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Kowalski’s Collegiate All-Star Erica Zaveta Discusses 2013 Nature Valley Grand Prix

May 23, 2013

Erica Zaveta is returning to the Nature Valley Grand Prix for her 2nd year on the Kowalski’s Collegiate All-Star Team. Erica sits down with Jimmie Kaska, of Sports Radio 1400, and discusses her past experiences, challenges, and what she expects as she returns to the Grand Prix.


Rising Star, Emily Georgeson, Talks about 2013 NVGP

May 16, 2013

Sports radio 1400 interviews Emily Georgeson. Emily is a young upcoming racer from Wisconsin. She qualified to race in the Nature Valley Grand Prix through the Nature Valley Pro Chase amateur qualifier series. Emily talks about what it will be like to race in front of the home crowd. Also what inspired her to enter racing and her goals as a racer.


Want to hear more Sports Radio 1400?  Check out  the Water Cooler with Jimmie Kaska here!


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


Universal Sports Televising Nature Valley Grand Prix

July 10, 2010

Minneapolis (July 9, 2010) – One of the most exciting editions in the history of the Nature Valley Grand Prix, the top-ranked race on the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar, will be broadcast on Universal Sports, sharing nationally what fans in eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin enjoyed in person last month.

The hour-long program will air on Universal Sports at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. EDT (5 p.m. and 8 p.m. PDT) on Monday, July 12 – a rest day for the Tour de France. The program will feature highlights of all five days of the men’s and women’s Nature Valley Grand Prix that took place June 16-20.

With the retirement of four-time Nature Valley Grand Prix champion Kristin Armstrong, the women’s race was a see-saw affair, with the yellow leader’s jersey changing hands four times. The primary battle was between Armstrong’s new team, Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY 12, Team TIBCO/To the Top and HTC-Columbia.

The men’s race was a classic duel between two-time defending champion Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare presented by Maxxis) and Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies). The contest was decided in the last two laps of the last stage in Stillwater.

“It was one of the most exciting races that we’ve held,” Nature Valley Grand Prix Director David LaPorte said. “The women’s race was aggressive and dynamic while the men’s race was a real cliffhanger. Those are the two classic racing scenarios, and we were lucky enough to have had both of them.”

About the Nature Valley Grand Prix

The Nature Valley Grand Prix, which takes place in Eastern Minnesota and Western Wisconsin, 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 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

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


What a Week of Racing!

June 24, 2010

Bob McEnaney, a Minneapolis-based cycling coach, contributor to the TRIA Orthopaedic Center blog and Nature Valley Grand Prix fan, has enjoyed another edition of the race. Here are his thoughts on the week that was:

The Nature Valley Grand Prix continued its tradition of delivering top notch racing and exciting action throughout each stage. Both the men’s and women’s races provided excitement to the large and appreciative crowds throughout the 5 days.

Watching each stage as I did (as well as being a rider host), I was impressed and amazed by the effort given by the riders, and their ability to bounce back the next day and do it all over again. We watch the Tour and the other major stage races on TV, but watching them live, up close and personal each day provides an insight that is impossible to pick up on TV, the computer or the magazines.

These riders are forced to ride hard every day, on challenging courses and in all weather conditions. They go back to their hotel or their host housing, recover, sleep and do it all again the next day at a different venue.

As a coach, I’m amazed at the fitness level of these riders. Their actual riding ability, including their bike handling skills is phenomenal. Their ability to generate huge amounts of power – again and again and again – is incredible. And one of the most amazing qualities I see is their ability to recover quickly.

Many cyclists can pull out a huge effort for a one day event. However, this huge energy expenditure can wipe them out for several days or more. So to see – first hand – these riders ability to bounce back is simply astounding.

These are exceptional athletes, there’s no question about this. We’re fortunate to have such a high quality and highly visible race in our own back yard. As cyclists, as athletes and as fans, we need to continue to embrace this race. We don’t know how lucky we are.

