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Block Parties And Elite Cycling. The Largest Competitive Road Cycling Series In The U.S. Is Back In Milwaukee! With Tom Schuler, Bill Koch And Ryan Barbieri

Block Parties And Elite Cycling. The Largest Competitive Road Cycling Series In The U.S. Is Back In Milwaukee! With Tom Schuler, Bill Koch And Ryan Barbieri

Tour of America’s Dairyland is back for its 13th year Thursday, June 16 through Sunday, June 26, 2022! Tour of America’s Dairyland (ToAD) began in…

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Tour of America’s Dairyland is back for its 13th year Thursday, June 16 through Sunday, June 26, 2022!

Tour of America’s Dairyland (ToAD) began in 2009 as a “reboot” of Wisconsin’s Superweek, a multi-day cycling race that first started in Wisconsin in 1969. ToAD has then gone on to become the largest competitive road cycling series in the U.S., hosting eleven straight days of racing throughout Southeast Wisconsin.

In this episode, we’re joined by Tom Schuler, founder of ToAD, Bill Koch, Executive Director and Partner of ToAD, and Ryan Barbieri, cyclist and EVP at M3 (a sponsor of this year’s race). We’ll discuss the history of Tour of America’s Dairyland, what sets ToAD apart from other races, and what they’re most looking forward to this year.

Learn more: https://www.tourofamericasdairyland.com

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Block Parties And Elite Cycling. The Largest Competitive Road Cycling Series In The U.S. Is Back In Milwaukee! With Tom Schuler, Bill Koch And Ryan Barbieri

This show is brought to you by GoGeddit Marketing and Media, GGMM.io. Our good friends out in Milwaukee. We’ve got a big event coming back to the Milwaukee area. June 16th through 26, Tour of America’s Dairyland is entering its thirteenth year. This is the largest competitive road cycling series in the US. Each year, there are typically over a thousand riders ranging from juniors to professionals from 40 states and 15 countries. I’m very excited about this race also includes the new stage on Brady Street.

Also, the Downer Classic. My personal favorite is back. That is Saturday, June 25th. I ran into Matt Haas. Run to the show from Pegasus Partners, who lives right off Downer, and he has a keg for that stage. Make sure if you are reading and you know Matt Haas or if you don’t know Matt Haas, find your way to his house on Saturday, June 25th. He is having a party. I’m here to break down what is to come and talk about the origin story of ToAD.

I’ve got Ryan Barbieri, Bill Koch, and Tom Schuler, better known as Plow. An absolute legend is here. Ryan Barbieri is an avid cyclist and triathlete. I had an elite athlete in the intro. Someone must have changed that but the guy is an elite athlete. A very humble elite athlete, apparently. He’s also the EVP at M3, who’s a big sponsor of this year’s race and has a lot of upstanding citizens like Jordan Herbert and Dan Heico working over there. All around great company.

Bill Koch has been the Director and Partner at ToAD since day one. I also had a life-changing experience in Arkansas. He’s starting to enjoy mountain biking, which we will not be talking about. That has nothing to do with ToAD but we are proud to welcome Bill to the show. Tom Schuller, better known as Plow. He is a Wisconsin Cycling Hall of Fame, a former Olympian in the building in ‘76 and ‘80. He’s also the 1987 US Pro National Road Champion, 1981 US Professional Champion, and the Founder of ToAD. Welcome to the show. Thanks for joining me.

Thank you, Richie.

Great to be here.

Tom, I wasn’t even a thought in my mom’s mind in 1976.

We will talk about that later.

Tom and Bill, how did you come together to form ToAD? What is the origin story of what’s become a staple in a great event in this area?

Like any good idea, it’s probably not originally your idea. It probably existed in some form before it. That’s the case with ToAD. Wisconsin has an amazing history of bicycle racing. Believe it or not. Going back about 40 to 50 years, there was a gentleman named Otto Wenz. He used to own what is now the CVS on Downer Avenue, which used to be a century store. That was his driving business, and he loved bike racing. He built a series whose one of their first races was an ancillary event to the first Summer Fest. It was called the Summer Fest Grand Prix.

I can’t remember the street. Right in front of the Italian Community Center but from that grew Super Week. It lasted about 30 years, I would say. It was fading out. Bill and I and a few others got together to reboot Super Week, and that was many years ago. Here we are many years later with ToAD. We built on the foundation of this amazing bike racing legacy in Wisconsin. That gives us an advantage like the RAGBRAI event in Iowa, gives all cycling and advantage in Iowa. We are fortunate to have that startup historical legacy but here we are many years later.

