Competitive cycling returns to Bay View this summer

April 1, 2015

By Sheila Julson

Spectators watch racers during the Downer Avenue leg of the Tour of America’s Dairyland last year in June.  PHOTO KARL HENDRIKSE

Spectators watch racers during the Downer Avenue leg of the Tour of America’s Dairyland last year in June.
PHOTO KARL HENDRIKSE

South Shore cycling enthusiasts who enjoy the action of street bike racing — cyclists whizzing by in a pack, the sound of derailleurs shifting, winners speeding through the finish line to a cheering crowd — are in luck. The Tour of America’s Dairyland (ToAD), an energetic street bike race presented by Midwest Cycling Series, LLC (MCS), will include a Bay View leg Friday, June 26.

The start-finish line will be at the intersection of Kinnickinnic and Lincoln avenues. Cyclists will pedal laps south on Kinnickinnic to Linus Street, Linus to Woodward Street, north on Woodward to Lincoln, west on Lincoln to Allis Street, north on Allis to Ward Street, west on Ward back to Kinnickinnic and then return south onto Kinnickinnic. During the day, streets along the course will be blocked and all traffic and Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) buses rerouted.

The ToAD races are criterium style (crit, in racing terms), which is a course less than one mile that allows spectators to witness the cyclists go past every three minutes, versus longer courses where observers only see the action about every 15 minutes.

Since June 2009, ToAD has brought competitive cyclists from 43 states and 20 countries to Wisconsin for its annual 11-day run, said Bill Koch, one of six partners in MCS, a lifetime cyclist and former competitive cyclist. Daily ToAD races, which are free of charge for spectators, are held throughout metro Milwaukee and other stops in southeast Wisconsin. Daily purses range from $10 for amateur placement, up to approximately $400 for pro categories. The purse for the entire series is in excess of $130,000, Koch said.

Bringing It to Bay View

The June 26 Bay View leg will be ToAD’s only presence in the South Shore community and its first time in Bay View since the race’s inception. Koch had long desired to bring a race to Bay View and approached the Bay View Business Improvement District #44 (BID) back in January 2012.

But around that time, the South Shore had a professional racing presence in International Cycling Classic Superweek (ICC), the now-defunct racing series founded by Otto Wenz, Jr. in 1968. ICC’s Bay View course ran through Humboldt Park, and in 2011, an ICC race was also held along Kinnickinnic Avenue. Koch said ToAD would be using that same route in June. ICC folded after the 2012 season. Cudahy and South Milwaukee also had hosted ICC races.

Koch said his older records showed that Bay View’s business community favored a Friday race date. ToAD had previously reserved the second Friday of the race for a community in Fond du Lac, Wis., but this year, their sponsorship fell through. With a Friday open for 2015, Koch felt the time was right to renew contact with the Bay View community.

Carisse Ramos, executive assistant to current BID president Lee Barczak, said when Koch approached them again about holding a race in Bay View, many BID members seemed impressed with Koch’s handle on organizing and promoting the race. “Given how big the bicycle community is in Bay View, it was enthusiastically received by the BID,” Ramos said. “Lowlands (Group, which owns Café Centraal), and Colectivo Coffee were particularly enthusiastic and stepped up as main sponsors.”

Koch said MCS initially received resistance from the city regarding its concerns over street closures and a strain on manpower, especially the Milwaukee Police Department, since other events including Summerfest and Milwaukee Brewers games occur about that same time. He credited Ald. Tony Zielinski’s support of the race and his help with navigating permit issues.

Since Kinnickinnic Avenue is part of Wisconsin State Trunk Highway 32, the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation had to approve the road closure. MCS obtained approval on March 13 from Milwaukee Department of Public Works (DPW) Special Event Permit Office, which issues permits for special events held in the public right-of-way.

Koch sees Bay View as a strong biking community with many similarities to the Downer Avenue and Wauwatosa neighborhoods where ToAD races are held and have become very popular.

“Bay View has the potential to be a Downer Avenue,” he observed. “There’s a large commercial corridor on KK and residential on the backside of the course. It’s a niche you see in ‘Tosa and on Downer; a nice combination of businesses willing to engage spectators and residential properties hosting lawn parties.”

According to Koch, ToAD has grown into the largest competitive cycling event in United States, within the last three years. “It has enjoyed tremendous success, with both rider support and spectator participation,” he said.

Sheila Julson, sjulson@wi.rr.com, is a freelance writer and blogs at cappersfarmer.com/blogs/return-to-our-roots.

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