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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.

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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! http://www.sportsradio1400.com/pages/Watercooler.html

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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

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Dramatic Finish on Tap for Women’s Prestige Cycling Series

July 19, 2010

Minneapolis (July 19, 2010) – The individual, sprint and team classifications remain up for grabs with one race remaining in the Women’s Prestige Cycling Series.

The 30th edition of the Bend Memorial Clinic Cascade Cycling Classic begins Tuesday. The six-day event is the longest consecutively run elite stage race in the United States.

In the Women’s Prestige Cycling Series individual standings, Mara Abbott (Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY 12) holds a 41-point lead over Alison Powers (Team Vera Bradley Foundation). Powers said she is feeling good and will have a team of seven riders around her while Abbott will bring only three teammates to Bend, Ore.

Mara Abbott (left) wore the Sports Beans Queen of the Hills jersey on the final stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix in Stillwater, Minn (photo courtesy: Stephanie Williams)

“I have good fitness and I’m motivated and our team is strong, so I’m hoping we can do well,” Powers said. “This has been a hard season competition-wise, which is really cool. All the teams have strong riders. All the teams have good depth.”

Brooke Miller (TIBCO/To the Top Pro Cycling Team) stands third in the sprint classification, but the two riders ahead of her – Shelley Evans (Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY 12) and Carmen Small (Colavita/Baci presented by Cooking Light) are not on their teams’ roster for the race.

Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY 12 holds the lead in the team classification, but Team Vera Bradley Foundation remains in striking distance.

The difference in sizes of the Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY 12 and Vera Bradley Foundation teams could mean some drama in the team classification since the top four riders score points, said David LaPorte, the Women’s Prestige Cycling Series co-founder who also directs the Nature Valley Grand Prix.

“Abbott’s teammates will probably all be riding in support of her, which doesn’t bode well for their individual results,” LaPorte said. “Abbott’s points are doubled since she’s under the age of 26, but the Vera Bradley Foundation is likely to have more riders gaining points.”

Abbott, winner of the recent women’s Giro d’Italia, already has the best young rider (Under 26) jersey sewed up.

The Women’s Prestige Cycling Series is the only national bicycle racing series solely showcasing the country’s top female cycling talent. It began in March with the Redlands Bicycle Classic, followed by the SRAM Tour of the Gila in New Mexico in late April and continued at Nature Valley Grand Prix in eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin last month.

For more information about the Women’s Prestige Cycling Series, visit the official website, www.WomenCyclists.com, or send an e-mail to: wpcs2010 @ womencyclists.com.

INDIVIDUAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Mara Abbott, Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY 12 – 360.
2. Alison Powers, Team Vera Bradley Foundation – 319.
3. Evelyn Stevens, HTC-Columbia – 275.
4. Erinne Willock, Webcor Builders – 246.
5. Shelley Evans, Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY 12 – 242.

BEST YOUNG RIDER (UNDER 26) CLASSIFICATION

1. Mara Abbott, Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY 12 – 605.
2. Rebecca Much, TIBCO/To the Top Pro Cycling Team – 319.
3. Amanda Miller, TIBCO/To the Top Pro Cycling Team – 319.
4. Chloe Forsman, Specialized D4W/Bicycle Haus, 297.
5. Melanie Meyers, Specialized D4W/Bicycle Haus, 275.

SPRINT CLASSIFICATION

1. Shelley Evans, Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY 12 – 385.
2. Carmen Small, Colavita/Baci p/b Cooking Light – 289.
3. Brooke Miller, TIBCO/To the Top Pro Cycling Team – 286.
4. Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, HTC-Columbia – 220.
5. Carla Swart, Team Vera Bradley Foundation – 198.

TEAM CLASSIFICATION

1. Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY 12 – 1,185.
2. Team Vera Bradley Foundation – 844.
3. HTC-Columbia – 814.
4. Colavita/Baci presented by Cooking Light – 644.
5. Webcor Builders – 616.

About the Women’s Prestige Cycling Series

The Women’s Prestige Cycling Series was created following input at the 2003 Women’s Cycling Summit Conference, hosted at the Nature Valley Grand Prix. The inaugural edition of the Series was held the following year. The goal of the Series is to promote women’s racing by giving them a spotlight that they do not have to share with men. The Women’s Prestige Cycling Series is considered the heir apparent to the HP International Women’s Challenge, a fabled women’s stage race that ended its 19-year run in 2003.