Was Super Week fading, and you saw this as an opportunity of, “We need to save this thing and better it?”

That’s exactly it. We realized that if we didn’t do something, it was going to go away. It was on its last legs. It had become this event that people knew worldwide. It was during July at that time. We are in June. It was during the Tour de France. If you weren’t in the Tour de France, you might come to Super Week and race. We had Tour de France stage winners during the tour because there are no other races in Europe. We felt that if we didn’t do something, it was going to go away. That’s true.

Bill, anything to add on that? How did you get roped into this?

Purely a mistake. It’s a big mistake on my part.

A mistake that’s still going.

No, actually, Tom and I were planning to open a bike shop. We, at some point, realized that was not probably the smartest move to make. We jumped together and, as Tom said, found a couple of other partners and felt that we had a pretty simple solution to improving what Super Week was doing in those days and did it. Executed that strategy, and we have been flying ever since.

What’s appealing about ToAD for these riders to come in from all over the world?

A great example, to me, is the attraction that ToAD has to Australian and European writers. We even had the Japanese Olympic track team and women’s track team here a couple of years ago as track racers, whereas Australia develops a lot of phenomenal track racers. The intensity of criterium racing, 50 to 75 minutes every day, 11 days in a row, is phenomenal training for them. That’s what attracts them to come here.

ToAD was built on the foundation of this amazing bike racing legacy in Wisconsin, and here we are 13 years later. Click To Tweet

Again, it’s a long stretch of time. There’s no other race in the United States now that has eleven straight days of bike races. The Intelligentsia Cup in Chicago is mirrored like ToAD. They have the quick trip Tour of America’s Dairyland, I should say. They’ve got ten days now but they are pretty similar to us as well. A lot of these teams who come here to race will raise ToAD. Take a couple of weeks off and go down to Chicago and do that series as well.

Can you guys talk about the different stages that are happening over these eleven days? What can people expect from the variety and the fan experience?

Our goal is to have eleven days of Downer. Downer Avenue, not Downer being bummed out. It’s like bike racing on steroids. Downer Avenue has an amazing reputation. It’s known worldwide. It has been going on since 1979, I want to say. We call it our Granddaddy Race. Our goal and mission in life are to have eleven straight days like Downer. We are getting close to that. We really are. Janesville, we opened up sleepy little Janesville is not so sleepy. They do an amazing job putting a race together.

The courses are also something that attracts people, especially the bike racers. If they are a little different, they are not a parking lot grit. That brings more excitement, challenge, and technical aspects to the race. They go on from there. East Troy is our second day. Sleepy Little East Troy is smaller than Janesville. They have an amazing course there. The community would race around the square. They’ve got one of our most successful kids’ races, and it goes on and on.

I could go easily through all of them. The new ones for us, though, we are excited to welcome West Allis centered on Beecher Street where West Allis cheese and sausage shop is. They are doing a super cool job trying to bring the community into the fray and get them enthusiastic about it. Mount Pleasant is a filler day for us. Our hope is to race in Downtown Racine but we wanted to get them on the map, so we are racing around the Foxconn Facility. A 5-mile circuit race. Brady Street, we should have been in Brady Street years ago. Being able to pull this off, the course that we’ve got there, the crowds, and the gritty, cool neighborhood feel there is something that is perfect for ToAD.

By the way, I want to say I was leafleting the course on Brady Street. Twenty-five bars and restaurants on that Brady course.

Can you dive a little deeper into what’s going to be going on there?

If you picture Brady Street, then you know where the Hi Hat Garage is at Arlington and Brady. That’s where the start/finish line will be. That’s where all the action is going to be taken place. We will go East on Brady down to Warren. We will make a left or go North on Warren down to a Hamilton Place. A quick left on Hamilton. Another left on Arlington again to Pulaski. If you know anything about Pulaski and the neighborhood back there behind Brady Street, there’s a place called Wolski’s. Everybody who’s reading to this show has probably seen an eye-closed Wolski’s bumper sticker on somebody’s car. We will be right in front of Wolski’s down around the bend to the bottom of the hill.

We will dive back onto Humboldt, where BelAir is. Up Humboldt back to Brady Street and deck around. One of the cool things about it is what they are going to do during their community hour is they are going to do a bar race, and twelve bars participating and heats where there will be riding an adult tricycle down the street, 100 meters. It’s called the Tarbender 200. Down the street, they will grab a cocktail from whoever the bartender is at 1 of the 3 stops, race back then, they will have the final heat to determine who the ultimate winner is of the Tarbender 200.

