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A young boy hold his umbrella as the rain starts during a midday race at the Town Square Gran Prix in Janesville on Tuesday, June 26.

Hey, Tour of America’s Dairyland, can we do this again next year?

Janesville, as we found out Tuesday, can put on a pretty good bike race.

The Town Square Gran Prix was a showcase event for the city’s revitalized downtown. It should be even better once all the construction cones have been removed. The Gran Prix received universal praise—save the occasional social media troll.

Not even fierce afternoon thunderstorms could dampen the enthusiasm.

Cyclists, besides a few quibbles about the rough ride over the Milwaukee Street bridge, praised the course and the locale. They loved the big primes too—over $11,000 was doled out during the two pro races. Tour of America’s Dairyland officials praised the preparedness of local organizers. And hundreds of spectators cheered heartily as packs of riders hummed through downtown Janesville.

Unless the city decides it doesn’t want to host again, the Gran Prix will be back next summer.

“We’re planning to come back unless they don’t want us,” Erin Ninmer, the Tour of America’s Dairyland’s marketing director, told The Gazette on Tuesday. “I’d say all signs are go.”

That’s welcome news. The races had downtown Janesville buzzing—no, it wasn’t just the caddiflies you were hearing. Crowds swelled as the day wore on.

The Town Square Gran Prix’s organizers and volunteer workers, led by race chairman Paul Murphy of the Janesville Velo Club, should be commended for their efforts. Tuesday’s racing schedule went smoothly. The racing was completed on time by 8 p.m. despite a delay as heavy rain and wind hit the city around 2 p.m.

Spectators could have packed up and gone home when the rain started to intensify. But they didn’t. The action on the course was compelling and many curious folks were in it for the long haul. Downtown restaurants and bars offered convenient shelter from the storms, too.

When the sun came back out, so did the people.

“I saw a different Janesville that day,” Murphy said Friday. “It was really neat standing on the stage and looking down Milwaukee Street and seeing nothing but umbrellas. People came prepared to stay. They stayed through the grisly weather.”

It remained humid throughout the rest of the day and rain still sporadically fell. The area around the start/finish line was packed for the final races of the day—the men’s and women’s pro races.

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Bicyclists in the category three men's race make their way down Court Street on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, during the Town Square Gran Prix in Janesville.

Word of mouth travels quickly these days thanks to social media. Given the overwhelming positive feedback to this year’s Gran Prix, and with a year to build up awareness, it’s reasonable to expect more people will be interested in checking out next year’s event.

Murphy estimated crowds reached 1,500 at times Tuesday. That number should be a baseline for next year.

In addition, businesses now have a better idea of what to expect from the races. Perhaps some that weren’t open on race day or didn’t offer any bike-related specials will brainstorm ways to take advantage of the increase in downtown foot traffic.

Murphy is already looking into ways to improve or tweak the Gran Prix. He said he began making notes Wednesday and then attended Saturday’s Downer Classic to see how Milwaukee celebrates the most famous stage of the Tour of America’s Dairyland.

“If you plan and you operate with your plan, things go real smooth,” Murphy said.

Murphy said a date has not been finalized for the 2019 Town Square Gran Prix, but another late June day is likely.

See you next summer, Tour of America’s Dairyland.

Janesville will be glad to have you back.

Bryan Wegter is a sports copy editor for The Gazette. Email him at bwegter@gazettextra.com

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