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Up, Up, and Away: Conquering the Hills of the Gran Fondo and Elsewhere

May 17, 2012

One of the best things about the Menomonie Gran Fondo is the chance to ride the same course that the pros ride later that day, but this is also the biggest challenge as well.

USA Cycling coach Fiona Lockhart provides a few tips to help you conquer the hills that will break up the race later in the day.

by Fiona Lockhart, USA Cycling Coach

www.FionaLockhart.com

One of the most common questions I get from cyclists is “Why is riding up hills so hard for me?”  My standard response, which I stole from my colleague and mentor Dean Golich is “Because gravity is a law.”  What I mean by this is that by virtue of the laws of physics, hills are hard for everyone.  Of course, we know that some people seem to scamper up hills pretty easily, while we are grinding away in our granny gear, breathing too hard while seemingly going nowhere fast.   I guarantee you that those mountain goat riders who make the hill climbing look simple are actually working pretty hard too, but they likely have some tricks and tools up their sleeves that help make their work just a little more manageable.   Adopting some of these yourself may help you manage those climbs just a little bit faster and more efficiently.

Lighten Your Load

It’s no secret that it takes less energy to move a smaller weight up a hill than a larger weight.  So, to make hill climbing easier, losing weight off your body or your bike can definitely be useful.  Even a pound or two can make a difference.  Of course, losing bodyweight is not always the easiest thing in the world (and is too big of a topic to cover here), but if you can finagle a way to lose even a few pounds of bodyweight, you’ll almost certainly notice that on a hill.

The other option is to lose weight from your bike.  If you’re riding an entry-level bike from years ago, it might be worthwhile to think about getting a new bike frame.  Frame technology has come a long way over the years, so you may be able to find a much lighter bike than what you currently have within a fairly decent price range.  Of course, you can spend many thousands of dollars on a tricked-out carbon fiber frame that you can hold up with one finger, but you don’t need to do that to get a light bike.  If you don’t want to change out your frame, investing in lighter wheels can make a huge difference as well.  It may be worth a trip into your local bike shop just to see what they have available and what your options are.

One of the easiest things you can do on a given bike ride to keep the weight down is to just mind what you are bringing with you.  Of course, you need to have the things you need to get you through the ride (water and food, tools to fix a flat or other mechanical, and weather-appropriate clothing options), but try to plan ahead so that you have everything you need and nothing more.  If you are loading up a backpack or saddle bag with a bunch of extra stuff that you probably don’t need, know that there will be a price to pay for those things on the hills.

Gears Matter

If you know that much of your riding will be done in the hills, or you have an important cycling event you want to complete that is very hilly, you’ll want to make sure that you have the appropriate gearing for that task.  There is a “standard” crankset, which consists of a 53-tooth and 39-tooth chainring for your front gears (the ones by your pedals).  However, for most people, having either a compact crankset or a triple crankset is enormously helpful in improving one’s ability to get up hills in the most efficient manner.   A compact crankset usually consists of a 50-tooth and 34-tooth chainring. These smaller gears give you the ability to keep a little bit higher cadence on the hills and are easier to pedal with on hills.  A triple crankset consists of 3 different gear options in the front, with something like a 53-tooth, a 39-tooth, and a 30-tooth chainring.   This will give you a lot of gear options for climbing different size hills.

Another option for you is to make sure you have some larger cogs on your rear cassette (that’s the gear system on your rear wheel).  For example, if your largest cog is a 23-tooth, you could get a cassette with a 27- or 29-tooth cog, which translates into easier gear options.

There’s this strange thing that I sometimes hear from riders, that it’s somehow “uncool” to ride anything less than a standard crankset.  To me, that’s just silly.  What seems more uncool is to ride gears that are inappropriate for a particular course or person – I mean, if there are tools available to us to help us ride more comfortably and efficiently (which then usually also transfers into “faster”), why wouldn’t we use them?  Options are cool.

To be continued as Fiona covers efficient use of gearing, pacing and the benefits of a fit attitude…

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Registration Opens For Fixed Gear Classic

May 4, 2010

Minneapolis (May 4, 2010) – Registration is now open for the Minnesota Fixed Gear Classic, a thrilling three days of track racing at the National Sports Center Velodrome in Blaine, Minn., that leads off the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival.

