Along with beer, bicycling is in Lowlands Group's DNA. It sponsors annual races at its grand cafes, supports local teams, organizes weekly rides and, with bikes hanging from ceilings and spandex-clad beer drinkers stopping in for refreshments, it's always a welcoming place for cyclists.
This week, the hospitality group excitedly announced its lineup of local cycling events for this summer, including the Tour of America’s Dairyland, as well as plans to show all stages of the 2018 Tour de France at its European-inspired grand cafes.
A decade-long supporter of the Tour of America’s Dairyland, Lowlands Group – which prides itself on beer, biking and building community – is the title sponsor for two of the series’ 11 races this year: the Café Centraal Bay View Classic and the Café Hollander Downer Classic (with a bier festival). Once again, Lowlands is challenging racers to compete in its GranFinale Spring Competition, which takes place the last four days of the ToAD from June 28 to July 1.
"Since 2009, Lowlands Group has been a strong ally of ours, first with their support of the Downer Classic and now as a full-fledged series sponsor," William Koch Jr., executive director of the Tour of America’s Dairyland, said in a statement. "We applaud their passion for the sport of cycling in so many ways."
The group, which supports two regional racing teams, also will televise all stages of the Tour de France at its grand cafes from July 7 through July 29, similar to the way it’s currently showing the World Cup – with specials, giveaways and a communal watching experience that celebrates the sport’s culture.
Here’s a rundown of the cycling lineup and special events Lowlands Group announced for this summer:
Tour of America’s Dairyland
The group is continuing its sponsorship of the Tour of America’s Dairyland, the U.S.’s largest multi-day bike racing series. Now in it’s 10th season, Lowlands Group has supported the series from its inception.
The group is the title sponsor of two of the 11 races in the Tour of America’s Dairyland; the Café Centraal Bay View Classic and the Café Hollander Downer Classic. The group also sponsors the Lowlands GranFinale Sprint Competition and hosts the Women of ToAD Dinner.
Café Centraal Bay View Classic
2306 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
Friday, June 29, 11:20 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Featuring a newly updated course this year, the Café Centraal Bay View Classic remains a crowd and competitor favorite. Watch the pros swoop by through quick turns and sprint-worthy straightaways and elbow your way to a spot at Café Centraal's outdoor bar patio for an epic evening criterium of ToAD's Pro men and women under the spotlights and stars.
Café Hollander Downer Classic:
2608 N. Downer Ave.
Saturday, June 30, 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Café Hollander Downer will pull out all the stops with a Belgian Bier Festival on a newly updated patio that features prime views of the big race. Frites, totterballen and cheese snacks will be available outside, in addition to outdoor games and live music.
The Café Hollander Downer Classic is the granddaddy of criterium races. Not just for ToAD, but across the U.S. and even the globe. Started in 1969, the Downer Classic has played host to many famous faces for almost 50 years and promises to be one of the highlights of cycling in Wisconsin this summer. With a flat 3½-corner course, mega crowds and lots to see, this is a must-attend event.
Lowlands GranFinale Sprint Competition
Once again, Lowlands Group will be upping the stakes by challenging racers to compete in the Lowlands GranFinale Sprint Competition, which takes place the last four days of the Tour of America’s Dairyland from June 28 through July 1.
This annual omnium sprint competition acts as a race within the race, adding another layer of competition to these already-challenging criteriums. Halfway through each of the four final races of the series (Shorewood, Bay View, Downer and Tosa), a sprint lap is announced. Riders battle for points as the top five finishers of that sprint lap accrue points. At the end of the four days of racing, the points are totaled and the racers with the most points get paid prime prizes of almost $5,000, provided by Lowlands Group.
ToAD's exclusive birthday bier
In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Tour of America’s Dairyland, Lowlands Group will release a very limited run of ToAD 10th Anniversary Ale – a collaboration with Van Steenberge Brewery in Ertvelde, Belgium – available on tap only at Café Hollander Downer and Café Centraal during the races.
Starting June 1, guests of Café Centraal or Café Hollander Downer can enter a drawing for a chance to win a free bicycle at each location. Winners will be named on the day of the Downer and Bay View Classic races. Visit either café for details.
Supporting local cycling teams
Beyond supporting local races, the group also sponsors two regional racing teams, Hollander-Benelux Cycling and Velocause-Centraal, both of which have rosters of athletes at various stages in their cycling careers. Both teams will have members racing in the Tour of America’s Dairyland, as well as numerous other regional races.
Erin Ninmer, the marketing director for Tour of America’s Dairyland, is a rider for the Hollander-Benelux Cycling team.
"I really value their collaboration and the added visibility they create for ToAD," she said. "As a racer, I appreciate the recognition they provide by hosting the Women of ToAD Dinner at Café Central. As a member of the Hollander-Benelux Racing team, I proudly wear their colors. The love that Lowlands shows to the cycling community is truly outstanding."
Velocause-Centraal's purpose is giving back to the community. In addition to donating race winnings to local charities, Café Centraal provides hot cooked meals team volunteers serve at Meta House, an organization that provides women’s addiction treatment.
2018 Tour de France
The group also plans on showing all stages of the 2018 Tour de France at its grand cafés this summer from July 7 through July 29. Tour TV coverage begins at 7 a.m. daily and Café Benelux, which will open at 7 a.m. daily, will be the premier spot to take in the race with like-minded fans in the Milwaukee area.
Lowlands' other cafés will open at their normal operating hours and show the Tour continuously throughout the day. The group will offer a drawing for a unique Kwaremont Beer cycling jersey at each café location, as well as a drawing for a $250 gift card. Viewing information and promotion details are available at lowlandsgroup.com/tdf/.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.