The Nature Valley Grand Prix is a bootstrap kind of event. It was founded by someone interested in creating awareness about the cycling community in the Twin Cities. It’s grown to become a major contributor to Children’s Hospital and the pediatric hospice and palliative care unit managed by Children’s. A pro race that brings in 300 men and women riders for one of the largest stage races in North America.
The race director and a bevy of volunteers make this annual event happen – and more than 60,000 spectators come to the various stages in Saint Paul, Cannon Falls, Minneapolis, Mankato, and Stillwater to take in all the family-friendly fun and excitement during the five-day event. They do it on a shoestring budget and rely on PAYING sponsors who see value in associating their company name with a professional race that, year-after-year, exceeds expectations.
Yet some small businesses leech on to aspects of the event for free (you can read about one such example here). They do not provide support to the pro riders who come to Minneapolis for a week every June and bust their lungs racing. They make NO contribution in support of Children’s Hospital. They do not officially sponsor any part of the Nature Valley Grand Prix or the Minnesota Bicycle Festival, yet they assume sponsor-like rights to edge their way into the action, disrupting riders and the race itself if necessary.
The Nature Valley Grand Prix doesn’t pretend it can stop unseemly behavior at every venue. Race officials politely ask ALL fans to follow spectator guidelines, stay off the roads and out of the way of cyclists who are there to perform (and win) races. NVGP can’t take away signs or free speech (AS IF!). But if some asshole with a sign and one to many beers in his gullet thinks it wise to run elbow-to-elbow with cyclists in the midst of a race, he’s gonna find himself quickly removed from the course.
Our race director and volunteers are putting on a respectable event that cyclists WANT to be part of. We have our guidelines and rules and we expect everyone who attends to adhere to them. And the racers expect the same amount of respect.