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TRIA Orthopaedic Center Your Cycling Blog

What a Week of Racing!

June 24, 2010

Bob McEnaney, a Minneapolis-based cycling coach, contributor to the TRIA Orthopaedic Center blog and Nature Valley Grand Prix fan, has enjoyed another edition of the race. Here are his thoughts on the week that was:

The Nature Valley Grand Prix continued its tradition of delivering top notch racing and exciting action throughout each stage. Both the men’s and women’s races provided excitement to the large and appreciative crowds throughout the 5 days.

Watching each stage as I did (as well as being a rider host), I was impressed and amazed by the effort given by the riders, and their ability to bounce back the next day and do it all over again. We watch the Tour and the other major stage races on TV, but watching them live, up close and personal each day provides an insight that is impossible to pick up on TV, the computer or the magazines.

These riders are forced to ride hard every day, on challenging courses and in all weather conditions. They go back to their hotel or their host housing, recover, sleep and do it all again the next day at a different venue.

As a coach, I’m amazed at the fitness level of these riders. Their actual riding ability, including their bike handling skills is phenomenal. Their ability to generate huge amounts of power – again and again and again – is incredible. And one of the most amazing qualities I see is their ability to recover quickly.

Many cyclists can pull out a huge effort for a one day event. However, this huge energy expenditure can wipe them out for several days or more. So to see – first hand – these riders ability to bounce back is simply astounding.

These are exceptional athletes, there’s no question about this. We’re fortunate to have such a high quality and highly visible race in our own back yard. As cyclists, as athletes and as fans, we need to continue to embrace this race. We don’t know how lucky we are.

Congratulations to the race organizers. It’s difficult to imagine all that goes into putting on a world class event such as this. The number of details, questions, issues and complications they deal with on a daily basis, not only during the race, but the entire year leading up to the race is mind-boggling.

This was a fantastic race, as always. I’m already looking forward to the 2011 edition, and I hope you are as well!

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Sutherland Takes Nature Valley Grand Prix Overall for Third Straight Year

June 21, 2010

by Lyne Lamoureax

Rory Sutherland (United Healthcare p/b Maxxis) did it again at the Stillwater Criterium, the nail-biting finish to the 2010 Nature Valley Grand Prix. Not only did the Australian overcome a three-second deficit to leader Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) but he also pulled out the stage win to claim his third consecutive overall victory at the race.

“It’s definitely special because there is more pressure to be able to do it,” said Sutherland about his three-peat. “As fun as it was last year to bring it down to the last day, I’d much rather have it a few days earlier, but this is the finish here.”

Rory Sutherland (center), riding for United Healthcare p/b MAXXIS won the yellow jersey and general classification victory in the final stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Scott Zwizanski (left) and David Veilleux (far right), both with Kelly Benefit Strategies, earned second and third place finishes in the 2010 Nature Valley Grand Prix. Photo by Matt Moses.

Everyone knew that strategy today, the tried and true plan that the United Healthcare team followed last year. Stick close to the yellow jersey, mass at the front and launch an attack in the final laps of the 20-lap race.

“I got the confidence and I have the team to do a finish like that. The Kelly guys did a phenomenal job the whole race, but,” said Sutherland, “it’s [either] you can follow or you can’t follow. That’s the way it works.”

And that’s exactly what happened when with two laps to go, Sutherland attacked on the leg-busting Chilkoot Hill. Luis Amaran (Jamis/Sutter Home) was the only rider to jump on but he was dropped on the final time up Chilkoot and took second on the stage.

Zwizanski was just not able to cover the move. “My team did a great work, they did everything they could, we did everything we could and I didn’t have the legs in the end to go with those two boys and that’s the way it went. It’s a bummer,” said a disappointed Zwizanski who finished second in the overall general classification at six seconds down.

Zwizanski’s right hand man in the final laps and 2008 Stillwater stage winner David Veilleux saw the attack happen and moved to cover but then looked back to see if Zwizanski was on his wheel.

“I had good legs today. When I went to bridge up, I hesitated because I saw that Scott wasn’t there, maybe I should have gone for it,” said Veilleux. “I think that we tried everything that we could to win the yellow jersey, that was the goal of the day.”

Veilleux finished third on the stage and in the general classification.

An hour or so before the showdown, the riders lined up for the final stage with a noisy crowd ready to cheer them on Chilkoot. A crash took down about 20 riders a few meters from the start line when the gun was off, but most returned to the race after a free lap. At the front, three riders immediately attacked, Jeremy Vennell (BISSELL), Scott Stewart (Team Type 1) and Anthony Colby (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) were off with the whole Kelly Benefit squad once again stringing out the field with a fast pace. A familiar sight from the start when Zwizanski took the lead after winning the opening time trial.

The gap grew to 17 seconds following the first King of the Hill competition won by Stewart. Riders, including Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda), Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia), Benjamin King (Trek Livestrong) in his white Fruit by the Foot Best Young Rider jersey tried to bridge up but the boys in green shut it down.

Stewart wasn’t ready to re-integrate the field and kept on going solo. He was soon joined by Mike Northey (Rubicon-ORBEA), Alessandro Bazzana (Fly V Australia) and Kiel Reijnen (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda). The four worked together until the second KOH once again taken by Scott Stewart, and then sat up, well almost all sat up.

