May 21, 2008

Le Tour de Racine? The cyclists are coming!

Racine will look like a leg of the Tour de France for one exciting day this summer.

The Racine County Convention and Visitors Bureau is bringing a smaller version of the fabled bicycle race downtown on Thursday, July 24, with 500 to 700 cyclists zooming around city streets for a full day of races. Ours is a leg of the International Cycling Classic.

Dave Blank, president and CEO of the RCCVB, told downtown merchants on Tuesday, at their Downtown Connections meeting, that the event will consist of a series of four or five criterium-style bicycle races ranging from 25 miles to 62 miles. He has mapped out an 8/10ths of a mile course around downtown: Main Street from State to Sixth, Sixth to College Avenue, College to Water Street, Water to Wisconsin Avenue, Wisconsin to State and State back to Main. The Start/Finish line will be on Main Street at the intersection of Fifth Street.

A criterium or 'crit' (according to those know-it-alls on the 'net) "is a timed race over a closed looping course. The loop can be any distance but is usually under a mile. The cyclists ride road bikes. The racers race for a determined amount of time, usually around 45 minutes, then, after the bell, there are five laps left to go all out." In other words, for most of the race the cyclists are together in a bunch, zooming around the city's streets. The longest race here is expected to last about two hours.

The RCCVB sent a letter this week to Mayor Gary Becker asking the city to close off the necessary streets from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on July 24, although the races themselves will last from approximately 10;30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The rest of the time is for setup and takedown. There will be time between races for vehicular traffic to enter and depart the area, Blank says.

The RCCVB is also considering having a live band on Monument Square from approximately 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Blank says: "The RCCVB has signed a three-year contract to host a leg of the International Cycling Classic. The International Cycling Classic (also known as SUPERWEEK) is celebrating its 40th year. It consists of a variety of bicycling races over a 17-day period in southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois at multiple venues. It is one of the three largest multi-day cycling events in the country and attracts riders from around the world. I believe that the last time that it was in Racine was 1997. Their very successful annual stop in Kenosha the following night (July 25) is part of “Food, Folks and Spokes.” Our intent is to grow this event over time to rival its success there."

A marketing brochure from Breakaway Events Productions, LLC of Milwaukee, the company the RCCVB has signed a contract with, describes the International Cycling Classic this way:
The 2008 International Cycling Classic will celebrate its 40th year with 17 consecutive days of high-caliber racing from July 11 - 27. The event series, also known as "SUPERWEEK," will feature races in 12 city centers throughout Wisconsin and Illinois including seven full days of racing in the Greater Milwaukee area. Host cities to the International Cycling Classic have used the races as centerpieces for popular and successful community events.

In 2007 nearly 250,000 spectators lined the streets and country roads to cheer on over 6,400 race entrants representing 42 states and more than 20 foreign countries - all battling for their share of a $120,000 prize purse. The schedule of racing in 2008 will be highlighted each day by the Superweek Pro Tour featuring the top professional and elite amateur cyclists with races beginning at 6 p.m. on most days. From July 11 - 27 the Superweek Women's Pro Tour will draw the top female cyclists for a double-dose of exciting racing action.

The International Cycling Classic features spectator-friendly races on courses of approximately one mile in length through commercial and residential districts. These criterium races offer constant action all along the course. The Classic also includes a small number of road races through Wisconsin's scenic countryside and along Milwaukee's scenic Lake Michigan shoreline.

The International Cycling Classic began as a single race at Milwaukee's Summerfest in 1969. In 1985, the event added several races in cities to the north of Milwaukee to become the two-week-long International Cycling Classic. In 2002, the event began expanding southward with the addition of races in the Chicago area. The Classic is now the oldest and longest-running multi-category cycling race in the United States and has a long-running tradition of international participation. Each year a European contingent travels overseas to compete in the races, adding a uniquely cosmopolitan flavor.
Here's the full schedule of this year's races:
Friday, July 11 Chicago, IL
Saturday, July 12 Blue Island, IL
Sunday, July 13 Homewood, IL
Monday, July 14 TBA
Tuesday, July 15 Bensenville, IL
Wednesday, July 16 Bensenville, IL
Thursday, July 17 Shorewood, WI
Thursday, July 17 Milwaukee, WI
Friday, July 18 Ripon, WI
Saturday, July 19 Waukesha, WI
Sunday, July 20 Evanston, IL
Monday, July 21 Hartford, WI
Tuesday, July 22 Cedarburg, WI
Wednesday, July 23 Hales Corner, WI
Thursday, July 24 Racine, WI
Friday, July 25 Kenosha, WI
Saturday, July 26 Milwaukee, WI
Sunday, July 27, Whitefish Bay, WI


  1. Dave B rocks out! He gets great events to Racine far more of them and better then say ... DRC.

    Keep Rocking Dave!

  2. They ran these types of races, don't know if it was this series, at Bastille Days in Milwaukee for a few years, at least 10-15 years ago. The loop went around Kilbourn and Jefferson - it's really exciting racing to watch!

    This is great news - maybe they should try to plan "harborfest" in downtown around this event.

  3. It must be 10-15 years since one of the SuperWeek races was in Racine. Perry Oksiuta and Co. from Racine Cyclery helped bring that event, but public turnout was dismal at best. The crowd consisted of the riders, volunteers assisting on the course, rider’s support family and personnel and perhaps 100 Racine onlookers. Hopefully we’ll get more this time around.

    SuperWeek did hold a race in the Milwaukee Bastille Days downtown area many years ago. The prime locations for SuperWeek remain however at the Shorewood, Downer Street (26 July) and Whitefish Bay (27 July) locations.

    Many of the great American and international cyclists that could not get a ride at the Tour participated in the SuperWeek series. This is a very exciting event to watch. I hope everyone can make it.