The start of the TOAD in Shorewood on Thursday night presents another opportunity for young, local riders to find early success against top competition; for pros to win thousands in lap prizes and for masters racers (35 and up) to compete for 11 consecutive days.
Organizers expect roughly 450 racers will take the start line at individual events, spread out from Milwaukee to Madison, and Waukesha to Ripon.
The pro men will pursue $48,000 in cash prizes, along with the coveted yellow, cow-print jersey.
The women’s prize purse is $31,000 and the top team will win $10,000.
“The benefit for us in that is to get teams to come and stay for the whole series,” said Jack Hirt, the tour director. “We just want to offers something unique, a team competition in an omnium is not something found in many places in the United States.”
While the tour starts in Shorewood, the Giro ‘d Grafton on Saturday is likely to draw the strongest field of pro riders. The Giro is part of the nine-race USA Crits Championship Series.
“Some of the top pros in North America will fly in just for that race,” said Brent Emery, a 1984 Olympian and local bike shop owner. “The Grafton race will attract a truly world-class field.”
Emery, 53, expects to have tough competition for the overall title in the masters division. Amateurs from across the country will spend some of their vacation time in Wisconsin, drawn by the opportunity to race 11 days in a row.
“In that respect, it really is like doing the Tour de France,” he said.
One huge difference, though, is the race format. All but two of the Tour of America’s Dairyland events are criteriums, contested on courses roughly one mile in length, and on city streets. Spectators will see the racers flying past every two to three minutes.
“It’s great to be able to spend a few hours with your friends and family while watching a world-class event,” Emery said. “There are very few world-class sports where you can be that intimate with the action.”
Among the riders Emery plans to watch is Jordan Cullen, 15-year-old from Hudson, who won the Wisconsin State Road Race Championship on June 5. He could be the next rider to follow Busche and 2010 TOAD winner James Stemper up the ranks of pro cycling.
In the women’s group, Samantha Schneider, from West Allis, and Ashley James, from Dousman, will be looking to build on the successes they’ve had this season.
Check out the schedule of races here.