Note: This blog post was made during the 1995 SuperWeek Pro Tour. For a more current listing of SuperWeek stages, see my Calendar of Events & Festivals.
The past couple of weekends, we’ve been following the International Cycling Classic, commonly known as “SuperWeek.” For 17 days, riders from as far away as New Zealand are traveling all over southeastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois to compete in various races. My photos from the stages in Menasha, Manitowoc, Waukesha, and Bensenville are posted at Flickr.com.
This Friday (July 22), SuperWeek comes to Kenosha for the 15th annual Chase Food Folks & Spokes. It’s the best event Kenosha hosts — the one that we look forward to all year.
It was Food Folks & Spokes that transformed us into fans of competitive cycling.
To begin with, it’s just a rare exciting day in our painfully boring city. Team cars wrapped in sponsorships and decals and topped with esoteric bicycles start arriving in town in the quiet morning hours. Pretty soon, riders in colorful helmets and jerseys are training in our streets and buying provisions in our stores. Some of them are from Denver or California. Others are from Columbia, Germany, the Netherlands, or Australia.
There’s a certain inspiring atmosphere surrounding these athletes. Most of them are completely un-famous outside the cycling world, and many of them are simultaneously chasing college degrees. Somehow, though, they have managed to streamline their budgets and their schedules enough to train, travel, and compete in a gruelling discipline. These cyclists — and the friends, family, and crew supporting them — generally have a no-nonsense, uncluttered demeanor which makes them enjoyable to talk to.
The Kenosha stage is a criterium — a short, closed loop over a few blocks of city streets. There are seven races over the course of the day, beginning at 10 a.m. and ending with the Pro/1/2 men’s race of 100 laps beginning at 5:45 p.m. Prizes range from medals to $3,000 for the final race.
The ‘crit’ runs around Library Park and the two blocks north of it, in a historic district of older homes and buildings surrounding the Daniel H. Burnham-designed Simmons Library. In the park you’ll find a few local food vendors, health expos, inflatable things for kids to jump on or slide down, entertainment and other displays. Our friends at The Jacobson Group are among the sponsors who’ll have a booth there.
A few suggestions for enjoying Food Folks & Spokes:
- If you’re visiting Kenosha and you like Italian delicacies, make a stop at Tenuta’s (3203 52ND ST) to get some meats or cheeses for your picnic basket.
- The event is alcohol free. No beer is served, and you cannot drink on public property.
- Walk the whole course to check out the action from different angles. Besides the racing, there are several annual parties at homes surrounding the course and you might make some new friends.
- The turns are very exciting, particularly the inside of Turn 4 at 58TH ST and 8Th AVE. Be careful, though — the riders can and do crash. Don’t position yourself where you’ll interfere with them or get yourself hurt. Do not hang your arms or anything else over the railing.
- Do stay close enough to the stage during the final race to hear the commentary of Eddy Van Guyse, the voice of American cycling. Eddy is a former cycling champion who played the treacherous Italian rider in the 1979 movie Breaking Away. You’ll learn a lot and laugh as well because Eddy’s a coach, a great analyst and a pretty funny guy.
- Bring 20, 40, 50 or 100 dollars or so to the back of the stage to offer as a ‘preme’ (premium) to the winner of some random lap. It makes the race more exciting because the riders will sprint to win it, and you can also have the name of your business, club, band, Web site, or pet mentioned. You could even make up a wacky name. Or you could memorialize the late, great John Madison.
- Bring a cowbell to ring during the preme laps, and also during the ‘bell lap’ (the final lap) of each race. Bring a bicycle horn to honk, or one of those ratcheted noisemakers to twirl. Noise is fun.
- Print out some lists of the standings in the various categories to use as rosters during the races. That way you can yell “Go, Erik” to cheer on Erik Saunders instead of just “Go, Number 88!”
- Cheer a lot. Cheering is fun, and the riders like it.
- Bring a watch or a stopwatch that you can use to time the distance between a breakaway (a few riders who take off in front by themselves) and the peloton (the main pack of riders). That way, you can judge who is gaining or catching up from lap to lap.
- New in Kenosha this year is the Wine Knot Wine Bar & Bistro (5611 6TH AVE), a cozy, bustling room with some very good, creative food and decent wines just a few blocks from the race.
- Mangia (5717 SHERIDAN RD) is even closer, has been around for years, and is still an outstanding restaurant.
- Last year, a number of the racers gathered at the Boat House Pub & Eatery (4917 7TH AVE) after the event to watch OLN’s coverage of the Tour de France on the big screen. It’s a big, noisy, crowded and fun place.
After Friday’s races in Kenosha, there are still two more days of SuperWeek to see.
Saturday there is racing at two locations in Milwaukee. First, it’s the Lake Front Road Race at Bradford Beach, which features an impressive 80-foot climb that the riders have to tackle lap after agonizing lap. Later on Saturday afternoon, it’s the Great Downer Avenue Bike Race — a huge multi-block racing party on the lawns of the most beautiful homes in Milwaukee, near the university with a number of good restaurants, pubs and street vendors to choose from.
SuperWeek finishes up Sunday with the Whitefish Bay Classic. I’ve never been to Whitefish Bay. Maybe it’s time to check that one out.