Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

11 Best Things About Tour of America’s Dairyland

All about the unique bicycle races held in Milwaukee this week.

By - Jun 19th, 2017 09:52 pm
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Justin Williams

Justin Williams

The Tour of America’s Dairyland rolls into Milwaukee this week. The 11-day cycling series will hold races in Schlitz Park on Tuesday, Bay View on Friday and Downer Ave. on Saturday, as well as in nearby Shorewood and Wauwatosa. It’s about more than the cycling, though; each race is a free community event complete with a number of events.

The series, which bills itself as the “the largest competitive road cycling event in the United States,” features cyclists doing high-speed laps on short courses with a lot of cash up for grabs. The action comes fast, so you’ll want to read our 11 fast facts to know more about what you’re getting yourself into.

1. These are professional racers

The last women’s and men’s race of each day is stocked with professional cyclists who make their living going as fast as possible. While the early races everyday come stocked with amateurs of all ages, the two final races come with internationally seasoned riders competing at the highest levels. Meet some of the more prominent riders in our profiles from past tours.

2. Get ready to cheer for the prime laps

Perhaps one of the most unusual things for first-time spectators to grasp are the races within the race. At various points, the announcers will call out a prime (pronounced “preem”). What follows a prime announcement is a large cash prize and riders in the pack sprinting to win that one lap. While the race itself will last up to 90 minutes, the primes can come at any point and include racers going all out to bring home some extra cash.

3. Bring the kids (and their bikes)

The Tour of America’s Dairyland is a family-friendly event, never more so than during the mini-events that take place between the marquee races. The Shorewood Criterium features a kids race at 6:15 p.m. The IS Corp Otto Wenz Downer Classic on Saturday includes a “tween” race at 6:10 p.m. and a kid’s race at 6:25 p.m. The East Tosa Gran Prix on Sunday will have a kids’ race at 6:00 p.m.

4. Make sure to circle the course yourself

The best way to experience the race is to take it all in. Don’t just plant yourself in one spot. Take your time to walk a lap around the approximately one-mile long courses. You’ll find the most action by the finish lines, but the tight curves also bring plenty of drama.

And here’s a tip, you won’t want to miss the pinch point at the Cafe Centraal Bay View Classic on E. Lincoln Ave.

5. Don’t miss the Ben’s Cycle Super Prime Party on Saturday

There’s one event over the finale weekend that you won’t want to miss. During the IS Corp Otto Wenz Downer Classic Ben’s Cycle, a Milwaukee bicycle shop, throws a party on N. Hackett Ave. just south of E. Park Pl. that includes all-you-can-drink New Beligum Brewing beer and all-you-can-eat Italian sausages and a t-shirt. The price of admission is $25. The funds get split evenly between prime laps for the men’s and women’s races. Ben’s hopes to raise over $5,000 for each prime. Learn more.

6. Cyclists hit over 35 miles per hour

The last race of the day, the Men’s Pro Race, will showcase riders routinely hitting 35 miles-per-hour. They’re burning. If you stand in the right spot at the course you’ll be only a couple feet from the racers and will feel quite the breeze as they fly by.

If you’re still not impressed, get your bike out and try to do this, much less for 11 days in a row. I probably couldn’t even maintain it going downhill.

7. It’s all about the milk (and cowbells)

The first thing you’ll see after each race is riders making their way for coolers full of milk. And while it serves as a perfect tie-in for the series’ presenting sponsor, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, it also serves as an easy and delicious way to refuel after the race. The dairy theme doesn’t stop at chocolate milk: cowbells are also a staple of the races. Fans ring the bells as races come around every corner.

8. Look for the special jerseys

You’ll notice that riders are divided up into teams. And while each team is easily identifiable by their matching uniforms and helmets, there will be a couple specially dressed racers on the course. The leader of men’s professional series will be sporting a yellow spotted white jersey as they compete, while the women’s professional series leader will be sporting a pink spotted white jersey. A number of other jerseys are also available for leaders in different series and daily winners.

9. Kegs, fixies and fat bikes, oh my

There are a number of unique races each day. The Schlitz Park Criterium features a one-mile foot race. The IS Cop Otto Wenz Downer Classic includes a race where people on tricycles drag with empty kegs strapped behind them. The Cafe Centraal Bay View Classic includes a fat bike race, the 40-minute Hugh Jass Fat Bike Criterium.

The Bay View and Downer races also feature fixed gear races. Besides looking different with riders having to pedal non-stop, the fixed gear races even sound different. There is no shifting on a fixed gear, so you don’t hear the mashing of gears that is a staple of the other races.

10. These riders become part of your community

People all across the region play host to the cyclists. While many of them are local, especially at the amateur levels, the 2016 race featured cyclists from 42 states and 15 countries. Generous families welcome the cyclists into their homes for the event.

11. Each race is different

The Schlitz Park course features a large hill, which rewards charging hill climbers and makes for thrilling downhill chases. The Bay View course features six corners and a late night men’s race under the lights. The Downer Classic draws large crowds and charged up cyclists aiming for the many primes. And the final race, the East Tosa Gran Prix, is a family-friendly event that features cyclists giving it their all to finish at the top.

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