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Ken Hanson Steals Stage 5 Win in Nature Valley Grand Prix

June 21, 2010

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.