Jeramey Jannene

Cancellation Reversed, Downer Classic Will Be Part of Bike Racing Series

Tour of America's Dairyland will host races on East Side main street on June 24th.

By - Jun 3rd, 2021 02:31 pm
2017 IS Corp Otto Wenz Downer Classic. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

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

It’s been a rough two years for event planners.

Even with the local elimination of health restrictions and an easing of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been hard to plan outdoor events given the amount of lead time required

But at least one annual event will return, the Otto Wentz Cafe Hollander Downer Classic bicycle races.

The race will be part of the 12th annual Tour of America’s Dairyland (ToAD). Sponsored by Kwik Trip, the multi-day, outdoor series features daily races ranging from amateurs to professional men’s and women’s races. The Downer Classic, which predates the series, has long been its signature race drawing large crowds and thousands of dollars in prizes.

The 2021 edition will take place on Thursday, June 24th replacing a scheduled race at the Milwaukee Mile racetrack. Cyclists will do laps around an approximately one-mile-long, triangular course along N. Downer Ave., E. Park Pl., and N. Lake Dr. Top speeds in the pro races at the end of the night are likely to exceed 35 miles per hour.

In early March ToAD organizers were hopeful they could pull off the race, and a host of others in the city of Milwaukee. But all of the city races were ultimately canceled by the end of the month amidst concerns over the disease spread and regulations.

The ToAD team, led by Bill Koch, announced Tuesday that the race was back on.

“After a hard year, hearing the news about The Downer Classic coming back is so exciting,” said Hugo Flores of Pizza Man in a statement released by the Historic Downer Avenue Business Improvement District. “This event has been great for the community around us. It not only gives us the opportunity to showcase our businesses, but also it is an opportunity to have fun, create new memories and new friendships.”

Bicyclists compete in timed races, completing lap after lap in fan-friendly loops on city streets. An announcer keeps the crowd informed on what’s happening, with pace cars and video display boards also keeping track of the action.

In March, Koch told Urban Milwaukee that his organization had been working with host health departments to coordinate capacity limits and other restrictions for each race. On a normal year the races require coordination on street closures and setting up barriers, as well as finding sponsors.

A new Brady Street race is expected to take place in 2022. The Downer race is expected to return to its normal Saturday schedule next year. The 2020 series was canceled.

The women’s pro race runs from 4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. at the 2021 Downer Classic. The men’s race from 7:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Other races, including a hand cycle race, will take place throughout the day. A full schedule is available on the Downer BID website. Information on other races is available on the ToAD website.

2021 Schedule

  • June 16: Milwaukee Mile (Juniors only)
  • June 17: Janesville
  • June 18: Janesville
  • June 19: Grafton
  • June 20: Off day
  • June 21: Manitowoc
  • June 22: Manitowoc
  • June 23: Hartland
  • June 24: Downer Classic
  • June 25: Shorewood
  • June 26: Wauwatosa – Washington Highlands
  • June 27: Wauwatosa – Village

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