Congratulations to the race organizers. It’s difficult to imagine all that goes into putting on a world class event such as this. The number of details, questions, issues and complications they deal with on a daily basis, not only during the race, but the entire year leading up to the race is mind-boggling.

This was a fantastic race, as always. I’m already looking forward to the 2011 edition, and I hope you are as well!


Sutherland Takes Nature Valley Grand Prix Overall for Third Straight Year

June 21, 2010

by Lyne Lamoureax

Rory Sutherland (United Healthcare p/b Maxxis) did it again at the Stillwater Criterium, the nail-biting finish to the 2010 Nature Valley Grand Prix. Not only did the Australian overcome a three-second deficit to leader Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) but he also pulled out the stage win to claim his third consecutive overall victory at the race.

“It’s definitely special because there is more pressure to be able to do it,” said Sutherland about his three-peat. “As fun as it was last year to bring it down to the last day, I’d much rather have it a few days earlier, but this is the finish here.”

Rory Sutherland (center), riding for United Healthcare p/b MAXXIS won the yellow jersey and general classification victory in the final stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Scott Zwizanski (left) and David Veilleux (far right), both with Kelly Benefit Strategies, earned second and third place finishes in the 2010 Nature Valley Grand Prix. Photo by Matt Moses.

Everyone knew that strategy today, the tried and true plan that the United Healthcare team followed last year. Stick close to the yellow jersey, mass at the front and launch an attack in the final laps of the 20-lap race.

“I got the confidence and I have the team to do a finish like that. The Kelly guys did a phenomenal job the whole race, but,” said Sutherland, “it’s [either] you can follow or you can’t follow. That’s the way it works.”

And that’s exactly what happened when with two laps to go, Sutherland attacked on the leg-busting Chilkoot Hill. Luis Amaran (Jamis/Sutter Home) was the only rider to jump on but he was dropped on the final time up Chilkoot and took second on the stage.

Zwizanski was just not able to cover the move. “My team did a great work, they did everything they could, we did everything we could and I didn’t have the legs in the end to go with those two boys and that’s the way it went. It’s a bummer,” said a disappointed Zwizanski who finished second in the overall general classification at six seconds down.

Zwizanski’s right hand man in the final laps and 2008 Stillwater stage winner David Veilleux saw the attack happen and moved to cover but then looked back to see if Zwizanski was on his wheel.

“I had good legs today. When I went to bridge up, I hesitated because I saw that Scott wasn’t there, maybe I should have gone for it,” said Veilleux. “I think that we tried everything that we could to win the yellow jersey, that was the goal of the day.”

Veilleux finished third on the stage and in the general classification.

An hour or so before the showdown, the riders lined up for the final stage with a noisy crowd ready to cheer them on Chilkoot. A crash took down about 20 riders a few meters from the start line when the gun was off, but most returned to the race after a free lap. At the front, three riders immediately attacked, Jeremy Vennell (BISSELL), Scott Stewart (Team Type 1) and Anthony Colby (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) were off with the whole Kelly Benefit squad once again stringing out the field with a fast pace. A familiar sight from the start when Zwizanski took the lead after winning the opening time trial.

The gap grew to 17 seconds following the first King of the Hill competition won by Stewart. Riders, including Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda), Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia), Benjamin King (Trek Livestrong) in his white Fruit by the Foot Best Young Rider jersey tried to bridge up but the boys in green shut it down.

Stewart wasn’t ready to re-integrate the field and kept on going solo. He was soon joined by Mike Northey (Rubicon-ORBEA), Alessandro Bazzana (Fly V Australia) and Kiel Reijnen (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda). The four worked together until the second KOH once again taken by Scott Stewart, and then sat up, well almost all sat up.

“I was out there, so I might as well keep going and hopefully someone will come across, no one really did and I think Jamis ended pulling me back in. Kelly Benefit were happy to let me get away, I was in no contention but, oh well, I had a go,” said Northey who continued solo for the next three laps. He was awarded the Freewheel Bike Most Aggressive Rider jersey following the stage.

