The La Crosse Omnium is a multi-stage bicycle race annually in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The 2023 event will be held May 5th – 7th. The Omnium consists of three events: a Friday time trial starts off the weekend, followed up with Saturday’s road race, and the event finishes off with a Sunday criterium. The event began as part of the La Crosse Fitness Festival in 2010 and has since become a popular and highly competitive race in the Midwest. Soon after its inception, the event joined the Midwest Flyover Series. This series grew into a large, regional series consisting of criteriums, road races, and time trials across the plains states.
As recently as 2017, The Midwest Flyover Series included five events in Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin. These events included The La Crosse Omnium, Snake Alley, Melon City Crit, Quad Cities races, The Tour of Kansas City, Bicycle Blues and BBQ, and Big Waters Classic. The La Crosse Omnium is one of two remaining races from the series still being held annually. In 2020, the event’s promoters canceled the La Crosse Omnium due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the race returned in 2021 with modifications to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
Chris Stindt, one of the event’s organizers, discussed how the event had been affected by Covid and the current state of the world, as well as how things have changed since before Covid hit the nation, “The event has largely stayed the same, holding its own as one of the very few three-day multi-discipline races in the country. The challenging uphill TT always gets the legs going for the weekend. Despite no longer being a part of a series, the Omnium is still a big start to the season for many teams and individuals. The largest change has been moving the road race from the outskirts of Winona down to Chaseburg. The course is challenging and scenic.
“2021 was virtual, and it was good for what it was, but it was a shadow of our typical in-person events. Our first race back after covid saw a slight dip in attendance, but we expect to see large participation this year.
“Short of the Tour of America’s Dairyland, there are simply not as many big race events in the area anymore. The Omnium is always recognized as an event worth traveling for. For the future, I think the biggest challenge will be the declining number of USA Cycling licensed cyclists. In general, numbers were slowly declining year over year pre-Covid and racers just slowly disappeared.”
The drop in ridership has been a recurring theme among race promotors; declining attendance and higher costs have been eating away at events for years. Events with strong community and sponsor support have the best chances for sustained success. La Crosse Omnium is no different, “The City of La Crosse, especially the Parks and Recreation Department, are major supporters; we’ve also enjoyed invaluable support over the years from the Freighthouse Restaurant, Three-Sixty Real Estate, Dahl Subaru, Lindy’s Subs, Coulee Bicycle Co, Smiths Bike Shop, Blue Steel Bikes, Leithold’s Music, Turtle Stack Brewery, ExploreLaCrosse.com, and the Candlewood Suites.”
Over the years, the La Crosse Omnium has attracted some of the best cyclists in the United States, including several national champions and Olympic athletes. The race has also gained a reputation for being challenging, with steep climbs and technical aspects to the courses that require skilled handling. Today, the La Crosse Omnium continues to be an important event on the cycling calendar, attracting top-level amateur and professional riders from across the region. The race provides a platform for competitive cycling while promoting cycling as a healthy and sustainable mode of transportation and recreation.
Photos courtesy La Crosse Omnium