Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:11 pm
The 10th annual Tour of America’s Dairyland on Sunday wrapped up the 11-day road cycling series that proved to draw the largest number of cyclists the organization has seen since its 2009 birth.
Almost 5,500 professional and amateur cyclists from 40 states and 15 countries, including Japan, registered to participate in this year’s ToAD, which ran from June 21 to July 1. That number is an 8.6 percent increase from last year, which saw slightly over 5,000 racers, according to ToAD.
During the 11-day tour, main streets and thoroughfares in 11 communities throughout southeastern Wisconsin transformed into one-to-two-kilometer race routes for 7-10 races with an average of almost 500 cyclists per day.
Participating cyclists and thousands of spectators this year braved heat advisories, and rain storms, which twice delayed races in Wauwatosa on July 1.
Races on June 30 in Milwaukee’s East Side neighborhood, which were held as part of the Downer Classic Bike Races, had the largest turnout of the series with 655 racers. Downtown Janesville this year was the newest stop on the tour, and hosted 470 total racers for its June 26 races– a successful turnout for its first year and a weekday race, ToAD co-founding partner Bill Ochowicz said.
“Even in the pouring rain, there were thousands of spectators,” Ochowicz said. “It was amazing.”
A former elite-level cyclist himself, Ochowicz helped launch the tour in 2009. Over ten years, he has seen the series grow from a five-day event with a total of 2,300 registrations to almost 6,000, he said.
Ochowicz, along with co-founding partners Bill Koch and Tom Schuler, work throughout the year to secure partnerships– this year its presenting sponsor was Lacrosse-based Kwik Trip– and develop relationships and eventual partnerships with the tour’s host cities.
ToAD is sold as– what Ochowicz calls– a “bike race in a box,” and the community is required to build a larger, locally-based event around it, he said.
“We bring the show, and the community puts their own event on that could be difference from town to town,” Koch said. “We want the community to be our partner in it and we try to be respectful of their own interests.”
This year’s event was expected to attract over 147,600 attendees to southeastern Wisconsin and generate an estimated $2.4 million in visitor spending in the area. Earlier this year ToAD received a $23,538 Joint Effort Marketing grant from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.