“I was out there, so I might as well keep going and hopefully someone will come across, no one really did and I think Jamis ended pulling me back in. Kelly Benefit were happy to let me get away, I was in no contention but, oh well, I had a go,” said Northey who continued solo for the next three laps. He was awarded the Freewheel Bike Most Aggressive Rider jersey following the stage.

The dwindling field was back together with seven laps to go, when Amaran attacked on the hill covered by Sutherland and Veilleux. The Kelly Benefit squad shut this dangerous move down before the next time up the climb. The next two times up, the United Healthcare team was massed at the front shoulder to shoulder with the Kelly Benefit riders. With two laps to go, Sutherland’s team, still six strong, took over the pacemaking with Zwizanski, Veilleux and Amaran sitting right behind. Everyone was waiting for Sutherland’s attack.

“You can’t sit too far back, you can’t sit too far forward,” explained Sutherland about the strategy for tackling Chilkoot. “We have guys in this team, I’ve won it three times now, we’ve got other guys who have been here winning five, six times total, I think we pretty much know how to ride this one.”

King finished seventh overall and held on to win the Best Young Rider classification, which he had been leading from the start.

“Everyone is going for it every day, you really just have to take it a day as a time, treat each race as a one day. Go for as many results as possible and the consistency is what guarantees a high overall finish,” said King about the fight for the jersey. “As an under-23 team it definitely was a priority to snag it.”

With the help of his teammates, sprinter Brad Huff (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) took home the Sports Beans King of the Hills climber’s jersey. He picked up the points when he made his way into the long break in Saturday’s stage in Menomonie, Wisc.

“We didn’t have anything to lose, we were trying to be aggressive and it did work out that they did get into the early breakaways and take the points so that Sulzberger wasn’t able to get into them. Bad luck to him, he got into a crash, I think second KOM,” said Huff. “It wasn’t super aggressive for the KOM points, but it was an aggressive race.”

In the other competitions, Hilton Clarke (United Healthcare) won the Wheaties FUEL Sprint Competition. Chris Winn (Rio Grande) won the Nature Valley Top Amateur classification. Kelly Benefit Strategies took home the best team classification.

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Evans Finishes The Nature Valley Grand Prix with Yellow Jersey; Stevens Wins Stillwater Criterium

by Cynthia Lou

Today was an exciting day in women’s bike racing filled with aggressive attacks throughout the 13 laps of a 1.5 mile criterium race that included the infamous Chilkoot Hill and its 18% average-grade climb. Shelley Evans and her team Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12 stamped their determination on the race by driving the tempo from the beginning, eventually landing her in the winning breakaway group ahead of Linda Villumsen (HTC-Columbia), who wore the yellow jersey coming into the stage.

“We had a plan to keep the yellow jersey with Linda [Villumsen],” said René Wenzel, team director for HTC-Columbia. Villumsen started the stage with an 11 second advantage over Evans. “But we also knew it wasn’t her favorite course, the hill was a little too steep so we kept Evelyn as the plan B. The HTC Columbia girls are super happy about having been here. We won three stages – I don’t think we could ask for much more than that.”

“This race is a race of attrition, we knew we needed to make it fast and hard from the beginning” said Evans. “The front of the race is the front of the race, everything behind is just going back. We knew we had to make it hard, not to let people get into a rhythm and put the pressure on from the beginning, push the pressure on over the climb so nobody could get comfortable, so that’s what we did.”

The was a series of attacks from the beginning, with riders from HTC-Columbia, Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12, Colavita/Baci, Team TIBCO, and Webcor Builders at the front.

“We did as much as we could,” said Team TIBCO team director Emma Rickards. Team TIBCO sent many riders up the road on attacks including Meredith Miller, Brooke Miller, and Ruth Corset. “The girls had a great week of racing, with Ali [Starnes] winning the time trial and being in yellow for a couple of days. Criteriums are not her forte, so to see her maintain that jersey was really awesome to see. The girls had some great racing yesterday and today. It was awesome women’s racing to see the yellow jersey change around so much.”

By five laps to go, a five person break with a 12 second lead formed with Evans, Stevens, Villumsen, Erinne Willock (Webcor Builders) and Ruth Corset (Team TIBCO). On the way up Chilkoot Hill with three laps to go, Stevens launched the decisive attack that would set her up for the stage win. By the top of Chilkoot Hill Stevens had a slight three-second lead, and with two laps to go she had a 20 second lead over Catherine Cheatley (Colavita/Baci) and Ruth Corset (Team TIBCO), while Evans and her teammate Mara Abbott were 24 seconds back.

With one lap to go Stevens had 24 seconds on the chase, enough to put her in the virtual yellow. But the toll of being out solo took it’s toll. Evans, supported by her teammates, were able to close the gap down to just 12 seconds by the time they crossed the finish line. Villumsen finished the stage at just over one minute back.

“I’m marking this as number five,” said Kristin Armstrong, team director of Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12, referring to her own previous four victories on the bike, and today’s victory as director.

Last year, Evans was second to Armstrong, who won the Stillwater Criterium and the overall general classification.

In true form, the Nature Valley Grand Prix seems to be the place where professional riders are groomed and leave their stamp on the professional circuit.

