ToAD gears up for 11th annual bike racing series

June 20 through June 30, expected to draw hundreds of spectators and cyclists

Cyclists cooling down after the Pro 1/2 Women's race on June 29.

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:09 pm

Later this month, more than 1,000 professional and amateur cyclists will take to the streets of southeastern Wisconsin for what’s considered the largest competitive road biking series in the country.

Now in its 11th year, Tour of America’s Dairyland will make stops in 11 communities over 11 consecutive days, from June 20 through June 30. During this series, main streets and thoroughfares become criterium-style race routes that host about 10 races per day, attracting a daily average of almost 500 cyclists.

ToAD’s host city schedule includes:

  • Kenosha, June 20
  • East Troy, June 21
  • Grafton, June 22
  • Waukesha, June 23
  • West Bend, June 24
  • Janesville, June 25
  • Muskego, June 26
  • Shorewood, June 27
  • Bay View, June 28
  • Downer Avenue on Milwaukee’s East Side, June 29
  • East Tosa, June 30

New to that lineup this year is Muskego, which replaces Port Washington. Those races will be held at Muskego Park.

Host communities are responsible for planning day-long festivals and events that coincide with ToAD race day. Last year, those functions helped attract more than an estimated 110,000 total spectators during the almost-two-week series. See photos from night nine of ToAD 2018, which took place in Bay View.  

“We love bringing this entertainment to the communities– and it’s free entertainment,” said Bill Koch, executive director at ToAD.

Koch, along with founding partners Bill Ochowicz and Tom Schuler, first launched the tour in 2009.

ToAD estimates the series generates more than $2 million in economic impact to Wisconsin.

That’s in part because the race draws competitors from 40 states and more than 12 countries. Seventy percent of last year’s racers came from out of state, and about ten percent of ToAD participation is international, said ToAD. 

Most of those international cyclist hail from either Canada or Australia, but other countries such as Switzerland, Colombia and Italy are also represented. This year, a four-man professional team will travel from Germany to participate, a first for ToAD, Koch said.

ToAD this year will launch a new six-day competitive race series for Master-level cyclists who are 50 and older, which will take place in addition to its traditional combined Masters 40 and 50 plus series.

“The shortened series within ToAD is designed to better accommodate this age group’s ability to leave work, travel and race,” said ToAD Executive Director, Bill Koch. “We’re hoping it will be much easier for these cyclists to get away for six days of racing instead of eleven, and as such attract a larger number of Masters racers to ToAD and southern Wisconsin.”

Rider numbers last year saw an almost 10 percent increase from the previous year, which is a big deal for a “sport that is really hurting across the country in terms of participation,” he said.

Koch attributes that growth to increased awareness throughout the cycling community. New participants often learn about the event through word of mouth, and returning riders will sometimes bring along a teammate or two the following year, he said.

The organization was also able to boost its marketing efforts last year thanks to a two-year grant from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. 

And those efforts have paid off. Bicycling magazine recently named ToAD as one of three “Criteriums to Put on Your Bucket List,” which gave the event, and the state, national exposure, Koch said. 

“That’s a big part of it– making the connection and making the Wisconsin connection,” he said.

That pro-Wisconsin philosophy holds true for most of ToAD’s partnerships, too. La Crosse-based Kwik Trip last year became the event’s presenting sponsor and Franklin-based Midwest Orthopedic Specialty Hospital is its official medical provider.

ToAD secured several new local sponsors this year, including New Berlin-based KS Energy Services, Mequon-based Ovation Hand Institute and Wauwatosa-based Dental Arts Associates. 

Milwaukee-based restaurant operator Lowlands Group will sponsor the new Lowlands Lion Prime Sprint Competition, which will take place halfway through each race during all 11 race days. The winners of those sprint competitions will wear a Lowlands-designed jersey during the following race day.

Early registration for ToAD opened in April. So far, total race entries have surpassed 3,000, so about 2,000 more entries are needed to meet last year’s record numbers, Koch said. He expects more registrations to come in later next week before online registration closes.

“It’s a good place to be,” he said. “We’re thrilled this is year 11– we’re still having a lot of fun doing this.”

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Maredithe Meyer
Maredithe Meyer started as an intern reporter at BizTimes in summer 2015. She currently covers entertainment, sports, tourism and restaurants. In May 2017, she graduated with a journalism degree from Marquette University where she worked as an in-depth projects reporter for the Marquette Wire and Marquette Tribune.