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Archive for April, 2010

Minneapolis – This year’s edition of the Nature Valley Grand Prix will go “old school,” with a return to Eddy Merckx-style racing for the individual time trial that opens this year’s USA Cycling National Racing Calendar event.

Kristen Armstrong competing in the 2009 Nature Valley Grand Prix Stage 1 Time Trial.

Executive Director David LaPorte said the Nature Valley Grand Prix has opted to invoke a new USA Cycling rule that allows race organizers to specify that “massed-start legal” bicycles are required for time trials. The rule will be enforced for the six-mile (9.6 km) St. Paul Riverfront time trial on June 16.

“The decision was made partly to simplify logistics for the teams and partly out of fairness,” LaPorte said. “We have a time cut in the time trial to ensure that no one loafs to stay fresh for the criterium that night. But in the past, we have had some strong riders cut primarily because they did not have time trial bikes. We have also had some riders in the past who haven’t competed because of the expense of bringing two bikes, particularly with the outrageous charges the airlines are imposing.”

LaPorte said he doesn’t expect the change to significantly affect the overall results of the five-day, six-stage race.

“The time trial is only six miles and the last mile is an eight-percent climb,” he said. “Also, with the new road race in Menomonie, Wisconsin, the seconds gained or lost in the time trial are likely to be insignificant. Unlike the old Mankato road race, this course will be very hilly, with lots of opportunities for aggressive teams to shatter the pack. If big time gaps don’t form, it will likely be because the teams haven’t taken advantage of the terrain.”

The Nature Valley Grand Prix will work with USA Cycling officials to spell out the specific restrictions regarding aero equipment (wheels, helmets, etc.), which will ultimately appear in the race bible.

The decision to prohibit time trial bikes is certainly not unique, as several international races (Tour of Qatar, Tour of Langkawi, etc.) have banned time trial bikes and aero equipment for years. In the U.S., the team time trial stage of the 2008 Tour de Georgia featured the same restrictions.

Danny Van Haute, director of the Jelly Belly Cycling presented by Kenda professional men’s team, said the decision to prohibit time trial bikes will level the playing field. “Not everyone can buy time trial equipment and if the pro teams have this equipment, it’s not fair to the riders who don’t,” he said. “I’ll bet the results will be the same with time trial bikes as they would be without.”

Team Vera Bradley Foundation Director Lisa Hunt said it is disappointing for her team’s bicycle sponsor not to be able to showcase its time trial bikes. “However, in the interest of being fair and equitable for all parties involved, I support the decision,” she said. “Clearly, our strongest time trial riders will be strong on a road bike or a time trial bike. So it’s not like we are at a disadvantage.”

LaPorte said he will poll all women’s and men’s teams after the race – as he has done in previous years – to get an idea of whether the new rule should be retained for 2011.

About the Nature Valley Grand Prix
The Nature Valley Grand Prix, which takes place in Eastern Minnesota and Western Wisconsin, is the premier stage race on the 2010 USA Cycling National Racing Calendar. The 2010 race will include stops in Saint Paul, Cannon Falls, Minneapolis, Menomonie, and Stillwater. The Nature Valley Grand Prix is a part of the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival, a volunteer-run event, with all proceeds donated to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, the festival’s benefiting charity. More information can be found at: www.NatureValleyBicycleFestival.com

About Nature Valley
Nature Valley, the brand that created the granola bar category in 1975, brings variety to healthy, active consumers looking for wholesome and great-tasting snacks. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Nature Valley is part of General Mills, a leading global manufacturer and marketer of consumer foods products. For more information, visit www.NatureValley.com.

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News Release:

The first four of the 12 riders on the Nature Valley Pro Ride men’s and women’s teams have been selected, with the next two to be determined in Oregon this weekend.

Women’s qualifiers are Kristen Meshberg of Lyons, Ill., from the Hillsboro-Roubaix Road Race near St. Louis and Monroe, Ga., resident Nancy Jones, from the Rock Hill Spring Bicycle Classic in South Carolina.

Jones, riding for Subaru Gary Fisher Road Cycling Team, is a past Georgia state time trial champion who finished third in that discipline at last year’s USA Cycling Masters Road National Championships. Meshberg rides for the Flatlandia Cycling Team and said she is “super excited” to be part of the Nature Valley Pro Ride.

“What a cool race and what a cool program” Meshberg said. “I also am very appreciative for the opportunities that the Nature Valley Grand Prix provides for women’s cycling. Having a filled women’s field is fantastic.”

Men’s qualifiers are Zach Garrett of Sumter, S.C. and Lawrence, Kan., resident Joseph Schmalz of the Mercy Cycling Team. Garrett races for U.S. Military Cycling. To accept the Nature Valley Pro Ride invitation, he first had to receive permission for time off from his commanders at Shaw Air Force Base.

“Once I told them how prestigious the Nature Valley Grand Prix is, they were all ears and really happy for me,” Garrett said. “I’m really excited about the opportunity. It’s just incredible to allow a composite team to be formed and give amateurs the opportunity to race against the pros.”

Nature Valley Pro Riders who are invited to compete in the Nature Valley Grand Prix earn free entry to the race, generous travel stipends, team clothing, housing, ground transportation, and staff support for their composite teams. They also receive pro-level recognition before, during and after the events, including pre-race call-ups and participation in promotional and media appearances.

This weekend marks the next stop on the Nature Valley Pro Ride national tour. The Cherry Blossom Classic presented by Waters Edge Health and Wellness Center takes place Friday through Sunday in the Portland, Ore., area. Qualifiers will be based on the final overall standings in the three-day event that includes a road race, circuit race, time trial and criterium.

The other remaining Nature Valley Pro Ride events are: Barrio Logan Grand Prix/Mark Reynolds San Luis Rey Cycling Classic (May 1-2) in California, Bear Mountain Spring Classic (May 16) in New York and Mt. Hamilton Classic Road Race/Memorial Day Criterium (May 30-31) in California.

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Spring is here. A month early. And for Minnesota, that’s huge. It means old man winter took a short cut of four weeks – and that  means a full extra month of warmer weather in the Upper Midwest.

So it’s time to turn our attention to the Nature Valley Grand Prix.

Perhaps the most exciting news for the race this June is that Nature Valley Granola Bars has become the title sponsor for the 10-day festival. We’re now known as the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival featuring the Nature Valley Grand Prix. What’s more, we’re bringing back Velodrome racing as the precursor to the Grand Prix stage race. The National Sports Center in Blaine, Minn., will host the track races just as it did in 2008.

The Fixed Gear Classic velodrome races start June 11 and the Nature Valley Grand Prix gets under way on June 16 in Saint Paul, finishing in Stillwater, Minn., on June 20. One additional element to this year’s Grand Prix is a new Stage 5 race in Menomonie, Wisc. That’s right, the Grand Prix leaves the confines of Minnesota’s borders to conduct a brutal road race stage in the hills surrounding Menomonie – just 45 miles east of the state line. This new stage is sure to leave pro teams talking – or having nightmares.

I plan to continue reporting on the main events here throughout April, May and June, so check back often.

If you live in the Twin Cities region, the coordinators of the festival are in need of volunteers to host cyclists throughout race week (June 14 – 21), so please consider opening your homes (and extra beds) up to these world-class racers.

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