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Tour of America’s Dairyland returning to Northeast Wisconsin

De Pere, Manitowoc to each host bike races in June

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June 1, 2023

NORTHEAST WISCONSIN – Get ready for some bike racing – Wisconsin style.

The Tour of America’s Dairyland (ToAD), sponsored by Kwik Trip and first launched in 2009, will be coming to Wisconsin from June 15-26 – with stops in both De Pere and Manitowoc, among other areas in the southeastern part of the state.

For 11 consecutive days, fans will be able to witness the largest competitive road cycling series in the United States, with competitors oftentimes topping speeds of 35 mph – right here in Northeast Wisconsin.

“This type of racing – criterium, or crits for short – is very spectator-friendly,” Bill Koch, executive director of ToAD, said. “Racers race around a city block, usually on a course of a mile or less and complete numerous laps. Spectators get to view racers every few minutes. It’s fast and exciting.”

With different categories of racing, Koch said there’s something for everyone.

“From novice to professionals, you’ll see a wide variety of abilities and levels,” he said. “The pro riders – both men and women – usually end the day of racing. Those races are the highlights of the day.”

Manitowoc hosts its races Sunday, June 18, while De Pere hosts the next day – Monday, June 19.

The full ToAD racing series includes:
Thursday, June 15 – JanesvilleFriday, June 16 – East TroySaturday, June 17 – GraftonSunday, June 18 – ManitowocMonday, June 19 – De PereTuesday, June 20 – West AllisWednesday, June 21 – Mt. PleasantThursday, June 22 – Bay ViewFriday, June 23 – ShorewoodSaturday, June 24 – MilwaukeeSunday, June 25 – Wauwatosa
For more information and to register or volunteer, visit

Planning – and lots of it
Koch, who has been the ToAD executive director since 2015, said the series “takes quite a bit of planning” – both at an event level and within the municipalities where the race is held.

“After doing this for so many years, I have a grasp on everything,” he said. “It can be stressful, but most of that stress comes from communities that can’t get a grasp on saying, ‘Yes, we’re going to do this,’ or ‘No, we can’t.’ When we run into issues, it’s when cities don’t fully commit until March or April. That pushes all of the work and planning into a shorter window of time to make sure everything is set the way you want it.”

Koch said he likes to have contracts signed by either Jan. 1 or Feb. 1.

ToAD also includes a kids’ community event. Photo Courtesy of ToAD/Mitchell Vincent

“That leaves ample time to bring in the fire and police department, the department of public works, get permits secured and find volunteers,” he said. “Those are all the responsibilities of our partners. A lot of venues return year after year and know the rules.”

Manitowoc has been a race host for several years, but in the case of De Pere, it’s the first time hosting – though Green Bay has hosted several races in the past. 

“There’s a bit more hand-holding with first-year cities – and rightfully so,” Koch said. “We don’t enter into these agreements easily and then think, ‘Oh, we’re going to do De Pere this year and then go someplace different next year.’ It’s with the intention you create a sustainable event for the community, and they want us to come back every year.”

Koch said the main issue with planning an event of this magnitude is closing roads for the day.

“You’re closing roads for about 13-14 hours,” he said. “The roads in De Pere will close at about 8:30 a.m. and not reopen until 10:30 p.m.”

With other events, like a parade, roads are typically only closed for a couple of hours.

“When you have a mix of commercial and residential, and ask these people to support it, you also have to let them know they won’t have as much access to their driveways or parking lots for 14 hours. That’s where excellent communication comes in. We have this general rule of thumb – two months, two weeks, two days – (that’s how often we suggest municipalities check in with impacted businesses). You can’t over-communicate with people.”

Koch said most people are happy about the event coming to town.

“In residential areas, we’ve seen a lot of lawn parties where people have fun with it,” he said. “Having said that, you’re always going to have people who are unsettled about it – there’s no way you’ll get 100% of the people and businesses saying, ‘We love this.’ It’s part of the game and comes back to communication.”

A young fan cheers on her favorite cyclist at a past ToAD event. Photo Courtesy of ToAD/Mitchell Vincent

Koch said if businesses are affected negatively – such as being landlocked within the course, thus not allowing vehicle traffic – there are strategies to lighten the stress.

“Some businesses see an increase in business because of the foot traffic,” he said. “I’ve seen some communities rent golf carts to help transport customers to the store.”

Koch said that was the case for a Fond du Lac business that sold/rented formal wear.

