Downer Ave. Bike Races – 40 yr Anniversary


Downer Ave Bicycle Race

It’s summer, in late July, and the weather is hot, humid and sitcky.  Near record rains fell just 2 nights ago, flooding many basements, but tonight is the 40th anniversary of the Downer Ave. Bicycle Races.  It’s where international Category 1 cyclists bend around the sharp corners of the Downer Ave. residential area on the East Side of Milwaukee.  Residents hold parties in their yards and they watch and cheer these guys as the give it their all.  This year’s race was marred by 4 crashes as well as a fire truck and a car, that decided to drive on the race course until some fast-thinking Explorer police opened the gates to let them out.

Scott Stoll was selling his new book about bicycling around the world, “Falling Up Hill.”   He rode 25,742 miles in 1461 days, rode through 50 countries and had 4 moments of enlightenment!  I picked up a signed copy and look forward to reading it.  On the cover I noted a shot of the castle in Lake Bled, which I was fortunate to see when we rode in the Julian Alps in Slovenia.  (Broken elbow trip in 2005)

Downer Ave. Bicycle Race

A few pulled-pork burgers, forzoen yogurt/custard and some cans of beer were sold as family of the cyclists and fans, milled around the race course.  I met two fathers of racers as I photographed – one was from Michigan and the other from Texas.  They told me that these guys ride ‘full-time’ when they’re Category 1.  I quickly translated that to a lot of ‘seat time!”

Downer Ave. Bicycle Race

One of the highlights for me, happened right after the race ended.  I had seen a photographer friend, Tom Colla, earlier in the evening and he told me about a photo collage that was on display of when Lance Armstrong had raced in the Downer Ave. race in 1996.  Lance carried a little more weight in those days but that characteristic angled jaw could still be seen.  Tom told me that 10 days after the Downer Ave. race, Lance was diagnosed with testicular cancer, and now the rest of that story is history.  I shared with Tom that I had an image of Lance and the USPS team as they came around their last lap in Paris, at the end of the 2005 (victory #7) Tour De France.  (I”ll post that tomorrow.)

Enjoy the images and mark your calendar for the 3rd Saturday in July, when the action heats up again.  Next year we can do without the flooding prelude, however!

Downer Ave. Bicycle Races

Downer Ave. Bicycle Races

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