This year, Evans stands atop the podium in GC, while Stevens stands atop the podium as the stage winner.

Shelley Evans (center), representing Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12, took advantage of her sprint and climbing abilities to capture the yellow jersey in the 2010 Nature Valley Grand Prix. Evelyn Stevens (left), won second riding for HTC Columbia, followed by Ruth Corset, Team TIBCO. Photo by Matt Moses.

“I did this race last year, I think this was my first or second pro-/NRC race,” said Stevens. “It’s nice to see the improvement from a year ago.”

“I raced here in 2008 with the Ryan’s Colegiate All Stars Team,” said Chloe Forsman (Specialized D4W/Bicycle Haus), winner of the Nature Valley Top Amateur Rider Jersey.

“This is the first time I’ve finished more than half of this race, so, I’m pretty stoked about that!” Forsman laughed. “I knew it was going to be a matter of how long I could suffer with the group up the hill and then trying to stay together on the false flat and not lose any wheels on the flatter sections.”

Brooke Miller won her first big NRC race at Nature Valley in 2006, “when I was just a pup!” she laughs. “I love [Stillwater]! And you’re talking to someone who, the first two times I raced it, when the officials pulled me off I thanked them. It’s really hard but it’s just so fantastic!”

The final podium included Linda Villumsen in the Fruit By The Foot Best Young Rider Jersey, Team TIBCO atop the best team general classification, Evans in the Wheaties Sprint Jersey, Mara Abbott (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) in the Jelly Beans Sport Beans Queen of the Hills Jersey, and Evelyn Stevens in the Freewheel Bike Most Aggressive Rider Jersey.

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Ken Hanson Steals Stage 5 Win in Nature Valley Grand Prix

by Lyne Lamoureax

What a difference a day makes for Ken Hanson at the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Yesterday, the sprinter from Team Type 1 was disappointed in his second place finish behind repeat winner Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis). Today, Hanson waited patiently until the finale of the 95-mile Menomonie Road Race to launch his sprint and take the win.

Ken Hanson, Team Type 1, celebrates his victory at the Menomonie Road Race, stage 5 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix.

“Hilton was unbeatable yesterday. I knew the speed was there in my legs, I felt good after the race, it was a little bit of a confidence boost and I think it left me hungry to come today that if it was going to be a sprint to know that I know I have good legs and the fitness is there and I just need to get a clean shot at the line and I felt confident with that,” said Hanson.

Making it even sweeter for Team Type 1 was Alexey Shmidt finishing second in a photo finish ahead of Rory Sutherland (United Healthcare p/b Maxxis).

With his six-second time bonus, Sutherland now sits at only three seconds down from leader Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) with one stage to go, the very tough Stillwater Criterium. Last year, Sutherland made his move on the leg-busting Chilkoot Hill to grab those extra seconds to come from second place and win the overall for his second time. Can he three-peat tomorrow?

“I think whatever happens tomorrow happens, if we can pick an extra few seconds that’s great, if not and Scott wins, he’s a fantastic guy and he’s worked super hard. I definitely applaud their effort, it was fantastic and they deserve it but it’s still a bike race. What would Stillwater be without a small gap and exciting for everybody?” asked Sutherland.

“I’m nervous. I always get nervous. Nervous but confident in my team, I’ve got great teammates who are going to lay it all on the line for me and I’m going to lay it all on the line to try to hold on to the jersey,” said Zwizanski.

It will all come down to gaps at the finish line on the final stage. “No time bonus tomorrow, it’s just a clean old race which is good,” commented Zwizanski.

But before the final sprint to the line, attacks flew at the start in Menomonie, the first time ever that the Nature Valley Grand Prix left Minnesota. Riders from BISSELL, Fly V Australia, Jelly Belly p/b Kenda, Kenda p/b Geargrinder and more took flyers off the front of the field, either solo or in groups. Everybody wanted to be in the break so for the next 40 miles, it was non-stop attacking at the front with Kelly Benefit Strategies controlling and making sure nothing threatening went up the road.

During this non-stop activity period, Brad Huff (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) took the first two KOH putting him in the lead for that competition.

Finally, seven riders were off. In the move were Dan Holt (Team Type 1), Bernie Sulzberger (Fly V Australia), Soren Peterson (Hagens Berman), Dan Bowman (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Travis Burandt (Hotel San Jose), Nick Frey (Jamis/Sutter Home) and Huff.

Content with the combination, the peloton sat up and the gap grew. While many tried, only one rider, Phil Gaimon (Kenda p/b Geargrinder), managed to bridge up while Bowman dropped back to the field to help out the chase. With almost every rider in the break rotating through, the gap went up to two minutes and twenty-five seconds with 40 miles to go making Frey the virtual leader on the road.

Meanwhile, Zwizanski’s team led the chase and started to bring down the gap, with 30 miles to go, it was down to two minutes. Entering the first of four finishing circuits, with 12 miles to go, only 15 seconds separated the two groups. And then it was a free for all.

“Some guys started attacking before we actually caught the break, We got swarmed before we caught the break,” explained Zwizanski. “Vennell attacked, Amaran attacked, that guy attacks harder than anybody I’ve ever known its so hard. I was all over Amaran, Rory was all over me, Rory was all over Veilleux and Zach. Coming in it was crazy, this shuffling and attacking.”