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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 www.NatureValleyBicycleFestival.com.

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 www.NatureValley.com.

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Severe Weather Forces Cancellation of the Cannon Falls Road Race

June 18, 2010

by Cynthia Lou

On a humidly sunny day as the Midwest knows so well, 92 women lined up at the start, adrenaline and anticipation in the air. The jersey-wearers were called up to the line and to the naked eye it seemed a race-start as usual, when race officials abruptly announced the cancellation of Stage 3 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix – the Cannon Falls Road Race.

Like prying delicious-looking – but poisonous – candy out of a child’s hands, there was much disappointment from the peloton.

”I been through hail, snow, rain, wind – so bring it on,“ said Coryn Rivera (Peanut Butter & Co Twenty12).

”It’s not that we don’t recognize that there is a problem,“ said René Wenzel, team director of HTC-Columbia. ”We can see the weather, check our radios and our mobiles. It’s that we’re not trying. I think it’s sad we’re going to cancel before it actually happens. It’s happened before that there was a tornado warning, we started the race and then we took shelter – 20 minutes later it was all clear and we could move on.“

Paul Merwin, the Women’s Race Technical Director explained that race officials were fully aware of the route and lack of shelter to accommodate 100 riders in bad weather. ”There isn’t any,” he said. “Once you’re out there, there’s no where to go. It’s just open farm fields. A couple years ago we had a lightning strike and everybody crammed into a pole barn, but we don’t even have that out here.“

And pole barns don’t withstand tornadoes in Minnesota or elsewhere.

“We had a difficult conversation an hour in advance of are we going to go,” Merwin said. “We decided we were going to go and take the chance. It wasn’t until the very last minute that our state patrol car was on the phone with the National Weather Service and said, ‘You need to come see this’, that we see it’s a big red blotch and it’s coming right towards us. It went from, ‘There’s a 50% chance of significant weather’ to ‘there’s hail and 60 mile an hour winds on the way here’. That’s a level of certainty that we can’t ignore.“

Race officials tried every angle, looking for shortcuts, scoping out potential exit points, return points, and areas of shelter. In the end, definitive reports of severe tornado weather conditions from the National Weather Service caused the race to be called off.

”I’m really disappointed,“ said David LaPorte, Executive Director of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. ”This was going to be an awesome stage, especially with the potential of the wind breaking up the general classification. Often times the Cannon Falls Race, when it’s calm, everyone rolls back into town as one big peloton and then a pack sprint for the finish. When you have a cross-wind you can gain or lose massive amounts of time. It looked like we could have that cross-wind, but it looked like we could also have a major downpours and hail; it was just too dangerous. The women’s race we canceled because we saw it coming in and the men’s race, when they started, it looked like it was going to be okay and as it developed they had to cancel it as well.“

”Yes, I’m disappointed, but it’s better than getting pounded on by hail and 60 mph winds and possibly really getting hurt,“ said Shannon Koch (GG Events Management).

”I finally got to do a stage race with a rest day,“ Katherine Carroll (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) Tweeted lightheartedly.

Tomorrow sees the leaders line up again to shake up the tightly packed general classification at the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium.

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Nature Valley Grand Prix Next Stop For Women’s Prestige Cycling Series

June 14, 2010

Minneapolis – The Women’s Prestige Cycling Series continues with this week’s Nature Valley Grand Prix, the third of four stops for the Series.

Mara Abbott (Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12) is the favorite to retain the lead in the individual competition, although second-placed Alison Powers (Team Vera Bradley Foundation) is within striking distance and could claim the lead if she wins the Nature Valley Grand Prix. A number of other riders have a mathematical chance of taking the lead, but they would need both Abbott and Powers to turn in poor performances.

Abbott appears to have a lock on the Series’ Best Young Rider competition in her last year of eligibility. With nearly double the points of her nearest rival, Rebecca Much (Team TIBCO/To The Top Pro Cycling), Abbott would have to fail to finish to lose the lead. The Best Young Rider classification may be a race for second place, with Specialized D4W/Bicycle Haus teammates Chloe Forsman and Melanie Meyers hot on Much’s heals and TIBCO teammates Allison Starnes and Amanda Miller close behind.