The dwindling field was back together with seven laps to go, when Amaran attacked on the hill covered by Sutherland and Veilleux. The Kelly Benefit squad shut this dangerous move down before the next time up the climb. The next two times up, the United Healthcare team was massed at the front shoulder to shoulder with the Kelly Benefit riders. With two laps to go, Sutherland’s team, still six strong, took over the pacemaking with Zwizanski, Veilleux and Amaran sitting right behind. Everyone was waiting for Sutherland’s attack.

“You can’t sit too far back, you can’t sit too far forward,” explained Sutherland about the strategy for tackling Chilkoot. “We have guys in this team, I’ve won it three times now, we’ve got other guys who have been here winning five, six times total, I think we pretty much know how to ride this one.”

King finished seventh overall and held on to win the Best Young Rider classification, which he had been leading from the start.

“Everyone is going for it every day, you really just have to take it a day as a time, treat each race as a one day. Go for as many results as possible and the consistency is what guarantees a high overall finish,” said King about the fight for the jersey. “As an under-23 team it definitely was a priority to snag it.”

With the help of his teammates, sprinter Brad Huff (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) took home the Sports Beans King of the Hills climber’s jersey. He picked up the points when he made his way into the long break in Saturday’s stage in Menomonie, Wisc.

“We didn’t have anything to lose, we were trying to be aggressive and it did work out that they did get into the early breakaways and take the points so that Sulzberger wasn’t able to get into them. Bad luck to him, he got into a crash, I think second KOM,” said Huff. “It wasn’t super aggressive for the KOM points, but it was an aggressive race.”

In the other competitions, Hilton Clarke (United Healthcare) won the Wheaties FUEL Sprint Competition. Chris Winn (Rio Grande) won the Nature Valley Top Amateur classification. Kelly Benefit Strategies took home the best team classification.


Evans Finishes The Nature Valley Grand Prix with Yellow Jersey; Stevens Wins Stillwater Criterium

by Cynthia Lou

Today was an exciting day in women’s bike racing filled with aggressive attacks throughout the 13 laps of a 1.5 mile criterium race that included the infamous Chilkoot Hill and its 18% average-grade climb. Shelley Evans and her team Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12 stamped their determination on the race by driving the tempo from the beginning, eventually landing her in the winning breakaway group ahead of Linda Villumsen (HTC-Columbia), who wore the yellow jersey coming into the stage.

“We had a plan to keep the yellow jersey with Linda [Villumsen],” said René Wenzel, team director for HTC-Columbia. Villumsen started the stage with an 11 second advantage over Evans. “But we also knew it wasn’t her favorite course, the hill was a little too steep so we kept Evelyn as the plan B. The HTC Columbia girls are super happy about having been here. We won three stages – I don’t think we could ask for much more than that.”

“This race is a race of attrition, we knew we needed to make it fast and hard from the beginning” said Evans. “The front of the race is the front of the race, everything behind is just going back. We knew we had to make it hard, not to let people get into a rhythm and put the pressure on from the beginning, push the pressure on over the climb so nobody could get comfortable, so that’s what we did.”

The was a series of attacks from the beginning, with riders from HTC-Columbia, Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12, Colavita/Baci, Team TIBCO, and Webcor Builders at the front.

“We did as much as we could,” said Team TIBCO team director Emma Rickards. Team TIBCO sent many riders up the road on attacks including Meredith Miller, Brooke Miller, and Ruth Corset. “The girls had a great week of racing, with Ali [Starnes] winning the time trial and being in yellow for a couple of days. Criteriums are not her forte, so to see her maintain that jersey was really awesome to see. The girls had some great racing yesterday and today. It was awesome women’s racing to see the yellow jersey change around so much.”

