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 Pedaling up the steepest portion of Hillcrest Avenue on Friday, Bruce Grell rises from the seat of his race bike to maximize his speed and power before taking a sharp left turn on Glenwood Avenue and rushing downhill on Fulton Avenue.

Grell, the owner of Healthy Habits Nutrition and Bicycles in Bettendorf, zipped around the Village of East Davenport on a practice run to prepare for Memorial Day's 49th annual Quad-Cities Criterium.

At the steepest portion of Hillcrest Avenue — a 12 percent grade — Grell's grade-and-power-reading gadget recorded him producing 1,000 watts.

"This pumps me up," he said. "We can all ride up it, it's just going to depend on who rides up it the fastest, the most times."

Joining hundreds of other cyclists Monday, Grell will race around the .7-mile loop for 30 minutes in the men’s masters 40-plus division, representing the local racing team, DICE, or Double I Cycling Experience. The "Double I" stands for Illinois and Iowa.

The Criterium's former course in Moline's Olde Towne for the first 31 years of the race was flat, and The District of Rock Island's course, which hosted the race for the past 16 years, also lacked hills.

That changes with this weekend's races.

Before the race, the city of Davenport knew the East Village route needed some fixing.

Mike Clarke, director of Davenport Public Works, said that over the past three weeks, city teams worked with first-year race director Tom Schuler and patched potholes, fixed alleyways and repaired stormwater basins.

“It’s the same kind of work we would normally do on a street, only a different customer,” he said. “It’s a high-pressure tire less than one-inch wide moving at 30 mph with a 150-pound body on it, not a Cadillac car cruising along at 25 mph.”

Specifically, Clarke compared the work to preparing for the Quad-City Times Bix 7 road race.

“But in that case, the customer is a two-footed, fast-moving individual,” he said.

Throughout the weekend, crews will monitor the streets for gravel and debris and run a street sweeper before Monday morning.

John Harrington, president of the Quad-Cities Bicycle Club, said the city has done an "artistic" repair job on the streets.

Roads will be closed Monday starting at 5 a.m., and motorists can use traffic signs to navigate their way around detour routes, Davenport Police Traffic Commander Lt. Jamie Brown said.

“The East Village is going to be shut down,” Brown said, adding there will be very limited parking in or around the area.

Brown urged cyclists to park at Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport or the Isle of Capri Casino in Bettendorf and ride to the race from there. Additional parking will be across the street from the East Village at Lindsay Park Yacht Club.

Davenport fire, EMS and police personnel will be on site, but on a lesser-scale than the Bix 7, Brown said.

Grell said he is worried that if it rains, riders racing down Fulton Avenue at 40 to 50 mph will meet two treacherous 90-degree sharp left turns from 12th Street onto Mound Street and Mound Street onto 11th Street.

"It could get sketchy," he said, adding cyclists have suffered broken collar bones cruising around those curves.

While Grell doesn't consider himself a favorite racing against retired pros and "some of the best in the country," he's excited for the opportunity.

"Just being in the same race with them gives you a huge rush," he said.

Business owners and residents in and around the East Village were almost as excited Friday as multiple cyclists and pedestrians toured the route and visited shops and restaurants.

Across the street from the start and finish line at the former fire station on 11th Street, workers at the East Village Cafe, 1104 Jersey Ridge Road, expect a big crowd Monday after they open at 5:30 a.m.

The cafe will have live music, pizza and beer, and employee Maryfrances Swartout said all hands will be on deck as they host their "Criterium after-party."

"It's supposed to be pretty hot, so we figure people will want cold beer," she said. "Usually, we close at three on Mondays, but that's obviously not happening."

Cyclists and spectators can expect almost every business along 11th Street to be open Monday, including the rooftop at Rudy's Tacos and 11th Street Precinct Bar and Grill.

J.J. Condon, who lives at the corner of Glenwood and Fulton avenues, said he is planning to have a big get-together Monday.

"We're going for the Tour-de-France crowd look and dressing up in silly costumes to cheer them on," Condon said. "It's a nice win for Davenport to bring this over to our side of the river. The Bix is cool, but this could really be the Village's own event."

After Grell tested the hill, sporting his red-and-white race gear, the driver of car turning onto 11th Street noticed him at the fire station and shouted, "Good luck Monday!"

"That's pretty cool people know what's going on," Grell said. "This is going to be fun."


Jack Cullen covers health, wellness and outdoor recreation for the Quad-City Times.