Attacks continued and with three laps to go, the United Healthcare train came to the front, using all their riders to try and get those seconds for Sutherland.

With two laps to go, a counter-attack went with Zach Bell (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Nathan Brown (Trek-Livestrong), Gabe Verala (Nature Valley Pro Ride) and Gaimon. With the field closing down on them, Bell gave a last gasp but it was all back together on the final lap.

Team Type 1 was biding its time. Shawn Milne and Davide Frattini took over the pace making on the backstretch and upped the pace. Karl Menzies with Sutherland on his wheel swarmed the trio and made their way to the front.

“We just stayed really close, right behind them and waited until the right moment, they had to make their move before the last corner to try to lead out Rory. They did a great job but luckily myself and my teammate were in the right position to come around for the finish,” explained Hanson who came around the UnitedHealthcare duo to take the win. 


“I can only do so much against the sprinters but at the end of 150K with a lot of guys that have been doing crits, I can sprint much better than I could yesterday. Again we saw Kelly did a great job riding at the front all day. And again us, our guys got on the front with three laps to go, they kept going, that’s fantastic. Hilton gave up all his chance to win today, and so did Jake and so did Karl for me and that shows the team spirit and definitely shows what we have together,” said Sutherland.

The Kelly Benefit Strategies team worked hard all day and could not keep Sutherland out of the top three.

“It was hard for our guys today. We didn’t get the crosswinds that could have really broken up the race, but there was enough wind to make it hard the whole way. Our guys used everything they had and they did a great job.” said Zwizanski who crossed the line in 13th place with the same time and gets to defend the jersey for one more day.

Huff, known as a sprinter, took points in all the King of the Hill (KOH) competitions and put himself in the polka dot jersey.

“We tried to make sure that we were in the 1-2 each time, luckily it worked out that way,” said Huff about competing with Sulzberger for points. “Early on, it was just cat and mouse earlier in the race, I got lucky that I followed the right moves and was able to go for the sprint on the hill, it was a long day.” He added about defending the jersey, “Tomorrow is a sufferfest, I’m just hoping that I can ride well.”

The race concludes tomorrow with the Stillwater Criterium, 20 laps of torture where the course features the trek up Chilkoot Hill, with an average grade of 18%, every lap. It’s going to be war out there between Kelly Benefit Strategies and UnitedHealthcare, between Scott Zwizanski and Rory Sutherland.

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Willock (Webcor Builders) Wins the Menomonie Road Race; Villumsen (HTC-Columbia) in Yellow

by Cynthia Lou

The two-woman breakaway of Erinne Willock (Webcor Builders) and Linda Melanie Villumsen (HTC-Columbia) held off an aggressive chase group to take first and second, respectively, at Nature Valley Grand Prix’s first-ever Menomonie Road Race in Menomonie, Wisc. The two had enough of a gap off the chase group to put Villumsen first in general classification. Rounding out the podium was Team TIBCO’s Brooke Miller, who won the field sprint for third.

Erinne Willock, Webcor Builers, wins stage 5 of the Menomonie Road Race, part of the Nature Valley Grand Prix, after building a more than 40 second gap over the peloton.

With racers less tired than they might otherwise have been due to the cancellation of the Thursday’s Cannon Falls Road Race, the stage was set to be an aggressive battle.

Riders lined up eight abroad during the opening 3.3 miles of neutral start and saw riders from HTC-Columbia, Team TIBCO, and Colavita-Baci heading the charge. Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12 and Team Vera Bradley Foundation flanked the sides, ready to pounce.

But the pack stayed close together to the first QOM competition, where Team Vera Bradley Foundation rider Anne Samplonius made the first breakaway escape, gaining up to 40 seconds on the pack in a solo effort. She was joined by Rebecca Much (Team TIBCO), but both were eventually caught while climbing the second QOM.

By this time the field had been eying each other, testing each other’s strategies, and teams began to launch aggressive attacks.

“We wanted to have a really aggressive race and put riders up there that would put Peanut Butter in a position where they’d have to defend,” said Brooke Miller (Team TIBCO). “I think everyone in the peloton had that same strategy. It really was an aggressive race – the whole peloton was animated.”

“We wanted to wait and see how everybody else was going to deal with the course,” said René Wenzel, team director of HTC-Columbia. “It was going to be a very hard course if everyone was aggressive – and we wanted it to be aggressive – but we only have five riders on our team so we needed to wait a little bit before we went into action.”

Ruth Corset (Team TIBCO) attacked the peloton at the third QOM on Oak Ridge Hill.

“Ruth just flies up hills, and I won’t lie, that hurt!” laughed teammate Miller. “That’s when the first decisive separation of the day happened.”

A small break formed with Ruth Corset (Team TIBCO), Evelyn Stevens (HTC-Columbia), Mara Abbott (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12), and Catherine Cheatley (Colavita/Baci). They were quickly joined by defending yellow jersey wearer Shelley Evans (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) and twelve other riders, including eventual leader Villumsen and stage winner Willock.

“There were some attacks going across the time and some cross wind there,” said Willock. “I attacked at the top and Linda bridged across and we worked together from then on.”