The Fixed Gear Classic provides different fields for men (Pro-I-II) and women (Pro-I-II-III) in a unique dual omnium program that showcases separate competitions for sprinters and endurance specialists. Competition begins Friday night, June 11 and runs through Sunday, June 13. Events will include both men’s and women’s Madison races along with cross-over events like the Miss-n-Out that offer points for both omniums.

“Track was a part of the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival for the first three years, from 1999-2001, culminating with the 2001 Elite Track Nationals,” Nature Valley Grand Prix Executive Director David LaPorte said. “We brought it back in 2008, but the economy forced us to take a year off in 2009. Now it’s back, this time we hope for good. By bringing track racing under the same media and marketing umbrella as the Nature Valley Grand Prix, we hope to gain national exposure for this sport even in non-Olympic years.”

Fields are filling fast through online registration, which closes June 4. Down-loadable registration forms and more details can be found at http://www.nscsports.org/sports/cycling/events/fixed_gear_classic.htm.

The Fixed Gear Classic is run in conjunction with the Nature Valley Grand Prix, the premier stage race on the 2010 USA Cycling National Racing Calendar. This year’s race includes 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.

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Nature Valley Bicycle Festival to Include Fixed Gear Classic June 11-13; Nature Valley Grand Prix Pro Race June 16-20 Expands to Wisconsin

April 22, 2010

Minneapolis-Saint Paul (April 20, 2010) - The Nature Valley Bicycle Festival, the premier event on the USA Cycling calendar, will include the Minnesota Fixed Gear Classic to be held at the National Sports Center (NCS) Velodrome in Blaine June 11-13 and the prestigious Nature Valley Grand Prix pro stage bike race to be held in Saint Paul, Cannon Falls, Minneapolis, Menomonie, Wisconsin and Stillwater June 16-20.

The Minnesota Fixed Gear Classic brings world-class track cycling to the NSC Velodrome. This thrilling event pits professional and elite amateur track cyclists in fast-paced sprint and grueling endurance events. Men and women compete in a series of fast and furious races using fixed gear bikes, which have only one gear and no brakes. Riders only make left turns and control their speed solely by pedaling faster or slower. Achieving speeds up to 40 mph, riders race on a wooden track with 43 degree angles making the races incredibly exciting for both racers and spectators. The Minnesota Fixed Gear Classic is FREE and open to the public. Races take place from June 11-13 beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. Saturday and 12 p.m. Sunday.

Nature Valley Grand Prix Announces New Rice Park and Menomonie Stages

The Nature Valley Grand Prix professional stage race opens June 16 in Saint Paul with a morning time trial and evening criterium held around Rice Park. The new Rice Park location promises to deliver better vantage points for spectators and a more exciting experience for the racers who will loop around the bricked streets in front of the Ordway Center some 40 times. The race will be reminiscent of the famed pave – ancient cobblestone paths – in Europe, creating unique challenges for the racers. Though Saint Paul’s bricked streets may not be as treacherous as the pavé in the famed Paris-Roubaix race, the turrets of the Landmark Center, classic architecture of the 100-year-old Saint Paul Hotel and the elegance of the Ordway Center will create a charming European ambiance for both riders and spectators.

Day 2 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix continues with a road race in Cannon Falls on June 17, while Day 3 takes place in Minneapolis on Friday evening, June 18. For the second consecutive year, the Minneapolis stage will be in the city’s dynamic Uptown neighborhood, where large crowds gathered in 2009, contributing to a 50% increase in overall attendance.

On Saturday, June 19, the racers travel east to Menomonie, Wisc., for the Menomonie Road Race, marking the first time that the Nature Valley Grand Prix includes a stage outside of Minnesota. The hills and valleys of Wisconsin’s dairy land promise to make this stage not only the most beautiful, but also one of the most challenging in the race’s history.

Racers will contest the final stage, the Stillwater Criterium, on Sunday, June 20, with both men and women cyclists completing the short circuit race, which includes a grueling 24 percent grade hill climb up Chilkoot Hill, considered the most difficult in North American cycling.

