One of the biggest criterium series in the U.S. is the 11-day Tour of America’s Dairyland, or ToAD, held in and around Milwaukee, Wisconsin each June. The ToAD series also includes a five-race Junior series that brought several faces familiar to cyclocross fans to the Upper Midwest.
The entire Men’s Junior 17-18 podium from Cyclocross Nationals in Hartford – Denzel Stephenson, Lane Maher and Ross Ellwood – was in Wisconsin to duel again on the road. Maher, racing this summer for the Hot Tubes Development team, made the trip west from Connecticut, and teammates Stephenson and Ellwood of Boulder Junior Cycling headed east from Colorado.
Stephenson turned in five solid days of racing, including four podiums and a 2nd-place finish at the Schlitz Park Criterium, to won the overall series title. Stephenson’s reward for success was the opportunity to spend much of the week in the, fittingly, cow spot jersey.
Maher missed the series-opening West Bend Criterium, but still managed to finish the series in 3rd place. Ellwood finished the overall series in 7th and spent much of the week helping his teammate Stephenson retain the cow-spot jersey.
Highlights from the duel between the three young ’cross stars include 2-3 finish for Maher and Stephenson at the Port Washington Race the Harbor Crit and Maher edging out a podium spot over Stephenson at the Cafe Centraal Bayview Classic. Ellwood’s best finish was a 7th place in West Bend.
I got the opportunity to ask Denzel Stephenson a few questions about his overall win at ToAD and racing with and against Maher and Ellwood again.
Denzel Stephenson on Winning ToAD Junior Overall
CXM: How does it feel to win the Junior overall at ToAD? You have to be pretty excited, huh?
Denzel Stephenson: It feels pretty good to win the overall. I came here without really any expectations other than to just race hard and learn how to race crits, but I ended up riding better than I thought I would.
CXM: You mentioned on Instagram you were surprised to get the cow jersey – is that what they call it? Unsure about the competition?
DS: Yeah, I was definitely surprised. This is my first time ever racing road other than a couple local races at home so I expected to just be trying to make it through the races since all those other kids have been racing road for much longer. It was a nice surprise though.
CXM: What was it like racing 5 of 6 days? Ever do something like that before?
DS: I’ve never really done that much racing in a row like that before. The closest thing I’ve done is doing three ’cross races in four days, but they were all separate races instead of an overall. It was a cool experience though and I’m looking forward to doing more of that.
CXM: What role did your Boulder teammates play in helping you win?
DS: In the beginning, we were all racing just to race, but once I got the jersey they helped defend it. Ross [Ellwood] and Jared [Scott] would cover attacks from the guys that were close in the overall points and Ollie [Howson] launched some attacks to make the other guys chase a bit. They all did an awesome job, and I couldn’t have done it without them.
CXM: How was it racing against Lane and Ross? Feel a little bit like CX season?
DS: Racing with Lane and Ross was great. It felt a bit like ’cross season again with Lane because we had a couple sprint finishes together, but it was a bit different with Ross because we were riding together to defend the jersey. We were still teammates in cyclocross season, but you’re riding a lot more by yourself in ‘cross races.
CXM: I saw on your USAC results you’ve done both mountain and road in the past. Which is your favorite way to train for ’cross season?
DS: I used to never do any road riding or racing until last summer. I used to ride mountain bikes a lot more and I think the mountain bike is really good to develop skills like bunny hopping and riding through rough stuff for ’cross. I’ve been doing more road training the past two seasons though because I think it gives you more sustained power, which I’ve found helps a lot for ’cross racing. I still like to go out and rip on the mountain bike every once in a while, but I do most of my summer training on the road now.
CXM: Finally, did you get any brats or cheese curds while you were in Wisconsin?
DS: Unfortunately I didn’t get any brats or cheese curds while I was there. We did eat a lot of Thai food though.
CXM: Thanks for your time. Any sponsors you would like to thank?
DS: Yeah, I’d like to thank all the sponsors of Boulder Junior Cycling, especially Giant Bicycles, Clement, Boulder Cycle Sport, SRAM and Training Peaks.
It sounds like we can expect to see Stephenson, Maher and Ellwood racing on the road some more this summer, and of course, we look forward to seeing them on the ’cross course this Fall.