Sign me up for that. That’s going to be a race I will win.

That was that Ryan’s contribution from M3 at the Tarbender 200.

You asked about the fan experience. My first ToAD race was probably years ago that I went. As a cyclist, I wanted to go check out the race action but like a good father, I dragged my wife, Denise, and our kids out. They are not into cycling. I will tell you what they love going to ToAD races because what you are talking about is the communities, the town centers that they are in, and all the action, 1-mile loop, fast action, fast-paced, go get a beer, go get ice cream, go get a coffee. It’s a great family atmosphere. A lot of people are maybe thinking about not going because it’s a cycling race and they are not in cycling. It’s for everybody. It’s a ton of fun.

You mentioned having over a thousand riders, and now, you’ve got stuff like the Tarbender 200 going on. How do people participate in ToAD?

Mostly the way Ryan described, come and enjoy. You can get up close to the athletes. You can have a beer and ice cream, and you can grab dinner or something to eat. If you want to participate, you can sign up and take out a day license and race every day in the novice race. We have a novice category first thing in the morning. If people want to dip their toes and do a criterium, they can do that every day. Mostly, we want to have a block party atmosphere that happens to have a bike race because, for most people, a criterium is pretty intimidating. We do get a lot of novices to come and try the sport for the first time at ToAD.

I think too when you asked the question about participation, you can be a fan and watch. You can race your bike. You can host a team. You can be a host family and welcome them into your house. You can be a volunteer. You can be a race ambassador where you walk around the crowds. You get some cool stuff to wear and you hand out stuff and engage people in conversation. “What is the criterium anyway? Can you tell me a little bit about that?” “Let me tell you a little bit more about that.” There are so many. You can be a sponsor. There are tons of ways to be an active participant in the Kwik Trip Tour of America’s Dairyland.

I would love to go around and know what each of you three is most excited about for the event. The particular stage that stands out or something to watch for.

For me, I’m most excited about Tulsa. I have never been to the Tulsa race, which is the last race, the final race. I’ve heard that’s a great atmosphere. We are going to have some of our leadership there presenting the women’s pro jersey sponsor and the winner of the series. I’m looking forward to that atmosphere.

It’s 1 more step in us getting closer to 11 days at Downer. Bayview on a Monday. If that’s a hit. Having a Monday, Tuesday, and solid Wednesday venues are super important to us. The racers, everybody wants to be in front of lots of people, see lots of people. They want to be a lot of bike racers. A lot of people are watching. The sponsors love that too. I’m excited that what’s one more step further in that direction. Ryan poached my answer a while with Tulsa but that’s okay. I live there but it’s an amazing venue. We raced in the village for the first time, and it was a scene I didn’t think I would ever see in Tour of America’s Dairyland.

I’m looking forward to some rest after the series. Eleven straight days is a CrossFit for eleven days, basically but it’s a lot of fun. I look forward to seeing what the community does and what West Allis is going to do. Shorewood always has some great entered phenomenal energy on Oakland Avenue. It’s the finish line. Each community is different. We’ve got a phenomenal loop course in East Troy. They’ve got a lot of cool things going on in East Troy. It’s fun to go up to Manitowoc and feel the different communities and how they embrace the Tour of America’s Dairyland.

GGP 190 | ToAD
ToAD: Australia develops a lot of phenomenal track racers. The intensity of criterium racing is exceptional training for them. That’s what attracts them to come here.

 

East Troy, that town square is pretty cool. I was at a conference in Lake Geneva in the fall and randomly stopped. They’ve got a brewery right there, East Troy Brewery. That’s a surprisingly good spot.

That’s turn one.

The course travels about 80% of that square. That’s part of the course. It’s super dense right there with their little business district.

Before we get into some quick questions. Ryan, why did you and M3 choose to get involved in this event for the first time?

This is our first. We talked about getting involved right before the pandemic hit. Like many businesses, we didn’t know what was going to happen, so we played our cards pretty conservatively. As a business, what we do for our day job is we are in insurance placement, risk management, and also financial services for all sides of businesses. That’s our day job as an independent agency. The other thing that I’m intrigued is big on is supporting communities and active lifestyles. This felt like a natural fit with an activity in a race like Tour of America’s Dairyland.

