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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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The 11th edition of the Minnesota Bicycle Festival and Nature Valley Grand Prix ended today in Stillwater, Minn. Under clear skies (thankfully) and warm temperatures, thousands of spectators lined the now infamous Chilkoot Hill to watch the pro men and women battle in their respective races.

For the women, Kristin Armstrong hung on to a 12-second lead coming into the final stage to win both the final stage and the overall general classification in her last pro race in America.

The men’s race proved to be even closer, with Aussie, Rory Sutherland taken the overall but just a couple seconds in a final lap sprint to beat Tom Zirbel who wore the yellow jersey in all previous stages of the race. Phillip Mamos of Amore e Vita p/b Life Time Fitness-Velo Vie, won the Stillwater Criterium stage – also on the final lap.

Phillip Mamos pumps both fists as he crosses the finish line to win stage 6 of the 2009 Nature Valley Grand Prix. Photo by Steve Pottenger

Phillip Mamos pumps both fists as he crosses the finish line to win stage 6 of the 2009 Nature Valley Grand Prix. Photo by Steve Pottenger

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Pictures tell it all. The 2008 Nature Valley Grand Prix comes to a close with a fantastic Stage 6 race – the Stillwater Criterium, on June 15, 2008.

With a minute-plus lead over the rest of the field, Kristin Armstrong waves to the thousands cheering her on in Stillwater. Will she win a gold medal in Beijing? (Photo by Matt Moses)

Armstrong beams with both her stage 6 win and overall Nature Valley Grand Prix championship – her third consecutive NVGP general classification victory. (Photo by Stephanie Williams)

Team Healthnet rode in a menacing pack on Sunday, keeping all of its members close together throughout the Stillwater criterium. In the end, Rory Sutherland won the NVGP overall and his teammate, Kirk O’Bee, took home the Wheaties Sprinter’s jersey. (Photo by Matt Moses)

Rory Sutherland (in yellow leader’s jersey), riding for Healthnet-Maxxis, provides a draft for Toyota-United’s Ivan Stevic who won the 2007 NVGP. Sutherland went on to win the overall NVGP championship, while Stevic will go to Beijing in August to ride in the 2008 Summer Olympics. (Photo by Matt Moses)

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Just time for a quick post and photo on Stage 2 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. The weather turned for the better on Day Two, held on the country roads in and around Cannon Falls, Minn. Riders struck out on a 66-mile road course along rolling hills and next to corn and soybean crops now greening the farm fields of eastern Minnesota.

The last mile into town included a nasty gravel stretch followed by a poorly kept asphalt, pot-hole-filled-road that gave riders plenty of teeth rattling and wheel jarring. In the end, the men’s race winner, was Kirk O’Bee and the women’s field was won by Tina Pic.

Alex Candelario (far right) bumps his way through a gravelly stretch of the Stage 2 road race in Cannon Falls, Minn. Candelario finished second in the men’s race. (Photo by: Chuck Grothaus)

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If you’ve ever seen short-track speed skating during the Winter Olympics, then you have some idea of what short-track bike racing might be like…only much faster.

During the time trials for men and women, 41-time Italian national champion, Roberto Chiappa cruised a lap at 41-miles-per-hour.  Most men could only come within four or five digits of that top speed.  The women averaged around 33 mph.  Very impressive, but the dominant force was in the house on Saturday night.

The MN Fixed Gear Classic, the prelude to the Great River Energy Bicycle Festival featuring the Nature Valley Grand Prix, winds up today.

Get ready for the pro stage race which starts June 11.

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For the next 10 days, my time is going to be consumed with the Great River Energy Bicycle Festival featuring the Nature Valley Grand Prix.

Pro bike racing only comes to Minnesota once a year, so if you’re in the area, come and check it out June 11-15.

That’s 53 seconds of action from a five day, six-stage race in which 140 men and 145 men are scheduled to participate in this year. So stay tuned for updates – or perhaps a summary depending on my available time during the next week and a half.  Thrills and spills. Men and women in lycra going on bikes at 40 miles per hour. How could summer in Minnesota get any better?

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