For many reasons Criterium racing is one of the best development pathways for North American bike racing. Short circuits make for easier road closures, spectators can watch the peloton repeatedly whizz past while an emcee animates the crowd, and people who might not otherwise know about bike racing are drawn in by the action in their local town. And, for the cyclists the races are thrilling. Recently, Brendan Quirk the current CEO of USA Cycling, outlined the governing body’s plans to promote criterium racing throughout the USA as they see it as a clear avenue for growing their pool of racing cyclists.
We are all on a high after spending the past week in Milwaukee, WI visiting family, friends and cheering on the criterium racers at the Tour of America’s Dairyland (TOAD). This crit series has a rich history, as it started in 1980s, fostered an incredible community and served as a development tool for American cycling. Michael and I competed in the event for many years and it was how I first learned about bike racing. Last summer, I wrote a short memoir about the event and how it sparked my love of cycling.
In its early days, it was a 17 day criterium series called Superweek and overlapped with the Tour de France. European based professional cyclists who did not make the Tour de France team would often come to compete and stay with host families in the community.
With the death of its founder, Otto Wenz, the race evolved. In 2011, former 7-Eleven professional cyclist and manager of multiple North American based professional cycling teams (Saturn, Volvo-Cannondale, Timex, Team Type-1 to name a few), Tom Schuler and his business partners took over organization of the event. Tom also organizes the Intelligentsia Criterium series in the Chicago area.
TOAD is now a 10 day criterium series in the greater Milwaukee area. This year, teams and individuals came from all over the world to compete. In fact, the men’s professional race was won by German, Florenz Knauer, Harriet Owen of the United Kingdom won the women’s professional series, while triple Olympic medallist Jenn Valente won the Sprint competition in the women’s event, and with several of the top American Junior teams competing, Ashlin Barry, racing solo, won the Junior overall while his teammates were in Edmonton, Alberta competing in the Canadian National Championships.
Locally, in Toronto, Midweek Cycling Club organizes a weekly criterium on Tuesdays and it is a great training opportunity. They also organize “Learn to Ride” programs for youth and adults. And for those interested in spectating the racing is fast and fun to watch.
TOAD 2022 Photo Gallery. Photography by Karl Hendriske and Mitchel Vincent