Gabrielle Barriere

11 Years, 11 Days of Tour of America’s Dairyland

Largest competitive road cycling event in the U. S. comes to town this week.

By - Jun 25th, 2019 02:51 pm
2017 IS Corp Otto Wenz Downer Classic. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

2017 IS Corp Otto Wenz Downer Classic. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

The Tour of America’s Dairyland rolls into Milwaukee this week. The 11-day cycling series will hold races in to Shorewood on Thursday, Bay View on Friday, Downer Avenue and East Tosa the following days. It’s about more than the cycling, though; each race is a free community event complete with a number of day-long community festivals.

The series, which bills itself as “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 you’re getting yourself into.

  1. These are professional racers
    The last women’s and men’s race of each day is stacked with professional cyclists who make their living going as fast as possible. While the early races everyday come equipped with amateurs of all ages, the two final races come with internationally seasoned riders competing at the highest levels. New to 2019, ToAD will launch a new six-day, Masters 50- plus competitive race series in addition to its traditional combined Masters 40-plus and 50-plus series. This new series is designed to attract a larger share of the majority of USA Cycling licensees, of which, 63 percent race in the men’s Masters category.
  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 is 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. Each race in Milwaukee offers various “junior” races with different age groups and times.
  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 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 $30. 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 and get your tickets here.
  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 races 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. Most bicyclists probably couldn’t even maintain it going downhill.
  7. It’s all about 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’ location (we are in America’s Dairyland) it also serves as an easy and delicious way to re-fuel 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 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. Is that…a unicycle?
    Yes, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. For the first time ever, the Downer Classic will be featuring those infamous bicycles with just one wheel. The MKE Unicyclists Uni-Crit Classic will pit unicyclists of all ages competing to complete two full laps of the course for a chance to earn bragging rights and excellent prizes. As if the Downer Classic hasn’t already made bike racing history as one of America’s premier criteriums, you won’t want to miss what they have in store this year.
  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 2018 race featured cyclists from multiple states and countries. Generous families welcome the cyclists into their homes for the event. ToAD has become especially popular with the Aussies, who last year had the second largest international contingent aside from Canada. With the number of Aussies headed to the states for the first time, they may just outnumber other countries this year.
  11. Each race is different
    No two races are the same — and that’s especially true here in Milwaukee. The Bay View Classic 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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