“That particular race day was a Friday,” he said. “The shop was locked inside the course – people needed to come and pick up tuxedos and wedding/bride’s maid dresses. Golf carts were used to help satisfy customers.”

Koch said many businesses open their doors or have stands set up on the sidewalk.

“A few in the past have shut down their business for the day and enjoyed the races,” he said.

Koch said ToAD is like a “moving circus.”

“The communities bring in food trucks, music, etc.,” he said. “Some businesses say, ‘It might affect us negatively this one day of the year, but for the other 364 days, it’s a good thing for the community.’ Others don’t quite see it that way.”

De Pere stop
The De Pere course will use parts of Front, George, Superior, James and Williams streets, and a portion of Broadway – all along the Fox River.

“The De Pere course is challenging,” Koch said. “It’s about a mile in distance, has a parking lot climb, has some nice wide streets and a few narrow turns – it’s an exciting course. I think the pros will like it. We’ve never used a parking lot as part of a course before.”

Koch said ToAD originally looked at Green Bay as a host, but that didn’t come to fruition.

“After (Green Bay) was a no-go, I knew the De Pere folks were also interested,” he said. “Within a couple of days, they confirmed.”

De Pere Mayor James Boyd said he’s excited for ToAD to visit town.

“We’re always willing to try new things,” he said. “We know there might be hardships we’ll go through (with hosting the event), but that’s how you learn. We wouldn’t put on an event of this size thinking it’s only a one-year deal – we intend to make this a yearly thing.”

 De Pere’s course will be along the Fox River near Voyageur Park. Submitted Graphic

Boyd said Tina Quigley, executive director of Definitely De Pere, set up a meeting in late January to discuss ToAD.

“We knew nothing about ToAD at that point,” Boyd said. “After hearing all of the information, we were intrigued. We said, ‘Wow, this would be exciting.’ I think all of the logistics will be worth it.”

Boyd said shutting down roads is the “biggest challenge” for the municipality.

“The day (the event is coming to town) was important to us,” he said. “Not that every day isn’t important for businesses but having it on a Monday helped a lot. We were also informed residents and businesses (will be able to) cross (the course) into their venues for 15 minutes every hour – or something like that. When you have that worked out, it makes it a lot easier.”

Bosse’s News and Tobacco, which moved from Downtown Green Bay to De Pere earlier this year, is situated directly on the course at 107 S. Broadway.

“When Definitely De Pere came out with their schedule of events, I put everything on the calendar,” Store Manager Lisa Mitchell said. “We plan our summer events around everything – including ToAD – to make sure we are here and not out of town.”

Mitchell said ToAD is an opportunity to showcase downtown De Pere.

“There will be visitors and racers from all over the country,” she said. “With it being right outside our front and back doors, personally, I’m also excited to watch. I plan on being at work most of the day.”

From a business standpoint, Mitchell said she anticipates having lots of foot traffic that day.

“I expect nothing but good things to come from this,” she said.

Manitowoc stop
The Manitowoc course, situated south of Union Park and north of the Manitowoc River, will use parts of York, Buffalo, 6th, 7th, 8th and Chicago streets.

After hosting criterium races about a decade ago, Koch said Manitowoc took a hiatus before rejoining in 2021.

“It’s a challenging course with eight corners, an uphill finish and our only course with a Kwik Trip on it,” he said. “Plus, being a few short blocks from Lake Michigan, it offers some spectacular views of ‘America’s Fresh Coast.’”

Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nickels, who has held the role since 2009, said the city embraces ToAD coming to town.

“When I was in grade school, there were bike races in Manitowoc, but then shortly after I became mayor, we no longer hosted,” he said. “My dad owned a bike store right near the race route. Summertime in Manitowoc is our booming tourist season – special events are important to the city. When ToAD was looking for host cities in 2021, we jumped right back into the mix – we’re glad it’s back.”

The Manitowoc course will be south of Union Park and north of the Manitowoc River. Submitted Graphic

Nickels said ToAD “has been hugely positive for the downtown.”

“We’ve talked a lot about revitalizing our downtown – how do you do that?” he said. “You shut off streets and have businesses open during those special events. Most people and businesses are great about it.”

Nickels said if there are any issues, it’s usually because residents have more difficulty leaving/getting to their houses.

“We found volunteers to make sure we can ease that worry and keep people safe,” he said. “Although the course is downtown, it affects some residential areas. We changed the route a little bit this year to try and avoid some of that.”

Nickels said the bars and restaurants inside the racecourse also take advantage.

“Some of them aren’t even open on Sunday, but they open specially for this day,” he said.

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