We liked the idea that we could support women in sports, and as far as I know, we are the first corporate sponsor for the Pro Women’s Jersey, which is right aligned with what we do in our organization in supporting women in business and communities and their role in leadership. This was a great fit all around.

Moving on to some quicker questions. You are all cyclists. What is your favorite place to ride in the Milwaukee area?

I will be leading a 10-mile ride from the War Memorial Beer Garden called the Kegel’s Inn War Memorial Beer Garden. It’s a secret route I put together that takes us to the best views in Milwaukee and unknown little paths. I’m very much an urban rider, so come on out to the joy ride at 6:00 PM at the Kegel’s Inn War Memorial.

This is a regular occurring thing.

It is the kickoff for the first every Tuesday War Memorial ride from Julian Kegel’s Beer Garden there.

I thought for sure you were going to say the Bone Ride route was your favorite route to ride.

What is the Bone Ride route? Is that another secret route?

No, that’s not it.

That’s how he’s sharing secret routes to the audience. This is great. What’s your favorite route? It’s a secret.

A lot of tradition in cycling. The Bone Ride is 36 years old. It started 36 years ago. We ride from my house to Madison to the Capitol Square, have lunch, and then come back. The third Wednesday in May, and it was raining and cold. We had four people but we’ve had as many as 200. It’s a no-entry fee, just a fun day on the bike.

How many miles is that one?

It’s 162 miles.

What about you?

Used to be my favorite ride was the Bone Ride but as I’ve aged a little bit and I had to take myself off of Red Bull and stuff like that. Touring the Oak Leaf Trail is an amazing trail. Tom took me on a tour that we did the entire route. It was 69 miles at a nice leisurely pace. I’ve started exploring the Southside of the trail a little bit more, which is the beautiful part of it down in Grand Park over round Root River, and that area is fantastic. I like going there and plus, and it’s less trafficky. I’m not as comfortable anymore riding on the open roads with all the distracted driving. They are beauties.

ToAD had become this event that people knew worldwide. We felt that if we didn't do something, it would go away. Click To Tweet

A lot of Beer Gardens on that one too.

Tons of Beer Gardens. I’ve noticed that.

I do most of my writing in Lake Country, the Holy Hill area, and things like that. One of my favorite things to do when I have the opportunity to do it is a commute into the office. Our office is in Wauwatosa by the Regional Medical Complex. From my house, it’s 35 miles. I take the Glacial Drumlin to the New Berlin trail to the Oak Leaf. It’s a great way to ride into the office early in the morning as the sun is coming up and a great way to wind down in the afternoon and get 70 miles in.

The guy said, “The guy made me delete elite athlete from his bio.”

It’s a leisurely pace for sure.

What is each your favorite beer to enjoy during ToAD?

Whoever is serving free beer, basically.

That’s a good and politically correct answer right there.

I have to say the same because I was beating myself down trying to figure out, “Do I have a favorite beer?” I’m an IPA and a pale ale drinker but I don’t have any favorites.

If you see Tom and Bill, just get those guys a beer.

Get us free beer.

I’m an IPA guy. I do not have to manage sponsorship, so I will throw out Hollander IPA is one of my favorites. I’m a huge naked threesome from raise grain.

Are any riders or teams that you have your eye on?

To me, there are two teams. There’s a team from New Zealand that has already been stacking up some wins in the US. They are coming here. There are five guys. They have not raised ToAD in the past. We are super excited to have them. I wish I could think of the name of the team. I would give them a shout out but I can’t. Also, on the men’s side, there’s a group of German men that are coming to race. Florence has been here once before, and they were super fun to have on stage.

They are going to give teams like Project Echelon a run for their money. There’s also a German women’s team who are coming here for the very first-time racing. The rock salt team that is directed by Peter Mullins. If you don’t know Peter Mullins, check out her bio. She’s a wonderful woman. She’s got a great spirit. She developed athletes like no other, and she’s bringing five women from Australia here to race.

Anything to add?

Bill has studied our entries already. It’s the international teams and racers that mix with the domestic teams and racers. We see more international racers here. It provides a new tack that I think for again, the Project Echelons, the Butcher Boxes, and some of the domestic teams that are used to racing against each other. It usually takes about 4 or 5 days to play out. You see a pattern and what we can expect. Our international line-up looks strong. Remember, we were off essentially a few years for international teams. Obviously, we didn’t race in ’20, and they weren’t allowed to come race here. We’ve missed our international component.