In addition to professional racing, other activities, including the Wheaties Fan Zone, Fruit by the Foot Stunt Rider shows, musical entertainment and bike and fitness expos will be offered at all stages of the five-day race with the exception of the time trial. The Tour de Kids fun races at each site are free and are open to children age 12 and under.

Now in its 12th year, the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival is a 10-day celebration of cycling that includes amateur and professional racing and community events. The Nature Valley Grand Prix has become the premier professional bike race in the U.S., attracting top American racing teams and riders from around the world. Proceeds from the Nature Valley Grand Prix are donated to Children’s Hospital and its Pediatric Hospice program.

The Nature Valley Grand Prix is free and open to the public. It is the only professional sporting event in Minnesota for which no admission ticket is required. The festival is a natural fit for Minnesota and Wisconsin as both states are populated with cycling enthusiasts. Several urban bike trails have opened in the past few years and the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area has been named the most bike-friendly in the country by Bicycling Magazine. For more information and a detailed schedule of events visit www.naturevalleybicyclefestival.com.

About the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival

The Nature Valley Bicycle Festival is one of the nation’s top celebrations for the bicycle culture, with tens of thousands of cycling enthusiasts, pro athletes and avid recreational riders converging on Minnesota each June. Its professional racing event, the Nature Valley Grand Prix, began as a one-day criterium in Saint Paul in 1999. Its schedule and prestige have grown steadily until now, in its 12th year, it is ranked at the top of the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar. The 2010 Nature Valley Grand Prix schedule includes a unique mix of three criteriums (short circuit races), two road races and a time trial as the stages of the race move from downtown Saint Paul, to Cannon Falls, to Minneapolis, to Menomonie, Wisconsin and finally culminates in Stillwater. The Nature Valley Bicycle Festival is a volunteer run event, with all profits donated to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, the festival’s benefiting charity. For more information visit 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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Nature Valley Grand Prix Rolls Into Menonomie

April 14, 2010

On Saturday, June 19st, 2010, the Nature Valley Grand Prix rolls into Menomonie, WI. Professional and amateur men and women will be vying for a Stage 5 race victory in rural Dunn County, marking the first time the NVGP has left the lines of the North Star State.

The men’s road race consists of 95 miles, marked by rolling hills and long climbs that will impact the standings for the entire Nature Valley Grand Prix. The women will cover a 76-mile course that follows the same beginning and ending roadways. The racers start and end in historic downtown Menomonie. The excitement will be heightened as the pros battle through four finishing laps of a 3-mile in-town circuit.

When the racing leaves town, there will be plenty to do in Menomonie until the men and women return. The professional men depart at noon, and the women take off at 1:30 pm. With an estimated return time slotted at 4:00 pm for the first group of professional men, you’ll have many opportunities to enjoy a wide variety of activities.

The Menomonie Chamber of Commerce has provided race attendees with a list of exciting activities for June 20th:

Community Bike Ride (11:00 am) – Your choice of either a 15 or 30 mile ride. Maps and cue sheets provided. The rides bring you to viewing points along the pro road course. Arrive ahead of the pros, watch them fly by and proceed to the next stop before returning to Menomonie in time for the finishing circuits. All rides depart from the UW Stout parking lot #4 at 13th Ave and S. Broadway. Showers are available upon your return to Menomonie.

Expo (11:00 am – 5:00 pm) – The Expo features bike and fitness displays. You’ll find all the latest and greatest gear and gadgets, info on clubs, programs and events, and much more. The Expo is located in downtown Menomonie at the UW Stout Clock Tower Courtyard.

CHALK Full of Fun (12:30 pm – 3:00 pm) – Join us for some great chalk fun as children are encouraged to let their creative sides shine. Work with local artists on designing a chalk masterpiece on the sidewalks located adjacent to the UW Stout Clock Tower Courtyard. View the magical pieces of art and watch as imaginations run wild. Adult participation is welcomed. Meet at the UW Stout Clock Tower Courtyard.

Children’s Games (1:00 pm – 3:00 pm) – Age-appropriate games for children ages 3-11. Face painting will be available, too. Meet at the Mabel Tainter Theatre, lower level.

Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts, Historic Theatre Tours (1:00 – 4:00 pm) – The Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater is a fully functional Victorian era theater. It was constructed in 1889 as a tribute to young Mabel Tainter, a lover of music and the arts. The Memorial was commissioned by Mrs. and Captain Andrew Tainter, lumber baron for Knapp, Stout & Co. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Theatre is open for self-guided tours. A 15 minute movie on the history of the Knapp, Stout & Co Lumber Company, the largest lumber company in the world between 1850 and 1900, will be showing continuously.

Louis Smith Tainter House, Historic Mansion Tours (1:00 – 3:00 pm) – The house was originally build by lumber baron, Andrew Tainter. It is now home to UW Stout University Foundation Inc. and the UW Stout Alumni Association. The mansion is open for self-guided tours.

University of Wisconsin – Stout Campus Tours (1:00 pm and 2:00 pm) – Take a one-hour walking guided tour and see UW Stout, recognized as a comprehensive, career-focused polytechnic university where students, faculty and staff use applied learning, scientific theory and research to solve real-world problems. Meet in the UW-Stout Clock Tower Courtyard for the start of the tours.

Fruit by the Foot Stunt Rider Demonstration (12:00 noon – 3:30 pm) – Spectators of all ages enjoy the Bicycle Stunt Shows. The Fruit by the Foot Stunt Riders use amazing bicycle stunts, a high energy announcer, and upbeat music to ensure a fun fast paced and unforgettable addition to our event! You won’t believe your eyes when you see what these riders can do! Main St and 3rd St.

Haunted Menomonie Presentation (2:15 pm) – Ghosts and goblins have visited Menomonie…and they may still be here. Come and hear the stories of Menomonie’s chilling past. Meet at the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts.

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Team Application Process Opens For Invitation To Nature Valley Grand Prix

April 5, 2010

Minneapolis (April 4, 2010) – Applications are open for the Nature Valley Grand Prix, the top-ranked stage race on the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar.

Teams wishing to compete in the race June 16-20 in East Central Minnesota and Western Wisconsin must submit an application by May 7. More details and application information are available on sportsbaseonline.com.

Nature Valley Grand Prix Executive Director David LaPorte said the invitation-for-registration process was necessary to meet the overwhelming demand to be a part of the National Racing Calendar event.

“The men’s field was filling up more than a month before the official registration deadline,” LaPorte said. “Teams were missing out simply because they weren’t checking the registration page on an almost daily basis weeks before the event. The women’s race also fills, a problem that’s great to have, so we made their race an invitational as well. Besides the pros, we encourage amateur teams to apply, since Nature Valley has a special commitment to them. That’s why Nature Valley also sponsors a unique Nature Valley Top Amateur jersey.”

“The Nature Valley Grand Prix is an amazing race,” said Fly V Australia Technical Director Ed Beamon, who has had riders at the race since its inception in 1999. “They get huge crowds, lots of media and take excellent care of the teams. With all the time bonuses and action from the top sprinters, it’s always an exciting race down to the wire.”

Team managers should follow the sportsbaseonline home page link from “NRC Calendar Events” to the “Nature Valley Grand Prix Application.” Men’s teams consist of three to eight riders. Women’s teams are one to eight riders. No payment is required at time of application. Invited teams will receive notification by e-mail by May 14.

The Nature Valley Grand Prix professional stage race opens June 16 in Saint Paul with a morning time trial and evening criterium held in Downtown Saint Paul adjacent to Rice Park. It continues with a road race in Cannon Falls on June 17. Stage 4 takes place in Minneapolis on Friday night, June 18, in the city’s dynamic Uptown neighborhood.

On Saturday, June 19, the racers travel east to Menomonie, Wis., for the Menomonie Road Race, marking the first time that the Nature Valley Grand Prix includes a stage outside of Minnesota. Racers will contest Stage 6, the Stillwater Criterium, on Sunday, June 20. Both men and women cyclists will complete a short circuit race which includes riding up Chilikoot Hill 20 times – a grueling 24-percent-grade climb – considered to be the most difficult in North American cycling.