“I saw her [Erinne] go, and I thought, ‘Here’s my chance’,” said Villumsen. “It was hard to communicate with each other because we didn’t have the radios so we had to keep track of where everybody is and who’s going up the road. Today for us was perfect.”

”It’s a good course,“ said Willock. ”With the rolling hills and wind, it’s out-of-sight-out-of-mind, so it’s good for a breakaway.“

The gap opened up quickly and by approximately 10 miles was up to 1’ 45”. As the duo entered the technical circuit race for five laps and 11.6 miles of racing, the gap was down to 40 seconds from the chase.

Villumsen noted, ”They came closer and closer and we saw the bunch around some of the corners. We said, ‘OK, we have to give it everything, everything to the finish’, so it was all-out.“

“We pretty much didn’t know we would make it to the line [away] until about one lap to go,” said Willock. “I sprinted but Linda pretty much gave me the stage. She was moving into yellow and it was a good stage win for us.”

A pack-sprint of the chase group followed.

“It was kind of crazy, we really didn’t expect a bunch sprint today,” said Miller. “We had a lot of different scenarios. For how technical the course was, it was hard to say ‘This is how we want to do the lead out’ so we improvised. I was just sitting on Meredith [Miller] and she did a great job of moving me around the corner. Emma Mackie [Team TIBCO] attacked, Meredith took off and took me to the last corner and I just took it from there.”

Villumsen enters the final stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix, the Stillwater Criterium with its infamous Chilkoot Hill that boasts an average grade of 18%, with an 11 second lead over Evans. Corset and Willock move into third and fourth places in the general classification respectively, both at 34 seconds back.

Villumsen currently leads the Fruit By The Foot Best Young Rider Jersey, and Mara Abbott (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) is the new Jelly Beans Sport Beans Queen of the Hills leader. Willock will wear the Freewheel Bike Most Aggressive Jersey into tomorrow’s stage. Evans still leads the Wheaties Sprinter competition, and Chloe Forsman (Specialized D4W/Bicycle Haus) remains in the Nature Valley Best Amateur Rider Jersey.

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Clark Makes It Two Wins at Nature Valley Grand Prix

June 19, 2010

by Lyne Lamoureux

Australian Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis) did it again at the Nature Valley Grand Prix. In a close three-man sprint, he took the win at the Minneapolis Uptown Criterium ahead of Ben Kersten (Fly V Australia) and Ken Hanson (Team Type 1).

Hilton Clarke (United Healthcare p/b MAXXIS) wore the Wheaties Fuel Sprint jersey in Friday night's Minneapolis Uptown Criterium, Stage 4 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Clarke took first (again) after winning Wednesday's Stage 2 St. Paul Downtown Crit. Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) holds on to the yellow jersey going into Stage 5 of the Grand Prix. Photo by Matt Moses

“Once again, my team did a great job.” said Clarke. “We’ve been saying in team meetings how can this keep happening, somebody’s going to have to try something different.”

Somebody did try something different. The Fly V Australia duo of Kersten and Aaron Kemps came around the leadout train and made their way to the front before that all important final corner. The order going into that final 150-meter straightway was Kemps, Kersten, Clarke and Hanson.

“I just had to keep my composure and I really had to stay calm. I went real hard in the corner and I just waited, I’m lucky it was that long, because one more meter and Kersten would have gotten me,” said Clarke. “I would have much preferred to be first, the other guys used so much energy to be first. I just waited, I just ride on my instincts normally and it was right.”

“Coming into the last corner, it’s so key for positioning because it’s maybe 150 meters to the line but it’s a 40 mph corner, you’re going as fast as you can anyway,” said Hanson. “I came out of the corner fourth wheel, a little too far back and by the time I got on top of my sprint it was already a little too late, I was catching up, making up a little bit of ground, it just wasn’t enough for the finish.”

Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) remains in the yellow leader’s jersey with defending champion Rory Sutherland (United Healthcare p/b Maxxis) still in second place at nine seconds down. With every second counting, the two battled for the time bonuses associated with the intermediate sprints during the race.

The crowds lining the pancake flat one kilometer course with its six tight corners were treated to a show as the action heated up immediately with the riders itching for racing after yesterday’s stage was canceled due to bad weather. The speed was high, the field strung out as attack after attack fired to get a break going. And Zwizanski’s team was quite content to let the right combination up the road to gobble up the time bonus seconds.

A few laps in, 10 riders were off. In the move were Daniel Holloway (BISSELL), Rob Bush (Kenda p/b GearGrinder), David Kemp and Alessandro Bazzana (Fly V Australia), Adam Bergman (Texas Roadhouse), Paul Martin (Panther p/b Competitive Cyclist), Roman Van Uden (Rubicon-ORBEA), Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda), Adrian Hegyvary (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis) and Alexey Shmidt (Team Type 1).

“I got a call up and I was right on the front row and the first move went right from the gun. Half the race was that breakaway.” said Bush.

The riders rode hard at the front but could never get more than 15 seconds on the field with Kelly Benefit feathering the gap. Holloway took the first intermediate bonus at 30 laps to go, followed by Shmidt and Kemp.