Carmen Small (Colavita/Baci) has a comfortable lead in the sprinter competition. Although HTC-Columbia will be competing at the Nature Valley Grand Prix, second placed Ina-Yoko Teutenberg is not on the race roster. Coryn Rivera (Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12) is nearly 100 points behind Small.

If Abbott performs up to expectations, Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12 should retain its lead in the team competition, since bonus points are awarded for Best Young Riders. Team Vera Bradley Foundation is more than 200 points back in second place.

“This is a reverse of the standings on the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar,” Women’s Prestige Cycling Series co-founder David LaPorte pointed out. “It also highlights the mission of the Series, which is to give women’s teams a smaller calendar that allows them to focus on key events.”

Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12 Director Kristin Armstrong said the Women’s Prestige Cycling Series is a priority for her team.

“The women’s teams have a major voice in organizing the Series and vote on the events to include,” Armstrong said. “The four Series races were included because they highlight women’s racing. Our goals for the Nature Valley Grand Prix are to keep Mara in the leaders and best young rider jerseys and to defend our position as the top team.”

The Women’s Prestige Cycling Series is the only national bicycle racing series solely showcasing the country’s top female cycling talent in four events across the country. It began at the Redlands Bicycle Classic (March 25-28) and continued at the SRAM Tour of the Gila (April 28-May 2). Following the Nature Valley Grand Prix, the finale comes at the Bend Memorial Clinic Cascade Cycling Classic (July 20-25).

For more information about the Women’s Prestige Cycling Series, visit the official website, www.WomenCyclists.com.

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Denise Ramsden: Bringing International Racing to the Nature Valley Grand Prix

June 8, 2010

Denise Ramsden is a student/cyclist from the part of Canada where there really are igloos and polar bears AKA the Northwest Territories. She currently spends the winter studying Cell Biology and Genetics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada and the summer riding bikes with Team Kenda and the Canadian National Team.

Being from Canada, I’ve always tended to support the home town crowd and race the Canadian UCI races instead of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. With those races off the calendar, I’m up to toe the line at the Nature Valley Grand Prix for the first time in 2010. I’ve heard a lot about the race from fellow cyclists, particularly about the challenge of the courses (I want to see this Stillwater climb) and the amazing support they’ve given women’s cycling over the years. I’m looking forward to experiencing the race for the first time, aiming for a decent general classification (GC) result and trying to give the young riders’ classification a go.

Racing the Nature Valley Grand Prix isn’t the only thing that has been different about my race calendar this year. While usually I’ll have gotten in at least two or three stage races by mid June, this year the Nature Valley Grand Prix will only be my second of the season having completed the Redlands Bicycle Classic all the way back in March. Hopefully one-day racing can transfer over into stage racing fitness. Why the difference? Well this year I decided to play hooky from school for the last month of classes and head over to Europe with the Canadian National Team. We made our way through a 10 event racing block over the month of April that included two World Cups, four UCI 1.1s and four UCI 1.2s around Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. Then I was back off for a touchdown in Vancouver to fly through and exam, before heading down to Aguascalientes, Mexico for the Pan Am Road and Track Championships. I figure that the traveling induced tiredness, plus enough racing has got to mimic stage racing to some extent!! And experience in the European peloton and the full bore racing should transfer over well to North America. Although, I have to admit: I am looking forward to a bit of tactical racing rather than just going cross-eyed in the gutter for four hours a day.

Back in Canada now for a few weeks, it’s time to put in some training hours to get ready for another busy month in June. I’m looking forward to the challenge the Nature Valley Grand Prix is guaranteed to provide, getting in some fun racing with the team mates and a final racing push into Canadian Nationals the week after the Nature Valley Grand Prix!

About Team Kenda Women’s Cycling
Team Kenda began in 1999 as Team Ameritech with nine riders who excelled at bicycle racing. Over the years, the team has steadily grown in size and now boasts NRC Elite and Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and West Regional Teams. The team competes in the United States focusing on the National Race Calendar. (http://www.teamkenda.com)

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