For a brief moment Tuesday, downtown Janesville looked more apt to host the swim leg of a triathlon rather than frenetic bike races.
A midday deluge forced Town Square Gran Prix organizers to delay races for about an hour.
The rainfall pelted the pavement and brought downtown to a temporary standstill. At that point, Drown Square Gran Prix might have been a more fitting title.
But the storm was a distant memory by late afternoon. The rain gave way to warm sunshine just as many were leaving work, and downtown filled with hordes of people around the racecourse.
Janesville’s second year hosting a leg of the 11-day Tour of America’s Dairyland was an undisputed success, organizers said Tuesday evening.
In fact, the success was record-setting. Race co-chair John Westphal said the $25,000 worth of primes—cash rewards for winning given laps—was a single-day record for USA Cycling.
The announcer calling the race told the crowd that riders around the world had texted him to ask if the money was for real. Then the riders asked: Where is Janesville?
The Town Square Gran Prix has put Janesville on the map, Westphal said.
He credited the generosity of local donors and positive momentum downtown for sparking more interest.
Westphal’s co-chair, Paul Murphy, said the race had more sponsors this year than its inaugural running in 2018. That boosted fundraising for primes—rhymes with teams—and raised awareness of the event.
“Year one, people were a little apprehensive. ‘A bike race? I don’t understand it,’” Murphy said. “But once they saw and were introduced to it, they realized the excitement that it entails. That’s the thing that sold it.”
One of the most visible changes between the first and second years was the course. Last summer, the course mostly followed a rectangular layout aside from one corner.
This year, because of the Milwaukee Street bridge reconstruction, the course took on a “dog bone” shape that featured two straightaways on Court Street—one in each direction—connecting loops on each side of the river. Early feedback from riders was favorable; many enjoyed the variety of climbs, descents and tight turns, Murphy said.
If the race returns next year, and all signs point to that being the case, Murphy was unsure what the course would look like. He has a tentative date blocked off for June 23, another Tuesday.
The course attracted clusters of crowds on both sides of the river. The finish line was on South Parker Drive in front of The Gazette building, 1 S. Parker Drive. Others gathered near the intersection of Court and Main streets, and some headed west to Jackson Street where most of the food trucks were stationed.
Spreading out different features of the course encouraged visitors to move around and see the city from multiple angles, Murphy said.
Janesville police Sgt. Aaron Dammen said even with the bigger crowds, the race operated smoothly. He was not aware of any tickets issued for unruly behavior.
Murphy said organizers have already begun making lists of things they can improve. Audio in the far reaches of the course would be ideal, while other upgrades would be small, mostly internal tweaks.
When will those preparations begin?
“Probably tomorrow,” Murphy said. “We’ll enjoy today (Tuesday), but we’ll evaluate ourselves and see what we need to improve on.”