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Brooke Miller Wins Uptown Minneapolis Criterium; Armstrong Still In Yellow
By Cynthia Lou
No trip to the Nature Valley Grand Prix would be complete for Brooke Miller (Tibco) without a victory, with Miller celebrating a criterium victory two years in a row. Today’s aggressive race to the end saw Shelley Olds (Proman Hit Squad) taking both second place on the podium and the Wheaties Sprint Jersey, while veteran sprinter Laura Van Gilder (Altarum Women’s Cycling) rounded out the podium with a third place finish.
“It was a very aggressive race. I had to throw a lot of elbows and do a lot of aggressive moving, but that’s what you do when your team is putting themselves on the line for you – you make sure you deliver,” said Miller, who had her first big NRC victory at the Nature Valley Grand Prix in 2006 and continues to win stages every year.
Though there was speculation that the beginning of the race might be a repeat of Wednesday’s St. Paul Downtown Criterium, with race leader Kristin Armstrong (Cervélo Test Team) taking control of the front, it soon became clear that the teams were not going to just sit back, actively seeking to shake up the general classification and tempt Armstrong to work.
Riders from Tibco, Colavita/Sutter Home presented by Cooking Light, Webcor, and ValueAct Capital sent riders up the road with attack after attack, nothing gaining more than 10 seconds before being caught.
The 25-lap race had three sprint competitions, plus an additional prime competition to keep the race active.
The Sprint Competition alternated between Kirsty Broun (Riverstone CDA) and Shelley Olds, with Olds taking the first sprint and Broun taking the second. It was Olds’ victory at the third sprint competition that finally won her the Sprint jersey.
“I’m just happy to be in the jersey for the day,” said Olds. “It’s not necessarily my priority. I’m just doing the best I can in all of the competitions. A stage win would be really nice, so, tomorrow’s a new goal.”
Tomorrow’s Mankato Road Race will indeed be another opportunity to mix up the general classification. Armstrong has traditionally ridden away from the field on this race, so the teams will be sure to keep close watch over her.
The Freewheel Most Aggressive Rider’s Jersey went to Tibco’s Katharine Carroll. Shelley Olds captured the Wheaties Sprint Jersey. All other jersey results remained the same.
Follow the action tomorrow as Stage 5 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix moves to Mankato, Minn., starting with the festival opening at noon, with the women’s race beginning at 1:50 p.m. Catch the action at http://www.Twitter.com/MNBikeFestival or http://www.minnbikefestival.com/, link ”Live Updates“ to follow the action live!
Nature Valley Grand Prix Turns into Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Home Show with Third Win
By James Lockwood
Sebastian Haedo stood before a monstrous crowd after the fourth stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix waiting for his team director to translate the questions coming from the race announcer.
The Argentinean who rides for Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Home presented by Cooking Light speaks no English. But, nothing was lost in translation with his performance Friday evening in the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium. His team lines up, he sprints, he wins.
Haedo took his second win of the six-stage race, and along with the second place he earned leading out his teammate Alejandro Borrajo in the team’s victory in the Cannon Falls Road Race, he now sits third overall with the bonus seconds that came with his placings.
“This victory is awesome,” he said. “It was a good day for me and it was a good day for Colavita. We all did our work today, and we were able to put together an important win for me.”
The third team victory for Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Home put the team in good position going into the 95-mile queen stage Saturday, the Mankato (Minn.) Road Race. It was something other teams were noting.
“On paper, we didn’t want Borrajo to get any time,” said OUCH-Maxxis’s Andrew Pinfold, who finished third on the stage. “Not that Haedo is not good, but Barrajo is a little better climber.”
“I think we are getting the old Borrajo back,” said Team Mountain Khakis’ Tom Soladay, who used a Bissell-controlled peloton to protect his sprinter’s jersey for the second day. “When he is on form, he is dangerous.”
For Friday, though, it was Haedo getting the accolades for his second win. The victory was not certain, however, as the team could not get its sprint train lined up until one-and-a-half laps to go in the 40-lap race.
“It was a brothel out there,” said Jelly Belly Cycling Team’s Brad Huff, who finished second. “Every team wanted to be at the front, and not everyone should have been at the front.”
“From lap 15 to lap three [to go], it was just mayhem,” Pinfold said.
Much of the race was uneventful. From the start, few riders were able to break away, and Bissell Pro Cycling marshaled the front with its whole team, setting a steady but comfortable tempo to keep breaks in check and its overall leader, Tom Zirbel, safe.
“I had an armchair ride the first 30 laps,” Zirbel said.
“It was all about protecting Tom tonight,” said Bissell road director Eric Wohlberg. “In a crit, being on the front is the best place to be.”
Soladay said that worked out to his advantage trying to protect the Wheaties Sprinter’s Jersey, a goal of his for the Grand Prix.
“I knew that Bissell didn’t want any of the sprint points. That was great for me. When I went up, I had eight guys between me and the rest of the field who might challenge for the points,” he said. “With Bissell up front and the tight corners, you really had to light a match to get away.”
Until the last 10 laps, Soladay and Bissell served as the show.
Then Jelly Belly moved forward with its train, and the jockeying began.
“It was a little too early with the sprints out of the corners, but it worked out for me. It allowed me to rest in the train,” Huff said.
“It worked out for Brad,” Pinfold said. “He didn’t have to fight through the laps. He stayed fresh, and it showed at the end.”
For Pinfold, his teammate John Murphy, and Colavita, it was not so easy. As Jelly Belly came to the front, Bissell as a team went back, OUCH attempted to form its train for Murphy, and individual riders from various teams tried to get onto the right wheels hoping for the victory.
“Tim Johnson was just sheparding myself and Murphy through,” Pinfold said. “Everyone was fighting for wheels. I think everyone just wanted to get the win on this stage.”
As the laps counted down, Jelly Belly started to fade, and it opened the door for Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Home and Haedo.
“What we came here for we got,” said Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Home’s director Sebastian Alexandre. “The team did a very good job.”
Despite the convincing victories in the past three stages, Alexandre remained coy about the team’s chances to make it four in a row in the Mankato Road Race, featuring a circuit finish that includes a mile-long climb averaging 14 percent.
“Tomorrow is going to be a different stage,” he said.
Bissell’s Wohlberg concurred. Despite Haedo’s move up the general classification, OUCH’s defending champion Rory Sutherland – winner of last year’s stage in Mankato – still sits seven seconds back of Zirbel, and OUCH, Bissell, and Jelly Belly all have riders within a minute of the lead.
“Colavita is closing the gap to us,” he said. “The next two days will be a little more suited for our guys. We’re going to see who can get up that hill and see what happens. We’re going to try to turn the tables.”
New for 2009, The MN Bike Festival welcomes the inaugural Uptown Minneapolis Criterium as the Nature Valley Grand Prix moves from downtown Minneapolis to the Uptown neighborhood for the Friday evening event.
The course will have competing pro teams race past Calhoun Square on a 1-kilometer course that comprises six tight corners and a furious race to the finish line.
With a long straightaway across the finish line into a very short run between turns one and two, speeds will descend from a brisk 35-plus mph into the low digits before ramping up again out of turn five on Lake Street. Strong racers and teams will stay up front to control the tempo and avoid accidents.
The real spectacle comes near the end of the course as riders make turn six onto Hennepin Avenue and into a long, wide one-block straightaway to the finish line.
4:30 PM Expo opens & Stunt Rider Shows
6:00 PM Kids’ race
6:30 PM Women pro race
7:45 PM Men pro race
8:45 PM Racing ends
9:00 PM Expo closes