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In the saddle with Milwaukee pro cyclist sisters Sam and Skylar Schneider

Sam and Skylar Schneider are competing in Kwik Trip’s Tour of America’s Dairyland races following Skylar’s win last year

FILE – This Sunday, July 19, 2015 photo made with a slow shutter speed shows riders during the fifteenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race in Valence, France. (Christophe Ena/AP Photo)

Sam and Skylar Schneider aren’t new to the demands of the largest competitive road cycling series in America. 

The Kwik Trip Tour of America’s Dairyland series began June 13. The event pits cyclists in high-speed races across 11 host cities in Wisconsin for 11 days straight.

The professional cyclists from West Allis are part of the newly formed, coed Miami Blazers cycling team. Both have competed together for a majority of the last decade. 

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Between the two sisters, they’ve won dozens of national and international cycling competitions. Skylar even won the women’s Pro/1-2 race at last year’s Tour of America’s Dairyland series.

But this year’s event is presenting new challenges to the pair.

“It’s probably one of the most talented fields we’ve ever had, both with the pro men and pro women, ” said Skylar Schneider. “There’s former Olympians, there’s riders from around the world that are here, which is really incredible for our worlds to collide — racing on our home roads and then having our competition that we’ve raced against around the world in one place.”

The Schneider sisters joined WPR’s “Wisconsin Today” to talk about this year’s races and what it takes to be a professional cyclist.

The following was edited for clarity and brevity.

Kate Archer Kent: How do criterium races work?

Sam Schneider: It’s a closed circuit — usually under a mile — and we do laps. And here, our race time is 75 minutes. So they’ll take the first couple laps and average our time. We’ll usually do about 30 to 35 miles, and that’s 75 minutes. It’s very action-packed. It’s fast. We’re taking city corners at full speed, so it’s really exciting to watch. 

Within the race, there’s the last lap and you get the checkered flag. But within the race, there are also primes. And it can be anywhere from merchandise, like a bike pump, up until like yesterday, there (was a) $1,000 prime. And so there’s constant action going on within the race.

Crashes obviously also happen. Some people really enjoy watching those and other people like to look away. 

KAK: Do you two have special ways of communicating with each other or working together in these races?

Sam Schneider: Yeah, I’d say a definite advantage Skylar and I have is just being able to race and train together. We’re sisters, obviously, so we’ve done a lot of things together and we can communicate in the race. We can read each other’s body language pretty accurately. So if somebody is hurting, we don’t really have to ask. We can tell; it’s all over them. 

Some teams actually have radios in their ear, and they’re able to communicate with each other with that. But we don’t necessarily need that in these races.

KAK: How do you best train to prepare yourself for cycling races that can take you all over the world?

Skylar Schneider: It’s a lot of time management and balance. 

All winter, we’re stuck inside training, because the winter here is pretty brutal. So it really comes down to a lot of self discipline. We will take trips to warmer places when it’s possible, but we also own a bakery in West Allis. So leaving isn’t quite as easy as it used to be. 

Our days are a little bit of playing Tetris — prioritizing training, of course — but like this morning, I was out the door before 8 a.m. to get 60 miles in. The rest of the day will be focused on the bakery and putting some hours in there. 

But I really, really love what I do. So for me, the training is actually easy. And it’s something Sam and I get to do together. We will often have our business meetings on the bike because we’re already spending a few hours together each day doing that. 

KAK: We have our eyes on the Paris Olympics. What should we be watching when we look at all the different race disciplines in the Olympics?

Skylar Schneider: The criterium is American style, so that will not be in the Olympics. But there will be a time trial, so each rider will race individually and the person with the fastest time will win. There’s also a road race, which for the women will probably be around 80 to 90 miles. And those are much larger laps. But for us this year, we’re really focused on criterium (races). 

But with the 2028 Olympics being in Los Angeles, for the next few years, I plan to transition from criteriums to more road races to hopefully earn a spot in those Olympics.