I could add also that we get focused on the professionals and the elite riders because they are often the names of the marquee events. We start racing at 11:00 in the morning, so there are a whole bunch of other races. We have juniors as young as nine years old. We have hand cyclists. Alicia Dana will be here. She’s a Paralympic medalist from the United States. We’ve had several other Paralympic medalists that have been here racing. We will probably have a couple more that their names aren’t jumping on me now.

Even the other category races. There are some solid people here. The thing that we pride ourselves in is that we offer this pro experience for every race category, so while M3 is sponsoring the Pro Women’s Jersey, there’s also a category 2-3-Women’s Jersey. There’s a category 3-4-Men’s Jersey. There’s a Junior’s Jersey. There’s a hand cyclist Jersey, and they all get to go up on stage and get the same trophy that pro’s do. Put on the same jersey, a different color or a different sponsor, drink as much Kwik Trip chocolate milk, and eat as many bananas from Kwik Trip as they want to, all those different things. It’s a shared thing that everybody gets to participate in, and that’s what makes it the best.

GGP 190 | ToAD
ToAD: People love going to ToAD races because of the community and the action. It has a great family atmosphere.

 

There is a countless number of people that I ride with on the weekends or on our Tuesday night ride or whatever. They are gearing up for ToAD races. Men and women alike race in all different categories and to your point, it’s a pro-race experience for the weekend warrior, which is pretty cool. It’s fun to be on the sidelines watching your friends too.

You mentioned, Ryan, you like how under his IPA. Lowlands has this sprint competition. They called the Lowlands Lion Prime. Every race category participates in that prime. At the end of each day, they account by for points on that sprint 30-minute into the race. Whether, again, you are a 3-4 racer, a 2-3 or a pro, or somewhere in between. They accumulate those points, and in the end, the one with the highest points wins some big cash. They get to wear a cool Lowlands Lion Prime jersey, and those things are so popular. We think our jerseys are special but they did an amazing job creating their own jersey. It’s something to watch.

I want to end on this, Bill and Tom. Looking at looking back on what you have created, obviously taking over the long-existing ride and starting ToAD on a whim essentially and growing it to what it is over the last years. What is each of you most proud of?

One of the things we decided to do or one of our goals, when we started was to continue the legacy but put it in a better place. Wisconsin and Milwaukee can have this continuing celebration of cycling that is the Tour of America’s Dairyland. That was a goal from the beginning. I feel like we were well on our way because we’ve working with our partners in the cities and the various sponsors like M3.

We have been able to work towards that goal. We are many years in. Bill is going to stay as our Executive Director for another decade. That gets us about 23 years in, and it will be time to turn it over to the next operators, which we’ve already started to bring on. We have a new partner, Andrew Frye, who’s much younger than Bill and I. Continuing this event is a big part of our focus now and where we go from here because can anyone imagine a summer without the great Downer new bicycle race? No, it’s a tradition.

What about you? What do the next ten years look like?

I was hoping he would say twenty because I wanted to retire when I’m 88 years old. If there’s one simple word that defines my excitement about ToAD and it’s FUN. As long as I’m having FUN, I’m IN. My passion is here about this race. When we have, at the end of the day, everybody comes up to us and says, “That was the best event. The best community event we have all year long, whether it’s our Christmas parade, whether it’s 4th of July fireworks, whether it’s whatever. The Tour of America’s Dairyland stop in our community is the best.” That’s what drives me. It’s so exciting to see that. When you go out on a high note like Wauwatosa, at the end of eleven straight days, this exhilarating feeling that I have that I can’t find in a lot of different places. As long as that’s still there, that’s what drives me. It does.

It would be interesting to see how many kids or how many people get into riding bikes or cycling because of that first experience going in and witnessing a race like this. You see many kids that are on their little bikes and in their helmets with spikes on the top and checking out the action. Is that now creating a lifelong cyclist? It’s such a great sport, and you guys do so much to promote it. It’s awesome.

The Tulsa kids race they are targeting 500 kids in the kids’ race.

We think that’s the largest kids race in the country.

I would think so. It’s in the Guinness Book, isn’t it?

I don’t know. We say it is, so it is.

Thank you, guys, so much for coming on and for all you do to put on this great event in our community. For those reading, make sure to go to TourOfAmericasDairyland.com and make sure to get out to at least one of the stages.

Click on that tab, Get Involved. There are lots of ways to get involved.

There we go. That’s the Director right there.

Thanks, Richie.

Awesome. Thanks.

Thank you.

 

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