10 Reasons to Watch Wisconsin’s Premiere Cycling Circuit
The Tour of America's Dairyland bike racing series is back. You won't want to miss it.
The Tour of America’s Dairyland rolls into Milwaukee next week. Now in its 10th year, the 11-day cycling series will stage races in Bay View next Friday and Downer Ave. next 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 races and other activities.
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 10 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 every day 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 6:20 p.m. The Otto Wenz Cafe Hollander 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.
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 Otto Wenz Cafe Hollander 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 Belgium 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. “We like to call it NASCAR on two wheels,” jokes series executive director Bill Koch.
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. 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 jersey as they compete, while the women’s professional series leader will be sporting a pink jersey. A number of other jerseys are also available for leaders in different series and daily winners.
8. Kegs, fixies and fat bikes, oh my
There are a number of unique races each day. The East Tosa Gran Prix includes a kids race. The Otto Wenz Cafe Hollander Downer Classic includes a race where people on tricycles pull empty kegs strapped behind them. The Cafe Centraal Bay View Classic includes a fat bike race, the 50-minute Hugh Jass Fat Bike Criterium.
Most notably, this year’s Giro D’ Grafton race day will include the criterium national championship for Para-cycling.
The Bay View, Shorewood 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.
9. 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, racers are coming from over 40 states and 15 countries. Generous families welcome the cyclists into their homes for the event.
10. Each race is different
The Port Washington course features a large hill, which rewards charging hill climbers and makes for thrilling downhill chases. The Bay View features a late night men’s race under lights. The Downer Classic draws large crowds and charged up cyclists aiming for the many high-value 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.
- Giro D’ Grafton – June 23rd
- Waukesha Carl Zach Cycling Classic – June 24th
- Downtown West Bend Concourse – June 25th
- Janesville Town Square Gran Prix – June 26th
- Port Washington Race the Harbor – June 27th
- Shorewood Criterium Cycling Classic – June 28th
- Cafe Centraal Bay View Classic – June 29th
- Otto Wenz Cafe Hollander Downer Classic – June 30th
- East Tosa Gran Prix – July 1st