East Tosa Gran Prix expected to draw visitors to Wauwatosa by the hundreds
Bike race June 30 will close North Avenue, side streets
The Tour of America's Dairyland bicycle race is coming to Wauwatosa for the first time June 30.
The 11-day tour, in its fifth year, is made up of a race per day all over southeastern Wisconsin, from Fond du Lac to East Troy and from downtown Milwaukee to Sheboygan.
Wauwatosa's East Tosa Gran Prix will be the last stop, hosting a criterium in which the riders will make a loop measuring 6/10 of a mile as much as 80 times.
Professionals make up the last group of participants in several races that will take place, including amateur races, junior races and races featuring many classes of riders.
The East Tosa Alliance, which is sponsoring the event, expects as many as 10,000 spectators.
Billed as one of the largest competitive cycling events in the country, the race is another way to invite people from all over the region to discover what East Tosa has to offer, said Ed Haydin of the alliance.
The promoter is excited as well.
"We really look for communities to embrace and kind of build a street festival and really make a community event," said Jack Hirt, executive director of the Tour and a Wauwatosa resident. "So it's more of a community event with a bike race added to it. The more spectators that come, the better for the racers, the better for the local businesses, the better for the community."
Hirt, who lives on Tosa's east side, said he has witnessed the revival of North Avenue, and that made it attractive as a race venue.
"The communities that tend to be real successful are the communities that are putting a lot of money and energy into revitalizing certain business districts," he said. "That's always been a real successful component for us, so it seemed to be a good fit."
This stage of the race had been held in Madison, around the Capitol, but Madison has become saturated with summer events, Hirt said, and businesses around the square are largely closed on Sundays.
Hirt expects 500 to 600 racers of all abilities to compete here, in seven different classes. Among the professional riders, he expects 50 to 70 women and about 120 men.
A criterium is a race that features many loops of a relatively short circle, rather than a long distance across the countryside. In Wauwatosa, the riders will ride around the 1-kilometer rectangle delineated by West North Avenue, North 69th Street, West Meinecke Avenue and North Lefeber Street.
To make the race start-times predictable and keep the day-long event on schedule, race officials take a reading on the speed of the first few turns around the course, then put up a number of total loops each rider will make. For the male professionals, that might be between 70 and 80 for a race that is over in about 90 minutes. Riders that are lapped are asked to leave the course. The women professionals race for an hour, as do most of the other classes.
Besides keeping the races on schedule, a criterium allows spectators to see the racers many times, instead of one brief glimpse as they blaze past in a race on a long-distance course.
Hirt said winners in all classes win cash prizes; he estimated that $120,000 in total prizes will be handed out. A winner at the professional level will receive about $3,000 per stage, with other prizes for occasional, announced, inter-race events, such as, for example, $100 for the fastest lap from the time a bell is rung.
The start and finish line will be at 72nd and North. A podium will be set up there for awards and announcers.
As sponsor, the East Tosa Alliance is required to come up with about $30,000, including $4,500 for Wauwatosa Police Department coverage, a fee to the Tour organization and prize money. Haydin said local businesses have stepped up, although last week he was $6,000 from the goal.
The race will shut down the streets involved in the race, and people living within the course will not be able to move their cars for the duration of the event, from about 10 a..m. to early evening. Those who need to drive somewhere during that period are advised to park their cars outside the zone that morning. There will be some manned and marked "safe crossing" zones for those who need to cross the course.
Jim Wilkinson, manager of Walter's on North, a bar at the corner of 70th Street, said he welcomes the race.
"It's sort of like a little free advertizing," he said. "Adults will stop in for a beer. If it's hot out, they'll come in for air-conditioning. It's good to promote this end of town."
At Fattoni's deli, 7212 W. North Ave., Tony Mandella is going to extend his Sunday hours, from four hours to all day, closing whenever things start to wind down. Sundays are his best days of the week — his hot ham and rolls are popular — and he's going to have pizza by the slice, Sicilian rice balls, cannolis, and other offerings.
"We're going to make our normal stuff, but just make more of it," he said.
Bike racing is popular in Italy, and Mandella is infusing his Italian heritage into his approach. He is hopeful he can work out an arrangement to offer high-carb, high-protein pre-race meals to the racers before they ride.
Mandella said he has mixed emotions about the race, as closing North Avenue may make it hard for regular customers to reach him.
"But in the long run, I think it helps bring people in who don't know who we are," he said. "That's our number one thing. Once people know who we are, we do really really well."
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