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TRIA Orthopaedic Center Your Cycling Blog

World Champion Bronzini Wins Stage; Armstrong Stays in Yellow

June 16, 2011

strong>By Cynthia Lou, Nature Valley Grand Prix
St. Paul, Minn. – World road champion Giorgia Bronzini (Colavita Forno D’Asolo presented by Cooking Light) won Wednesday night’s rainy and crash-filled St. Paul Downtown Criterium in an exciting sprint finish, while Olympic time trial champion Kristin Armstrong (Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12) retained the Nature Valley Grand Prix overall lead.

Shelley Olds (Diadora-Pasta Zara-Manhattan) and Chloe Hoskings (HTC-Highroad) rounded out the Stage 2 podium in second and third, respectively.

As the women warmed up, the weather quickly turned from sunny and warm to windy and rainy, leaving them to make last minute adjustments to tire pressures. Tension built as knowing glances were passed between teammates while the national anthem played and the officials made their final announcements.

Fortunately the rain subsided about 15 minutes into the race, and the second half of the hour-long race unfolded under clear skies. The road started to dry, but not before several crashes happened, including one that took down about 30 riders.

There was fierce competition for the time bonuses, the first which happened with 23 laps to go. Hosking, Lauren Tamayo (Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12), and Amanda Miller (HTC-Highroad) soaked up the first round of bonuses earning five seconds, three seconds and one second, respectively.

With 20 laps to go, a break formed that included riders Miller, Tamayo, Olds, and Leah Kirchmann and Joelle Numainville (Colavita Forno D’Asolo). Their lead ticked up to a 14-second gap and lasted 10 of the 28 total laps.

As the break started to absorb time bonuses and stretch its lead, it became clear to the Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12 squad that it had to start reeling it back in.

“There was a break that got off that we weren’t excited about,” explained Armstrong. “With the conditions, it was single-file all night long. It was really difficult for our team to get together and chase down another team. That was frustrating. There was a point when I came up to help my teammates to finish and close the gap. After that, we just made sure there wasn’t another attack that went off and stayed off. The energy we expended to close that break was not something we wanted to do twice. People are out to race against us. We have three of the top five, and it makes for hard racing.”

With the peloton together for the final laps, teams began setting up their sprinters.

“There was a pretty solid lead out from TIBCO, so I made my way up to their train and just tried to hold position in the last lap,” Olds said. “In the last turn, Theresa Clif-Ryan (Colavita Forno D’Asolo) jumped, and I jumped to cover it. But Bronzini was on my wheel and she came around me. It’s difficult when you have two really fast sprinters from the same team.”

“I was in front of the first position, behind my teammate,” Bronzini said. “I was in third position at the corner, and gave my best sprint today.” Bronzini said she felt confident she could win as long as she came out of the final corner no farther than three riders back.

Georgia Bronzini (Colavita Forno D'Asolo presented by Cooking Light) celebrates her victory in the St. Paul Downtown Criterium, Stage 2 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. (Matthew Moses)

“Tonight was one of the hardest crits I’ve done in years,” Armstrong said. “People were on fire. I know that there’s been past years that have been tough, but I think the depth of this field is the best I’ve seen at Nature Valley.”

Olds, who has raced a full schedule this season in Europe, agreed: “The field this year is incredibly strong. I think, much stronger, with a lot of numbers for each team.”

The Nature Valley Grand Prix has seen a lot of growth in recent years, from stronger fields to increasing opportunities for growth and visibility of new and upcoming riders.

Jade Wilcoxson is one such rider, having been selected through the Nature Valley Grand Prix Pro Ride – a series of qualifying races across the country.

“Just having a team director and a team mechanic and having all those details taken care of has been incredible,” Wilcoxson said. “Then racing with this caliber of women – this was a hard crate.” The Talent, Ore., resident will wear the Nature Valley Top Amateur jersey for Thursday’s road race at Cannon Falls.

Other jersey wearers include Olds in the Freewheel Bike Most Aggressive Rider jersey, Leah Kirchmann (Colavita Forno D’Asolo) in the Wheaties FUEL Sprinter jersey, and her teammate, Rushlee Buchanon, in the Tria Orthopaedic Best Young Rider jersey. Though Armstrong leads the Sports Beans Queen of the Hills jersey competition, Evelyn Stevens (HTP-Highroad) will wear the jersey for Cannon Falls.

Looking forward to Thursday’s first road stage in rural east central Minnesota, Armstrong noted, “We’ll have to see what the weather does, because sometimes it’s really windy. Again, we ride as a team, we ride as a unit. The technicality of tonight was hard to get the team together, but tomorrow the roads are wide, but the finishing circuits are tough. They always are. They’re technical and tough. We’ll have to stay safe and use the same tactics as tonight and work as a team.”

The women’s race in Cannon Falls starts at 5:30 p.m. Watch the race in person or streaming online at http://www.naturevalleybicyclefestival.com.

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