The battle for time bonus seconds was on for the second intermediate sprint looming. With 25 laps to go, the United Healthcare squad had enough of the break and took over the front to reel it in with 21 laps to go.

“I was right there, I had Rory on my wheel and I had Hilton’s and he did some sprinter stuff and I couldn’t make it through the corner with speed and luckily Veilleux took that one. Smashed it for that one.” explained Zwizanski. “Veilleux knew that if I wasn’t on his wheel he had to go for it.”

David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit) jumped to protect his teammate’s GC lead and took the sprint followed by Schmidt. Sutherland slotted in for third and got a one-second time bonus.

There was no breather for the pack with attacks and counter-attacks going for the next 10 laps. And Bush was in almost every move.

“We were caught for a little while coming into the second sprint, some guys really went for it and I followed then and I didn’t get any points so I got really mad, so I just attacked,” he explained. He made his way into multiple break attempts for the next 10 laps and was later awarded the Freewheel Most Aggressive jersey for his efforts.

With 11 laps to go, the battle was back on for the last of three sprints. “Everything was back together again and our boys were on the front. We went for it again and I was able to stay in there in the fight. Unfortunately Hilton went for it too, I did the best I could but Veilleux held him off, which was awesome, I held on to get one,” said Zwizanski who took third behind Veilleux and Clarke, nullifying Sutherland’s earlier time bonus.

With eight laps to go, the United Healthcare train took over the pace making at the front with everyone else trying to get on Clarke’s wheel.

“It’s a fight with every other team to get that spot,” explained Hanson. “You never know when they’re going to make it fast enough where it’s too hard to move up and that happened with about two laps to go so I just stayed and waited and waited, two guys back behind. You have to wait for the right moment to make a move, you don’t want to spend too much energy for your sprint so, we tried to stay there in the right position.”

Clarke trusted his instincts and took another win, his second at the race, his third in one week. “I guess I’m on a roll right now so while it’s happening I’ll keep on going,” he smiled.

There were no changes in the jersey competition. Benjamin King (Trek-Livestrong) remains in the lead for the Fruit By The Foot Best Young Rider. Clarke keeps the points jersey and Zwizanski still leads the KOH classification.

The racing continues with the Menomonie (Wisc.) Road Race on Saturday, when for the first time ever the race leaes Minnesota and heads to Wisconsin. Finishing with several three-mile circuits inside the city, the course takes in the challenging rural county roads outside the city that have been a favorite with cyclists of the upper Midwest for years. The men’s road race consists of 95 miles, marked by rolling hills and long climbs that are sure to impact the standings for the entire Nature Valley Grand Prix.

“Tomorrow should be good, supposedly lots of rollers.” said Zwizanski. “It might be windy, we’re looking forwards to a good hard race.”

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Second Professional Win For Hosking at the Minneapolis Uptown Crit; Evans Claims Yellow Jersey

by Cynthia Lou (Nature Valley Bicycle Festival)

Chloe Hosking (HTC-Columbia) captured her second professional stage win at today’s Minneapolis Uptown Criterium. Shelley Evans (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) won all three intermediate sprint competitions and took third in the pack sprint to gain an additional 21 seconds worth of time bonuses and secure the yellow jersey.

The race was active, with HTC-Columbia’s Kim Anderson, Emilia Fahlin, and Linda Villumsen seen attacking at the front alongside Team Vera Bradley Foundation, Team TIBCO, and Colavita/Baci. Breakaways only got a few seconds away, and lasted at most one lap. As the time bonus laps were announced, Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12 took to the front to deliver Evans to her time bonuses.

“We wanted to make Shelley really work for the sprints so I was jumping long to try to get her to have to go early,” said Brooke Miller (Team TIBCO). “The first two time bonuses I had some long sprints out there, we were jumping before the corner!” Miller captured a total of 16 seconds of time bonus, 10 for taking second in the stage and six additional sprint competition seconds.

“The battle was on today, some different people were going for it, some competitive sprinters,” Evans said about the fierce sprint points competitions, which saw Evans drive all the way to the line to take the wins. “It took a little out of my snap, but you know, big picture always in mind, the team did an amazing job for getting it. We had our goal, we accomplished it and we’re happy.”

With four laps to go, the peloton slowed down and went from strung out to spreading across the width of the road.

“It slowed a bit in the last 3 laps, so it was a bit of jumping from wheel to wheel just to try to stay up front,” said Hosking. “Luckily for me it really picked up in the last lap. We [the team and I] rode the course before, and we thought that going into that last corner – if you were more than second wheel back – your race was over. Coming into the last right hand corner was a bit chaotic. I was second wheel, but it was three people wide. Not ideal, but it worked out!”

“Chloe had a great run on my wheel and flew around me right at the end, timed it perfectly,” said Miller, who drove out of the final corner with a small gap. “There’s a difference between losing and getting beat, and I got beat today, she had a great sprint.” Miller was making an attempt to three-peat at the Minneapolis Criterium, which she won in both 2008 and 2009.

