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This year’s Minnesota Bicycle Festival featuring the Nature Valley Grand Prix started under clouds of drizzle on Wednesday morning, June 10. But riders refused to let wet weather dampen their objective: to reach the podium on Day One of the five-day, six-stage race.

Gold medal Olympian, Kristin Armstrong lived up to all early expectations as she completed the time trial stage in first place, blasting past several riders on her way to the finish. It’s Armstrong’s last race in North America as she winds down a stellar cycling career and launches a junior development program in her hometown of Boise.

Kristin Armstrong finishes Stage One Time Trial of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. (Photo: Steve Pottenger)

Kristin Armstrong finishes Stage One Time Trial of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. (Photo: Steve Pottenger)

“This is one of my favorite races,” a beaming Armstrong said following her time trial win. “Minneapolis is very welcoming,” she added, noting that the community and fan support at the Nature Valley Grand Prix helps her prioritize this race over others when deciding her racing schedule.

On the men’s side, defending Nature Valley Grand Prix champion, Rory Sutherland, stands in fifth place in the overall points race following the time trial and stage two criterium in Saint Paul. Meanwhile, Tom Zirbel (team Bissell) currently sits with the yellow jersey.

“Last year, we…didn’t finish too well,” said Zirbel, who put in a blistering time of 12 minutes, 36 seconds and the 7.2-kilometer time trial course, beating Sutherland by 13 seconds. “We have some stronger guys on the team this year. Hopefully, we learned from last year and will do better.”

Racing continues on Thursday in Cannon Falls, Friday in Minneapolis, Saturday in Mankato, Minn., and Sunday’s finale in Stillwater.

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The Snvgp-karmstrong-s6-6_15_08outhwest Journal reports on the upcoming Minnesota Bike Festival.

Click here to see that newspaper’s coverage.

Take note, three-time Nature Valley Grand Prix champion and Olympic Gold Medalist, Kristin Armstrong, has confirmed she will ride in the 2009 NVGP as she readies herself for the 2009 World Championship Time Trials and Road Race in September. The field of 140 women will once again be forced to contend and compete with Armstrong’s power, performance and unparalleled time-trial expertise.

This year’s Festival is shaping up to be one of the best ever.

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