
The 1996 Moline Criterium and following summer proved to be a very turbulent experience for QCBC. Riders declined from the 1992 peak, but problems with drinking in residential areas did not. More importantly, the two title sponsors pulled out after Memorial Day, leaving a huge void in financial, advertising, and marketing support.
At a criterium committee meeting, it was decided to investigate the feasibility of moving the criterium to the District of Rock Island. It was found that the District had a paid marketing staff for festivals, which also could solicit sponsors. In addition, the Criterium could use fencing used for the Labor Day Go Kart races. Unfortunately, during the feasibility study, the local media got wind of the proposed move, and it became front-page news for the three Quad Cities newspapers, and subject of TV interviews. QCBC President Joe Jamison, Criterium Treasurer Doug Nelson, and Race Director Terry Burke spent the balance of the 1996 summer explaining the move to other QCBC members, plus City of Moline officials, and South West Bluff Business representatives.
The 1997 Quad Cities Criterium, the first year in Rock Island, was one of the coldest, windiest and wettest on record, but the following year 1998 was much better with 568 riders, 18,000 spectators and a revamped course thru the heart of the District. Growth continued with inline skates, hand cycles, midnight street sprints, added to the program along with BMX trick riders, climbing wall, music, & numerous vendors for other family entertainment. By 2004, the Quad Cities Criterium was on the United States Cycling Federation National Racing Calendar, as one of the top 35 criteriums in the country. Spectators were treated to competition between national level pro teams and high quality Midwest riders. There were several major sponsors but no title sponsor. The prize list totaled $18,000.
The 39th anniversary in 2006 marked the Quad Cities Criterium as the longest running sporting event in the Quad Cities and one of the oldest in the country. After the 2006 race, long standing director Terry Burke handed the race director position to Donnie Miller, as Terry took on a lessor role. A new title sponsor Criterium Financial, came on for a couple of years, followed by Modern Woodman Bank for 3 years. Program changes included the "Hot Spots Sprints" Lance Armstrong Junior Olympic Road Race series, Illinois Cup, the Nature Valley Pro Chase. Other changes included a bicycle rodeo, pancake breakfast, child ID program and an additional women's race.
In 2009 long time announcer Roger DeLanghe passed away and the following year the kid's trike races were named in his honor. Genesis Medical came on as a title sponsor in 2012, but the economic recession and decreased spectators precipitated reduced sponsor dollars with the prize list falling to $14,000. Fortunately riders continued to race, with 568 entries. A professional race director, Tom Schuler was hired in the summer of 2013 to solicit new sponsors and evaluate the venue for the 2014 event. Efforts by Tom Schuler, the QCBC Criterium Committee and the QCBC Board resulted in a successful move of the 2014 Quad Cities Criterium to the Village of East Davenport. The new course included the Village's business district and the McClellan Heights residential streets. Riders, spectators and sponsors applauded the races and the new venue supporting the vision of growing the event to its former glory.