MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – The American Criterium Cup continues on Saturday, June 22 with the 45th running of the Downer Avenue Classic. The second stop on the summer-long professional series in the United States takes place during the 11 days of racing around Wisconsin at the Tour of America’s Dairyland. 

The Downer Avenue Classics is the biggest criterium on the eleven-race circuit and was one of the foundational races that encouraged the Tour of America’s Dairyland organizers to bring over a week of racing to the upper-midwestern state 16 years ago. 

Downer, as it is referred to by most, is a unique triangular course through the Downer Woods neighborhood on Milwaukee’s vibrant East Side with the course situated only a stone’s throw away from the shore of Lake Michigan. What’s more, the course – which is essentially a right triangle with a quick two-part final turn – is equal parts city street and quaint neighborhoods. 

On the long finishing straight along the broad Downer Avenue, the peloton will fly past crowds of fans and the small-city storefronts of the neighborhood. On the two other straightaways, tall trees, and verdant front lawns of old family homes. With the summer weather in full flight and a strong local community, the race is a gem that brings out thousands of spectators along both the finishing straight and the barbeques and lawn parties that dot the back two straightaways. 

As for the racing? With only three turns and plenty of open space, Downer’s 0.84-mile course is perfect for flat-out racing. Expect to see high average speeds and long single-file racing as the strongest riders try to break free from the sprinters. Results have gone both ways over the years, as large preem offerings throw different tactics into the mix to make the racing just that little bit more exciting. 

With the prestige of 45 years of history, large cash primes, and valuable ACC points on offer, Downer has once again attracted huge fields on the men’s and women’s peloton’s to vie for the title. To get you set before the racing begins, here is the full preview of stop two on the American Crit Cup calendar. 

Facts and figures: 

Where does the Downer Avenue Criterium take place? The Downer Avenue Criterium takes place in the East Side neighborhood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

What is the date and time of the event? Both races will take place on Saturday, June 22nd with the women starting their 75-minute race at 4:30 PM Central Time and the men following with their 75-minute race at 7:00 pm Central Time.

What are the course attributes? The Downer Ave criterium is a flat 0.84-mile triangular loop with two back-to-back final corners coming before a long finishing straight. 

How many editions have there been? The Downer Ave Criterium is celebrating its 45th anniversary this June. 

Who won the event in 2023? Rylee McMullen and Danny Summerhill took the wins at Downer Avenue in 2023. 

The course

The Tour of America’s Dairyland is known for its “Wisconsin nice” small-town circuits, with small storefronts mixing with brilliant front-lawn neighborhoods across the eastern side of the state to provide eleven spectacular days of racing across the duration of the event. Downer Avenue, and the iconography of the Downer community and energy, sets the tone which the rest of the races have been built upon. 

In fact, Downer Avenue is one of the big reasons why the Tour of America’s Dairyland has Wisconsin communities coming to the organizers with hopes of having a race instead of them having to approach town to fill their calendar. With Downer, there is no doubt as to the security of the future of the event as it is baked into the community. It is truly Wisconsin racing at its finest and brings a level of prestige to the ACC with its notoriety and prestige.

Part of the effectiveness of the Downer Avenue event is the simplicity of the course. It is long at 0.84 miles and flat with only around 10 feet of climbing per lap, but that doesn’t do the race justice as it provides the perfect stage for powerful racers to dictate the proceedings. With that setup to build from, the race becomes a power struggle as the opportunity for a potential breakaway is around each one of the three corners. 

This year, $10,000 will be up for grabs at ISCorp’s Cloud Prime which will be called at some point during the men’s and women’s pro races will only add to the excitement as riders and teams look to make their time in Wisconsin worth it, as the final prize at the finish is only part of the narrative of the race. 

Nevertheless, should it stay together after the breakaway attempts and preem sprints, the finish is one for the most powerful finisher as the two final turns set up a massive straightaway to the line where there is ample room for both a last-ditch lead out or a fast closing upset near to the line. Whatever the outcome, expect a ruckus party as thousands of fans will come to celebrate another Saturday summer bike race on the East Side of Milwaukee. 

The Contenders

Between the changes in date of the US National Championships, the UCI stage race in Canada the previous week, and its inclusion on the American Crit Cup calendar, Downer Ave has a huge collection of could-be contenders in both the men’s and women’s races. 

For the women, the best place to begin is with the US National Criterium champion Coryn Labecki. Labecki is coming into the race off of a second straight national title and is taking the chance to show off her jersey at the Tour of America’s Dairyland. It is a late addition to the calendar for Labecki who had a gap in her European race calendar and she will be looking for a win in Wisconsin to build her confidence for the back half of the year. 

Outside of Labecki, many will be looking to last year’s winner Rylee McMullen (DNA Racing) to build on her strong season. The Kiwi sprinter has shown her talent once again this year and will take the ACC Green Jersey in the race after collecting the maximum points in Tulsa at the mid-race point sprint. McMullen will be backed by a strong DNA Pro Cycling team and will be a force to be reckoned with. 

The competition will be stiff from the Miami Blazers’ hometown favorite Skylar Schnieder. Skylar was close in Tulsa, finishing second in the final sprint, and will hope to go one spot higher in Downer. Paola Muñoz and Andrea Cyr will also be looking for a win as the Team Goldman Sachs ETF duo will be looking for their first big win of the 2024 season. Additionally, the riders from LA Sweat, Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24, and AUTOMATIC | ABUS Racing shouldn’t be counted out.

In the men’s race, the team with the biggest claim to favorite status will be the REIGN Storm Racing contingent and the defending champion Danny Summerhill. The team had tough luck to start the ACC season in Tulsa with their sprinter Alfredo Rodriguez skipping a chain out of the final turn, but the team has been prolific outside of the series and will be looking to take top points at Downer. 

Even with its success and strength, REIGN Storm is likely to come in as second favorites behind Project Echelon as the mid-west based team comes in with a European pedigree and a strong team that should try to marshall the front of the race and play off of the front foot. Cade Bickmore will be their main threat in a sprint although they do have a full complement of six riders to take the charge to everyone else on the start line. 

Those two teams are the ones expected to be the biggest units, however, a few riders without substantial team support will certainly need to be reckoned with as well. Noah Granigan (Miami Blazers) was third on night one of the ACC in Tulsa and has been near the top of the result sheet in every big criterium he has raced this year. Micheal Garrison has also been knocking on the door and has been one of if not the most aggressive racers on the criterium circuit this year. Clever Martinez has also been there or thereabouts and should be great at Downer. 

Other teams that will be in contention for a top result out of a full 100+ rider field is Work Hard Be Humble, AUTOMATIC | Abus Racing, Volver Factory Racing, 54×11 and MitoQ – NZ Cycling Project.