Evans now leads the yellow jersey charge with 19 seconds over the second place Starnes. Villumsen (HTC-Columbia) maintains third, while Ruth Corset (Team TIBCO) moves up to fourth with a one second intermediate sprint time-bonus. Kim Anderson (HTC-Columbia) was awarded the Freewheel Bike Most Aggressive Rider Jersey. Evans widens her Wheaties Sprint Jersey lead, Starnes keeps the Fruit By The Foot Best Young Rider Jersey and the Jelly Beans Sport Beans Queen of the Hills Jersey, and Chloe Forsman (Specialized D4W/Bicycle Haus) keeps the Nature Valley Top Amateur Rider Jersey.

Chloe Hosking (HTC Columbia) took first in Friday night's Nature Valley Grand Prix Minneapolis Uptown Criterium. Brooke Miller (Team TIBCO) and Shelley Evans (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) finished second and third respectively. Evans will wear the yellow jersey in Saturday's Menomonie Road Race. Photo by Matt Moses

Saturday’s Stage 5 Menomonie Road Race in Menomonie, Wisc., is a first for the Nature Valley Grand Prix. The 76-mile women’s course is marked by rolling hills and long climbs on a course that is anticipated to shake up the general classification.

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Referees Cancel Men’s Stage 3 Nature Valley Grand Prix Road Race

June 18, 2010

by Lyne Lamoureax

Fifteen miles into the Cannon Falls Road Race, with the skies darkening overhead the men’s peloton, Stage 3 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix was canceled. The cause was simply mother nature, or more precisely an advisory from the National Weather Service of strong winds, heavy rain and hail and tornado warnings.

After a quick conversation with race officials, chief referee Bonnie Walker made the call. The decision, including the location of a safe turnaround, was quickly relayed to all team cars but the riders still had to be informed. With no race radios, the riders had to be told verbally.

“A moto official came rolling through telling everyone, that there was a tornado warning and we were stopping the race. What are you going to do?” laughed overall race leader Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies). “You never know and if there is a warning, it’s better safe and sorry. They could have kept racing us and what happens if there is a tornado?”

Jonas Carney, Directeur Sportif of the Kelly Benefit Strategies squad also agreed that it was a good decision to cancel the stage.

Once the call to turn around was made, the officials debated about still holding a shortened stage, with the 15 miles back to Cannon Falls and the finishing circuits. The shortened stage was something Carney was not in favor of. “Other directors agreed with me,” said Carney. “If you turn around because of the weather, then you shouldn’t be racing in that weather.”

Soon thereafter, information was relayed that the finish area was pulled down and the stage was then officially canceled. Riders made their way back to the start/finish area, some jumping in team cars, some jumping in team vans that drove up and some just riding back.

While race radios were not needed to stop the riders for the turnaround, they certainly would have helped to relay the information about the cancellation of the stage. And the radios could have come into play had the bad weather hit with riders off the back of the field.

Riders were obviously disappointed as they were expecting a hard fought battle on the tough stage but agree with the decision to call the stage.

“I think it was in the back of a few guys mind that we could get some severe weather but we were just preparing for a big fight in the possible crosswinds so it ended up being kind of a letdown,” said Zwizanski, who then added “People were upset because of the letdown, I don’t think they made a wrong decision.”

With no changes in the overall classification, the racing continues on Friday evening with the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium. New in 2009, this race saw huge crowds lining the entire course and some incredible racing. The course has teams racing past Calhoun Square on a .88 kilometer course that comprises six tight corners and a furious race to the finish line.

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Severe Weather Forces Cancellation of the Cannon Falls Road Race

by Cynthia Lou

On a humidly sunny day as the Midwest knows so well, 92 women lined up at the start, adrenaline and anticipation in the air. The jersey-wearers were called up to the line and to the naked eye it seemed a race-start as usual, when race officials abruptly announced the cancellation of Stage 3 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix – the Cannon Falls Road Race.

Like prying delicious-looking – but poisonous – candy out of a child’s hands, there was much disappointment from the peloton.

”I been through hail, snow, rain, wind – so bring it on,“ said Coryn Rivera (Peanut Butter & Co Twenty12).

”It’s not that we don’t recognize that there is a problem,“ said René Wenzel, team director of HTC-Columbia. ”We can see the weather, check our radios and our mobiles. It’s that we’re not trying. I think it’s sad we’re going to cancel before it actually happens. It’s happened before that there was a tornado warning, we started the race and then we took shelter – 20 minutes later it was all clear and we could move on.“

Paul Merwin, the Women’s Race Technical Director explained that race officials were fully aware of the route and lack of shelter to accommodate 100 riders in bad weather. ”There isn’t any,” he said. “Once you’re out there, there’s no where to go. It’s just open farm fields. A couple years ago we had a lightning strike and everybody crammed into a pole barn, but we don’t even have that out here.“

And pole barns don’t withstand tornadoes in Minnesota or elsewhere.

“We had a difficult conversation an hour in advance of are we going to go,” Merwin said. “We decided we were going to go and take the chance. It wasn’t until the very last minute that our state patrol car was on the phone with the National Weather Service and said, ‘You need to come see this’, that we see it’s a big red blotch and it’s coming right towards us. It went from, ‘There’s a 50% chance of significant weather’ to ‘there’s hail and 60 mile an hour winds on the way here’. That’s a level of certainty that we can’t ignore.“

Race officials tried every angle, looking for shortcuts, scoping out potential exit points, return points, and areas of shelter. In the end, definitive reports of severe tornado weather conditions from the National Weather Service caused the race to be called off.