By five laps to go, a five person break with a 12 second lead formed with Evans, Stevens, Villumsen, Erinne Willock (Webcor Builders) and Ruth Corset (Team TIBCO). On the way up Chilkoot Hill with three laps to go, Stevens launched the decisive attack that would set her up for the stage win. By the top of Chilkoot Hill Stevens had a slight three-second lead, and with two laps to go she had a 20 second lead over Catherine Cheatley (Colavita/Baci) and Ruth Corset (Team TIBCO), while Evans and her teammate Mara Abbott were 24 seconds back.

With one lap to go Stevens had 24 seconds on the chase, enough to put her in the virtual yellow. But the toll of being out solo took it’s toll. Evans, supported by her teammates, were able to close the gap down to just 12 seconds by the time they crossed the finish line. Villumsen finished the stage at just over one minute back.

“I’m marking this as number five,” said Kristin Armstrong, team director of Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12, referring to her own previous four victories on the bike, and today’s victory as director.

Last year, Evans was second to Armstrong, who won the Stillwater Criterium and the overall general classification.

In true form, the Nature Valley Grand Prix seems to be the place where professional riders are groomed and leave their stamp on the professional circuit.

This year, Evans stands atop the podium in GC, while Stevens stands atop the podium as the stage winner.

Shelley Evans (center), representing Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12, took advantage of her sprint and climbing abilities to capture the yellow jersey in the 2010 Nature Valley Grand Prix. Evelyn Stevens (left), won second riding for HTC Columbia, followed by Ruth Corset, Team TIBCO. Photo by Matt Moses.

“I did this race last year, I think this was my first or second pro-/NRC race,” said Stevens. “It’s nice to see the improvement from a year ago.”

“I raced here in 2008 with the Ryan’s Colegiate All Stars Team,” said Chloe Forsman (Specialized D4W/Bicycle Haus), winner of the Nature Valley Top Amateur Rider Jersey.

“This is the first time I’ve finished more than half of this race, so, I’m pretty stoked about that!” Forsman laughed. “I knew it was going to be a matter of how long I could suffer with the group up the hill and then trying to stay together on the false flat and not lose any wheels on the flatter sections.”

Brooke Miller won her first big NRC race at Nature Valley in 2006, “when I was just a pup!” she laughs. “I love [Stillwater]! And you’re talking to someone who, the first two times I raced it, when the officials pulled me off I thanked them. It’s really hard but it’s just so fantastic!”

The final podium included Linda Villumsen in the Fruit By The Foot Best Young Rider Jersey, Team TIBCO atop the best team general classification, Evans in the Wheaties Sprint Jersey, Mara Abbott (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) in the Jelly Beans Sport Beans Queen of the Hills Jersey, and Evelyn Stevens in the Freewheel Bike Most Aggressive Rider Jersey.


Ken Hanson Steals Stage 5 Win in Nature Valley Grand Prix

by Lyne Lamoureax

What a difference a day makes for Ken Hanson at the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Yesterday, the sprinter from Team Type 1 was disappointed in his second place finish behind repeat winner Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis). Today, Hanson waited patiently until the finale of the 95-mile Menomonie Road Race to launch his sprint and take the win.

Ken Hanson, Team Type 1, celebrates his victory at the Menomonie Road Race, stage 5 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix.

“Hilton was unbeatable yesterday. I knew the speed was there in my legs, I felt good after the race, it was a little bit of a confidence boost and I think it left me hungry to come today that if it was going to be a sprint to know that I know I have good legs and the fitness is there and I just need to get a clean shot at the line and I felt confident with that,” said Hanson.

Making it even sweeter for Team Type 1 was Alexey Shmidt finishing second in a photo finish ahead of Rory Sutherland (United Healthcare p/b Maxxis).

With his six-second time bonus, Sutherland now sits at only three seconds down from leader Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) with one stage to go, the very tough Stillwater Criterium. Last year, Sutherland made his move on the leg-busting Chilkoot Hill to grab those extra seconds to come from second place and win the overall for his second time. Can he three-peat tomorrow?

