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TRIA Orthopaedic Center Your Cycling Blog

UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team Sweeps Podium

June 16, 2011

By Lyne Lamoureux, Nature Valley Grand Prix
St. Paul, Minn. – The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team controlled Wednesday’s Stage 2 St. Paul Downtown Criterium from start to finish and topped it off with a sweep of the podium.

After a perfect leadout from his teammates that included yellow jersey owner Rory Sutherland, Jake Keough took the win, Hilton Clarke placed second and Robert Förster was third.

“I think we’ve proven tonight that we’re one unit, whether it’s off the bike or on the course.” Keough said after his win. “The team is one unit, we do everything together. The dedication from the whole team is perfect. Each one of those guys is a specialist in what they do throughout the whole race to perfection.”

After rain fell earlier in the evening, welcomed glimpses of blue sky could be seen for the men’s race in the entertainment district of Downtown Saint Paul on a flat, fast, six-corner course that featured brick sections around Rice Park and some of the most beautiful architecture in the Midwest.

Only three laps into the 40-lap race, Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly presented by Kenda) and Carlos Alzate Escobar (Team Exergy) escaped the fast-moving peloton. One lap later, two more riders, Alex Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) and Tyler Wren (Jamis/Sutter Home) joined to form a breakaway. The complete UnitedHealthcare team assumed position at the front of the field, with Jonny Clarke and Adrian Hegyvary keeping the pace high.

Lap after lap, it remained the same, with Keough’s teammates always in control, holding the gap at a very manageable 20 seconds. Cooperation was not perfect in the break, but the four stayed mostly together for 31 laps of the 1.4-kilometer course. During this time, Alzate took top points in the intermediate sprint competition while Van Ulden, Wren and Candelario contested the intermediate time bonus.

With seven laps to go, the BISSELL Pro Cycling Team swarmed the UnitedHealthcare train to take over the front and the already fast pace was revved up even further, dooming the breakaway.

Keough took it in stride. “I just kind of called the guys to be really calm and to wait until the other guys burned their matches so we could go back around them,” he said. “We’re getting well drilled at this. We’ve been putting it to some good effect. Each one of the guys did a perfect effort at the end.”

One lap later, the blue train was back at the front while the sprinters jockeyed for position behind. The battle was on for controlling the front of the pack with the inevitable bunch sprint finish rapidly approaching. Every lap the speed ramped up until Sutherland took over with one lap to go.

“He’s a vital part of our leadout as well,” Clarke said about having the yellow jersey pull at the front. “Adrian worked all day and he was second overall and Rory is leading the race but he’s helping us win the stage. We’re all helping each other all tour. The roles are reversed each day and we work as a team.”

Then it became a matter of executing the peel-off as practiced successfully in many previous races.

“The order we’ve been putting into the leadout train for the past few weeks has been Frosi (Förster), Hilton and then me and it’s been working,” Keough said. “We’ve been going 1-2-3 and we’re just going to try to keep doing it.”

The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team finished 1-2-3 in Wednesday's St. Paul Downtown Criterium. Winner Jake Keough (far right) acknowledges his teammates at the finish line. (Matthew Moses)

Finishing fourth on the stage, Alzate took over the Wheaties FUEL Sprint jersey, while Van Ulden was awarded the Freewheel Bike Most Aggressive Rider jersey. Chad Haga (Team Rio Grande) will wear the green jersey as the Nature Valley Top Amateur and Joey Rosskopf (Team Type 1-Development), the white jersey for the TRIA Orthopaedic Center Best Young Rider.

After two stages, Sutherland remains in the lead with nine seconds on Hegyvary and Tom Zirbel (Jamis/Sutter Home). The defending champion also holds the Sports Beans King of the Hills jersey.

Thursday brings the Cannon Falls Road Race. The 67-mile course through gently rolling, but wide open farmlands, finishes with six laps on a circuit that includes a short, steep climb to the line. Even a gentle wind can tear the pack apart.

Keough says his team is ready to defend the yellow jersey. “I think tonight was a lot of bullets used so we need to make sure we’re conservative and make sure we have the legs but the guys proved that they’re strong and we’re going to keep it up.”

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World Champion Bronzini Wins Stage; Armstrong Stays in Yellow

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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2010 Nature Valley Grand Prix

March 11, 2010

It’s time to mark your calendars for June 11 through June 20, as the Nature Valley Grand Prix will be rolling through the state of Minnesota with fast and furious bicycle racing. Professional and amateur men and women alike will be racing for the coveted leader’s jersey, which would secure them a spot amongst past winners like Kristen Armstrong, Rory Sutherland, Ben Jacques-Maynes and Robbie Ventura.

This year’s NVGP will have two brand new race routes: the St. Paul Downtown Criterium on June 16th and the Menomenie Road Race on June 19th. New in 2010, the Nature Valley Grand Prix leaves the land of 10,000 lakes to race in scenic Menomonie, Wisconsin.

Bookmark the NVGP website, as well as this blog, for more updates on race courses, participating teams, as well as a calendar of events before, during, and after every race this year!

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