About the Nature Valley Grand Prix

The Nature Valley Grand Prix, which is part of the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival, takes place in Eastern Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. It 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 Bicycle Festival is 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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Nature Valley to Sponsor 2010 Bicycle Festival

February 1, 2010

Granola bar maker increases commitment to all forms of cycling

Minneapolis-Saint Paul (February 1, 2010) Organizers of the Minnesota Bicycle Festival have announced that Nature Valley is increasing its commitment. After sponsoring the Nature Valley Grand Prix pro stage race for ten years, they will expand their involvement to sponsor the overall festival in 2010. The event, which still includes the Nature Valley Grand Prix, has been renamed the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival and will take place June 11-20, 2010.

“Nature Valley’s growing commitment to cycling stands in sharp contrast to many other sponsors in the sport who are reducing or eliminating their cycling programs,” said Festival Executive Director David LaPorte. “Nature Valley is looking towards the future and recognizes that cycling is one of the most popular activities in the country. While we’re thrilled that their commitment to our event is growing, we’re even more pleased that they are supporting the sport as a whole, which is our mission as well.”

The Nature Valley Bicycle Festival will take place June 11-20, 2010 and will include the Minnesota Fixed Gear Classic and the renowned Nature Valley Grand Prix pro stage race, considered the prime event on the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar.

The Nature Valley Grand Prix professional stage race opens June 16 in Saint Paul with a morning time trial and evening criterium held in Downtown Saint Paul adjacent to Rice Park. The Nature Valley Grand Prix continues with a road race in Cannon Falls on June 17. Stage 4 takes place in Minneapolis on Friday evening June 18 in the city’s dynamic Uptown neighborhood.

On Saturday, June 19, the racers travel east to Menomonie, WI for the Menomonie Road Race, marking the first time that the Nature Valley Grand Prix includes a stage outside of Minnesota. Racers will contest Stage 6, the Stillwater Criterium, on Sunday, June 20, with both men and women cyclists completing the short circuit race, which includes riding up Chilikoot Hill 20 times, a grueling 24-percent-grade hill climb, considered the most difficult in North American cycling.

In addition to professional racing, other activities, including the Fan Zone, stunt riders, musical entertainment and bike and fitness expos will be offered at all stages of the five-day race with the exception of the time trial. The Tour de Kids fun races at each site are free and are open to children age 12 and under.

The Minnesota Fixed Gear Classic will take place at the National Sports Center Velodrome in Blaine the weekend of June 11-13, prior to the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Velodrome track racing is an Olympic sport which features world class cyclists racing at speeds of up to 40 mph. Bikes used in fixed-gear track races have only one gear and do not have brakes, making the races fast and exciting for both spectators and riders.

Now in its 12th year, the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival is a five-day celebration of cycling that includes amateur and professional racing and community events. The Nature Valley Grand Prix has become the premier professional bike race in the U.S., attracting top American racing teams and riders from around the world. Proceeds from the Nature Valley Grand Prix are donated to Children’s Hospital and its Pediatric Hospice program.

The Nature Valley Grand Prix is free and open to the public. It is the only professional sporting event in Minnesota for which no admission ticket is required. The festival is a natural fit for Minnesota and Wisconsin as both states are populated with cycling enthusiasts. Several urban bike trails have opened in the past few years and the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area boasts the most commuter bike trips per capita, an honor it shares with Portland, Oregon. For more information and a detailed schedule of events visit www.naturevalleybicyclefestival.com.

About the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival

The Nature Valley Bicycle Festival is one of the nation’s top celebrations for the bicycle culture, with tens of thousands of cycling enthusiasts, pro athletes and avid recreational riders converging on Minnesota each June. Its professional racing event, the Nature Valley Grand Prix began as a one-day criterium in Saint Paul in 1999. Its schedule and prestige have grown steadily until now, in its 12th year, it is ranked at the top of the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar. The 2010 Nature Valley Grand Prix schedule includes a unique mix of three criteriums (short circuit races), two road races and a time trial as the stages of the race move from downtown Saint Paul, to Cannon Falls, to Minneapolis, to Menomonie, Wisconsin and finally culminates in Stillwater. The Nature Valley Bicycle Festival is a volunteer run event, with all proceeds donated to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, the festival’s benefiting charity. For more information visit 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. Visit www.NatureValley.com

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