“I think whatever happens tomorrow happens, if we can pick an extra few seconds that’s great, if not and Scott wins, he’s a fantastic guy and he’s worked super hard. I definitely applaud their effort, it was fantastic and they deserve it but it’s still a bike race. What would Stillwater be without a small gap and exciting for everybody?” asked Sutherland.

“I’m nervous. I always get nervous. Nervous but confident in my team, I’ve got great teammates who are going to lay it all on the line for me and I’m going to lay it all on the line to try to hold on to the jersey,” said Zwizanski.

It will all come down to gaps at the finish line on the final stage. “No time bonus tomorrow, it’s just a clean old race which is good,” commented Zwizanski.

But before the final sprint to the line, attacks flew at the start in Menomonie, the first time ever that the Nature Valley Grand Prix left Minnesota. Riders from BISSELL, Fly V Australia, Jelly Belly p/b Kenda, Kenda p/b Geargrinder and more took flyers off the front of the field, either solo or in groups. Everybody wanted to be in the break so for the next 40 miles, it was non-stop attacking at the front with Kelly Benefit Strategies controlling and making sure nothing threatening went up the road.

During this non-stop activity period, Brad Huff (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) took the first two KOH putting him in the lead for that competition.

Finally, seven riders were off. In the move were Dan Holt (Team Type 1), Bernie Sulzberger (Fly V Australia), Soren Peterson (Hagens Berman), Dan Bowman (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Travis Burandt (Hotel San Jose), Nick Frey (Jamis/Sutter Home) and Huff.

Content with the combination, the peloton sat up and the gap grew. While many tried, only one rider, Phil Gaimon (Kenda p/b Geargrinder), managed to bridge up while Bowman dropped back to the field to help out the chase. With almost every rider in the break rotating through, the gap went up to two minutes and twenty-five seconds with 40 miles to go making Frey the virtual leader on the road.

Meanwhile, Zwizanski’s team led the chase and started to bring down the gap, with 30 miles to go, it was down to two minutes. Entering the first of four finishing circuits, with 12 miles to go, only 15 seconds separated the two groups. And then it was a free for all.

“Some guys started attacking before we actually caught the break, We got swarmed before we caught the break,” explained Zwizanski. “Vennell attacked, Amaran attacked, that guy attacks harder than anybody I’ve ever known its so hard. I was all over Amaran, Rory was all over me, Rory was all over Veilleux and Zach. Coming in it was crazy, this shuffling and attacking.”

Attacks continued and with three laps to go, the United Healthcare train came to the front, using all their riders to try and get those seconds for Sutherland.

With two laps to go, a counter-attack went with Zach Bell (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Nathan Brown (Trek-Livestrong), Gabe Verala (Nature Valley Pro Ride) and Gaimon. With the field closing down on them, Bell gave a last gasp but it was all back together on the final lap.

Team Type 1 was biding its time. Shawn Milne and Davide Frattini took over the pace making on the backstretch and upped the pace. Karl Menzies with Sutherland on his wheel swarmed the trio and made their way to the front.

“We just stayed really close, right behind them and waited until the right moment, they had to make their move before the last corner to try to lead out Rory. They did a great job but luckily myself and my teammate were in the right position to come around for the finish,” explained Hanson who came around the UnitedHealthcare duo to take the win. 

“I can only do so much against the sprinters but at the end of 150K with a lot of guys that have been doing crits, I can sprint much better than I could yesterday. Again we saw Kelly did a great job riding at the front all day. And again us, our guys got on the front with three laps to go, they kept going, that’s fantastic. Hilton gave up all his chance to win today, and so did Jake and so did Karl for me and that shows the team spirit and definitely shows what we have together,” said Sutherland.

The Kelly Benefit Strategies team worked hard all day and could not keep Sutherland out of the top three.