”I’m really disappointed,“ said David LaPorte, Executive Director of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. ”This was going to be an awesome stage, especially with the potential of the wind breaking up the general classification. Often times the Cannon Falls Race, when it’s calm, everyone rolls back into town as one big peloton and then a pack sprint for the finish. When you have a cross-wind you can gain or lose massive amounts of time. It looked like we could have that cross-wind, but it looked like we could also have a major downpours and hail; it was just too dangerous. The women’s race we canceled because we saw it coming in and the men’s race, when they started, it looked like it was going to be okay and as it developed they had to cancel it as well.“

”Yes, I’m disappointed, but it’s better than getting pounded on by hail and 60 mph winds and possibly really getting hurt,“ said Shannon Koch (GG Events Management).

”I finally got to do a stage race with a rest day,“ Katherine Carroll (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) Tweeted lightheartedly.

Tomorrow sees the leaders line up again to shake up the tightly packed general classification at the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium.

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Men’s Results: Stage Two

June 17, 2010

Stage 2 of Nature Valley Grand Prix Results in a Men’s International Podium
by Lyne Lamoureax

Speed and control with an international flavor were showcased in front of an enthusiastic and appreciative crowd at the Saint Paul (Minn.) Downtown Criterium on Wednesday evening for Stage 2 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix.

Australian Hilton Clarke (United Healthcare p/b Maxxis) crossed the line first with multiple bike lengths ahead of his teammate Karl Menzies of Tasmania, Australia. Italian Luca Damiani (Kenda presented by Geargrinder) finished third.

“The boys waited all night and they rode perfect. Karl took me to the line and still got second, I’m so happy to be in United Healthcare,” said Clarke who joined the team only a week ago. Since then, he has scored two wins in his three races with the team. “I raced against the team and I know their leadout is so strong and the only person really beating their leadout has been me, so now I’m in the leadout it just makes it a lot easier for me and I can get them results.”

For American Scott Zwizanski and his Kelly Benefit Strategies team, it was all about control to keep the yellow leader’s jersey on his back. Straight from the gun, they came to the front to set the pace in the 40-lap race around the course in Downtown St Paul with its turns and brick roads. Their mission was simple, to keep the pace high so that no attacks would survive and to force a field sprint finale. Mission accomplished.

“My team was awesome today, we wanted a field sprint, we wanted to hold on to the jersey and we thought that was our best chance. They decided not to let any breaks go, they rode awesome, Bowman, Baj, Reid, Jesse, they just rode 30 great laps, they made so easy.” said Zwizanski.

Though that didn’t stop Adam Bergman (Texas Roadhouse) from trying his luck in the first ten minutes but to no avail. Bergman was later awarded the Freewheel Bike Most Aggressive Rider for his efforts.

With 30 laps to go, the first intermediate sprint caused some ruffles in the field when Australian Aaron Kemps (Fly V Australia), Clarke and Rob Bush (Kenda p/b Geargrinder) jumped to get those important time bonus seconds. But soon the field was all back together stretched out behind the green train of Kelly Benefit Strategies.

The same scenario with different players with 20 laps to go for the second intermediate sprint, this time taken by Russian Alexey Shmidt (Team Type 1) ahead of Argentinean Alejandro Borrajo (Jamis/Sutter p/b Colavita). Behind them, Zwizanski’s team was still controlling the peloton setting an average speed of 28 mph over the course.

With every second counting in the general classification competition, Cuban Luis Amaran (Jamis/Sutter Home p/b Colavita) took a flyer with 11 laps to go to make sure to cross the line first in the third and final intermediate sprint.

When the lap cards hit the single digits, the sprinter’s teams organized setting up their leadout train for the upcoming bunch sprint.

With seven laps to go, the UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis team took over the pace setting at the front of the field. Behind them, the field was single-filed as they navigated the twists and turns. Soon, with the sun setting on downtown Saint Paul, it was time for the finale. Clarke and Menzies emerged the first two riders out of the final corner with a crash slowing down the riders behind them. Clarke jumped out from behind his leadout man and put his head down to take the win.

With the help of his team, Damiani navigated the leadout trains throughout the race to take position for the final sprint.

On the podium following Stage 2 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix: Karl Menzies, Hilton Clark (both of United Healthcare p/b MAXXIS) and Luca Damiani, Kenda Pro Cycling p/b GearGrinder. Photo by: Matt Moses Images

“The field was fast, those guys keep the field in all one line. it was actually easy to stay on the wheel when it goes so fast.” he explained. “I marked always the team, my teammates did a very job on the last lap.”

After Stage 2, there were no changes to the overall general classification. Zwizanski still leads with nine seconds ahead of Australian Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis) and 15 seconds on his teammate Zach Bell of Canada.

The racing continues with the Cannon Falls Road Race on Thursday evening. The 66-mile course winds through scenic Goodhue County before finishing on a circuit in downtown Cannon Falls. This race proved to be decisive in 2006, with small groups gaining minutes on the chasing packs in both the men’s and women’s races. Riders who failed to make it into these breakaways had no shot at the yellow jersey for the rest of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Will history repeat itself?

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