TRIA

About TRIA

TRIA is a leader in orthopaedic treatment, providing comprehensive care from diagnosis, to treatment, to rehabilitation, even surgery at one convenient location in Bloomington, Minnesota.
www.tria.com

Subscribe

Categories

TRIA Orthopaedic Center Your Cycling Blog

Equal Opportunity for All

May 14, 2012

The Nature Valley Grand Prix has always been a strong supporter of women’s cycling, but we thought it might be nice to share an outsider’s perspective of our race and its impact on women’s cycling.

Since she has been involved with the Nature Valley Grand Prix almost from the beginning, we asked Giana Roberge–former director of Saturn Professional Cycling team, World Champion time trialist, inductee in the International Cycling Hall of Fame, and passionate voice for women’s cycling–to share her thoughts.
When I first heard about Nature Valley Grand Prix, I was the director for the Saturn Cycling Team. A very nice voice at the end of the phone line, introducing himself as Dave LaPorte, pleaded with me to send some of the Saturn women who were not participating in the HP Women’s Challenge to a new race in MN. He offered what a lot of promoters were not at the time: housing, help with travel, prize money, and equal promotion of the women’s teams to that of the men’s. I was intrigued.  I had three women I could send and in June they traveled in MN to participate in what was to become one of the top women’s races in the country.

That was 2001. Saturn won both the men’s race with Frank McCormack and the women’s race with Suzanne Sonye. The Saturn women returned with good reports of the race.  It was mostly criterium style racing but the crowds were enthusiastic and the community was very supportive of the idea of a big race in the community. Saturn received some very useful press from attending the event; all in all it was a homerun: my sponsors and athletes were happy with the event. In my mind it was an early success.

Two weeks later Dave called me for feedback.  I was taken aback.  A promoter taking the time to ask me what he could do better?  He wanted my commitment to send a full squad the following year.  At the time I asked him to move the race so it wouldn’t sit over the HP race.  I asked him to support the teams with free entries, travel, gas, meals, and housing.  With smaller team budgets, a race offering assistance to the teams rather than prize money would help to get riders to MN.  I wanted a competitive field for my team to race in.  What I wanted from Dave was the same treatment we received when we traveled to Europe for a UCI World Cup or Tour.  Make it as financially feasible as possible for as many teams as possible to travel to MN and the competition would be then be world class.  It would take time, and over time, it has.

Later that same fall, the cycling community received the sad news that HP would not renew their contract for the HP Women’s Challenge.  Again my phone rang with Dave asking me how he could make his race the new June destination for women bike racers. I wanted to work with this promoter, as I also wanted to grow women’s cycling. His eagerness to grow the women’s side of the race was new to me.  I sent him a wish list of what my sponsors would like from a race, what my riders would want and what I wanted as a Director.  Some of these ideas included a women’s summit, an outreach program to women in the community, travel assistance, an easy housing support system, lots of media support, challenging courses, and a venue which allowed our sponsors to interact with the crowds in the Midwest.  It was a lot to ask.

It took a few months but Dave was relentless in his pursuit of growing the race.  His sponsors rose to the challenge and the following year Nature Valley Grand Prix became the destination for women bike racers in the month of June.  Over the years Dave and his amazing staff have worked tirelessly to ensure women bike racers have extraordinary courses to test themselves, sponsors have tangible returns to utilize, and team management has a tremendous support system to make the race accessible to every team and every rider – not just the ones with the big budgets.

Over the years, some of the greatest women athletes in world have tested themselves at Nature Valley Grand Prix. Some of the “greats” include Kristin Armstrong, Ina Teutenberg, Petra Rossner, Georgina Bronzini, Lyne Bessette, Christin Thornburn, Katie Mactier and Amber Neben.

But the bigger story is that of the women who are not household cycling names but those who are the foot soldiers of women’s cycling.  It is the story of these women that needs to be told when talking about the Nature Valley Grand Prix.  These are-the women who work 40 hours a week in “normal jobs” who carve out time from their families and their jobs to train and race, and who hold women like Kristin Armstrong in awe.  These women have stood at the line with Olympians, World Champions, World Cup and Tour winners, they have tested themselves on the same courses, side by side with the women who have worked to create our cycling history. Nature Valley Grand Prix is also about these women, who have had the opportunity to race with the best of the best for several days; an opportunity not to be had here in the US without Dave LaPorte and Nature Valley.  To hear the crowds in the Twin Cities screaming for the winners, to see your team’s jersey on a baseball card, to be able to be on the radio, TV or the newspaper is available to ALL women who participate at the Nature Valley Grand Prix – not just the “Queens” of the sport.  It is truly an equal opportunity for all.

Nature Valley Grand Prix has supported all facets of women’s cycling: athletes, sponsors, and management.  I will look to the 2012 edition of Nature Valley Grand Prix to indicate who some of the next great women in cycling will be, as well as a point in history when women and men racers are treated equally.  At the 2012 Nature Valley Grand Prix every woman will have an opportunity to experience what is like to be treated as the Champion bike racer she is.

Giana Roberge
http://TeamSpeedQueen.com

Share