“It was hard for our guys today. We didn’t get the crosswinds that could have really broken up the race, but there was enough wind to make it hard the whole way. Our guys used everything they had and they did a great job.” said Zwizanski who crossed the line in 13th place with the same time and gets to defend the jersey for one more day.

Huff, known as a sprinter, took points in all the King of the Hill (KOH) competitions and put himself in the polka dot jersey.

“We tried to make sure that we were in the 1-2 each time, luckily it worked out that way,” said Huff about competing with Sulzberger for points. “Early on, it was just cat and mouse earlier in the race, I got lucky that I followed the right moves and was able to go for the sprint on the hill, it was a long day.” He added about defending the jersey, “Tomorrow is a sufferfest, I’m just hoping that I can ride well.”

The race concludes tomorrow with the Stillwater Criterium, 20 laps of torture where the course features the trek up Chilkoot Hill, with an average grade of 18%, every lap. It’s going to be war out there between Kelly Benefit Strategies and UnitedHealthcare, between Scott Zwizanski and Rory Sutherland.


Willock (Webcor Builders) Wins the Menomonie Road Race; Villumsen (HTC-Columbia) in Yellow

by Cynthia Lou

The two-woman breakaway of Erinne Willock (Webcor Builders) and Linda Melanie Villumsen (HTC-Columbia) held off an aggressive chase group to take first and second, respectively, at Nature Valley Grand Prix’s first-ever Menomonie Road Race in Menomonie, Wisc. The two had enough of a gap off the chase group to put Villumsen first in general classification. Rounding out the podium was Team TIBCO’s Brooke Miller, who won the field sprint for third.

Erinne Willock, Webcor Builers, wins stage 5 of the Menomonie Road Race, part of the Nature Valley Grand Prix, after building a more than 40 second gap over the peloton.

With racers less tired than they might otherwise have been due to the cancellation of the Thursday’s Cannon Falls Road Race, the stage was set to be an aggressive battle.

Riders lined up eight abroad during the opening 3.3 miles of neutral start and saw riders from HTC-Columbia, Team TIBCO, and Colavita-Baci heading the charge. Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12 and Team Vera Bradley Foundation flanked the sides, ready to pounce.

But the pack stayed close together to the first QOM competition, where Team Vera Bradley Foundation rider Anne Samplonius made the first breakaway escape, gaining up to 40 seconds on the pack in a solo effort. She was joined by Rebecca Much (Team TIBCO), but both were eventually caught while climbing the second QOM.

By this time the field had been eying each other, testing each other’s strategies, and teams began to launch aggressive attacks.

“We wanted to have a really aggressive race and put riders up there that would put Peanut Butter in a position where they’d have to defend,” said Brooke Miller (Team TIBCO). “I think everyone in the peloton had that same strategy. It really was an aggressive race – the whole peloton was animated.”

“We wanted to wait and see how everybody else was going to deal with the course,” said René Wenzel, team director of HTC-Columbia. “It was going to be a very hard course if everyone was aggressive – and we wanted it to be aggressive – but we only have five riders on our team so we needed to wait a little bit before we went into action.”

Ruth Corset (Team TIBCO) attacked the peloton at the third QOM on Oak Ridge Hill.

“Ruth just flies up hills, and I won’t lie, that hurt!” laughed teammate Miller. “That’s when the first decisive separation of the day happened.”

A small break formed with Ruth Corset (Team TIBCO), Evelyn Stevens (HTC-Columbia), Mara Abbott (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12), and Catherine Cheatley (Colavita/Baci). They were quickly joined by defending yellow jersey wearer Shelley Evans (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) and twelve other riders, including eventual leader Villumsen and stage winner Willock.

“There were some attacks going across the time and some cross wind there,” said Willock. “I attacked at the top and Linda bridged across and we worked together from then on.”

“I saw her [Erinne] go, and I thought, ‘Here’s my chance’,” said Villumsen. “It was hard to communicate with each other because we didn’t have the radios so we had to keep track of where everybody is and who’s going up the road. Today for us was perfect.”

”It’s a good course,“ said Willock. ”With the rolling hills and wind, it’s out-of-sight-out-of-mind, so it’s good for a breakaway.“

The gap opened up quickly and by approximately 10 miles was up to 1’ 45”. As the duo entered the technical circuit race for five laps and 11.6 miles of racing, the gap was down to 40 seconds from the chase.

Villumsen noted, ”They came closer and closer and we saw the bunch around some of the corners. We said, ‘OK, we have to give it everything, everything to the finish’, so it was all-out.“

“We pretty much didn’t know we would make it to the line [away] until about one lap to go,” said Willock. “I sprinted but Linda pretty much gave me the stage. She was moving into yellow and it was a good stage win for us.”

A pack-sprint of the chase group followed.

“It was kind of crazy, we really didn’t expect a bunch sprint today,” said Miller. “We had a lot of different scenarios. For how technical the course was, it was hard to say ‘This is how we want to do the lead out’ so we improvised. I was just sitting on Meredith [Miller] and she did a great job of moving me around the corner. Emma Mackie [Team TIBCO] attacked, Meredith took off and took me to the last corner and I just took it from there.”

Villumsen enters the final stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix, the Stillwater Criterium with its infamous Chilkoot Hill that boasts an average grade of 18%, with an 11 second lead over Evans. Corset and Willock move into third and fourth places in the general classification respectively, both at 34 seconds back.

Villumsen currently leads the Fruit By The Foot Best Young Rider Jersey, and Mara Abbott (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) is the new Jelly Beans Sport Beans Queen of the Hills leader. Willock will wear the Freewheel Bike Most Aggressive Jersey into tomorrow’s stage. Evans still leads the Wheaties Sprinter competition, and Chloe Forsman (Specialized D4W/Bicycle Haus) remains in the Nature Valley Best Amateur Rider Jersey.


Clark Makes It Two Wins at Nature Valley Grand Prix

June 19, 2010

by Lyne Lamoureux

Australian Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis) did it again at the Nature Valley Grand Prix. In a close three-man sprint, he took the win at the Minneapolis Uptown Criterium ahead of Ben Kersten (Fly V Australia) and Ken Hanson (Team Type 1).

Hilton Clarke (United Healthcare p/b MAXXIS) wore the Wheaties Fuel Sprint jersey in Friday night's Minneapolis Uptown Criterium, Stage 4 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Clarke took first (again) after winning Wednesday's Stage 2 St. Paul Downtown Crit. Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) holds on to the yellow jersey going into Stage 5 of the Grand Prix. Photo by Matt Moses

“Once again, my team did a great job.” said Clarke. “We’ve been saying in team meetings how can this keep happening, somebody’s going to have to try something different.”

Somebody did try something different. The Fly V Australia duo of Kersten and Aaron Kemps came around the leadout train and made their way to the front before that all important final corner. The order going into that final 150-meter straightway was Kemps, Kersten, Clarke and Hanson.

“I just had to keep my composure and I really had to stay calm. I went real hard in the corner and I just waited, I’m lucky it was that long, because one more meter and Kersten would have gotten me,” said Clarke. “I would have much preferred to be first, the other guys used so much energy to be first. I just waited, I just ride on my instincts normally and it was right.”

“Coming into the last corner, it’s so key for positioning because it’s maybe 150 meters to the line but it’s a 40 mph corner, you’re going as fast as you can anyway,” said Hanson. “I came out of the corner fourth wheel, a little too far back and by the time I got on top of my sprint it was already a little too late, I was catching up, making up a little bit of ground, it just wasn’t enough for the finish.”

Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) remains in the yellow leader’s jersey with defending champion Rory Sutherland (United Healthcare p/b Maxxis) still in second place at nine seconds down. With every second counting, the two battled for the time bonuses associated with the intermediate sprints during the race.

The crowds lining the pancake flat one kilometer course with its six tight corners were treated to a show as the action heated up immediately with the riders itching for racing after yesterday’s stage was canceled due to bad weather. The speed was high, the field strung out as attack after attack fired to get a break going. And Zwizanski’s team was quite content to let the right combination up the road to gobble up the time bonus seconds.

A few laps in, 10 riders were off. In the move were Daniel Holloway (BISSELL), Rob Bush (Kenda p/b GearGrinder), David Kemp and Alessandro Bazzana (Fly V Australia), Adam Bergman (Texas Roadhouse), Paul Martin (Panther p/b Competitive Cyclist), Roman Van Uden (Rubicon-ORBEA), Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda), Adrian Hegyvary (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis) and Alexey Shmidt (Team Type 1).

“I got a call up and I was right on the front row and the first move went right from the gun. Half the race was that breakaway.” said Bush.

The riders rode hard at the front but could never get more than 15 seconds on the field with Kelly Benefit feathering the gap. Holloway took the first intermediate bonus at 30 laps to go, followed by Shmidt and Kemp.

The battle for time bonus seconds was on for the second intermediate sprint looming. With 25 laps to go, the United Healthcare squad had enough of the break and took over the front to reel it in with 21 laps to go.

“I was right there, I had Rory on my wheel and I had Hilton’s and he did some sprinter stuff and I couldn’t make it through the corner with speed and luckily Veilleux took that one. Smashed it for that one.” explained Zwizanski. “Veilleux knew that if I wasn’t on his wheel he had to go for it.”

David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit) jumped to protect his teammate’s GC lead and took the sprint followed by Schmidt. Sutherland slotted in for third and got a one-second time bonus.

There was no breather for the pack with attacks and counter-attacks going for the next 10 laps. And Bush was in almost every move.

“We were caught for a little while coming into the second sprint, some guys really went for it and I followed then and I didn’t get any points so I got really mad, so I just attacked,” he explained. He made his way into multiple break attempts for the next 10 laps and was later awarded the Freewheel Most Aggressive jersey for his efforts.

With 11 laps to go, the battle was back on for the last of three sprints. “Everything was back together again and our boys were on the front. We went for it again and I was able to stay in there in the fight. Unfortunately Hilton went for it too, I did the best I could but Veilleux held him off, which was awesome, I held on to get one,” said Zwizanski who took third behind Veilleux and Clarke, nullifying Sutherland’s earlier time bonus.

With eight laps to go, the United Healthcare train took over the pace making at the front with everyone else trying to get on Clarke’s wheel.

“It’s a fight with every other team to get that spot,” explained Hanson. “You never know when they’re going to make it fast enough where it’s too hard to move up and that happened with about two laps to go so I just stayed and waited and waited, two guys back behind. You have to wait for the right moment to make a move, you don’t want to spend too much energy for your sprint so, we tried to stay there in the right position.”

Clarke trusted his instincts and took another win, his second at the race, his third in one week. “I guess I’m on a roll right now so while it’s happening I’ll keep on going,” he smiled.

There were no changes in the jersey competition. Benjamin King (Trek-Livestrong) remains in the lead for the Fruit By The Foot Best Young Rider. Clarke keeps the points jersey and Zwizanski still leads the KOH classification.

The racing continues with the Menomonie (Wisc.) Road Race on Saturday, when for the first time ever the race leaes Minnesota and heads to Wisconsin. Finishing with several three-mile circuits inside the city, the course takes in the challenging rural county roads outside the city that have been a favorite with cyclists of the upper Midwest for years. The men’s road race consists of 95 miles, marked by rolling hills and long climbs that are sure to impact the standings for the entire Nature Valley Grand Prix.

“Tomorrow should be good, supposedly lots of rollers.” said Zwizanski. “It might be windy, we’re looking forwards to a good hard race.”