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Nature Valley Grand Prix 2008 - Preview
By Staff
Date: 6/11/2008
Nature Valley Grand Prix 2008 - Preview

Nature Valley Grand Prix - Preview
Back for 2008 5 days and 6 stages of Professional Racing at the Great River Energy Bicycle Festival in "Cycling Crazy" Minnesota

Nature Valley Grand Prix Stages:
Stage 1 June 11 St. Paul Lowertown Criterium
Stage 2 June 12 Cannon Falls Road Race
Stage 3 June 13 (AM) St. Paul Riverfront Time Trial
Stage 4 June 13 (PM) Minneapolis Downtown Classic
Stage 5 June 14 Mankato Road Race
Stage 6 June 15 Stillwater Criterium

Armstrong stays in yellow
2007 Nature Valley Grand Prix winner, Kristin Armstrong in the leaders jersey.
©2007 Photo c. Matthew Moses

Stage 1- St. Paul Lowertown Criterium - Wed. June 11
The Great River Energy Bicycle Festival continues in downtown Saint Paul’s Lowertown district with the opening stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix.  New to the Nature Valley Grand Prix in 2007, this is a wide-open course with a gentle incline to the finish line. The race is likely to end in a big pack sprint, with the winner claiming the Nature Valley Grand Prix yellow leader’s jersey. This is a perfect way to relax after a long day of work - watching someone ELSE suffer for a change. Race nullified due to weather.

Stage 2 - Cannon Falls Road Race - Thursday 60 Miles
Cannon Falls, located just 35 miles from Saint Paul, is one of Minnesota's favorite tourist destinations. It is the trail head for the Cannon Valley Trail, the Midwest's premier bicycle trail, which runs from Cannon Falls to Red Wing. Cannon Falls also offers the Cannon River Winery, excellent antique shops and great places to eat in its historic downtown.

2007 Stage 2: Health Net's Kirk O'Bee wins the second stage
Photo © 2007 Kurt Jambretz/Action Images

The Cannon Falls Road Race winds through scenic Goodhue County before finishing on a circuit in downtown Cannon Falls. This race proved to be decisive in 2006, with small groups gaining minutes on the chasing packs in both the men’s and women’s races. Riders who failed to make it into these breakaways had no shot at the yellow jersey for the rest of the Nature Valley GP. Cross winds can break up a race just like long mountain climbs. The Cannon Falls Road Race course offers little shelter, so expect the pack to shatter if it’s a windy day.

Women's Pro/Elite Race: 60 miles
Men's Pro/Elite Race: 60 miles
Finish: Four laps of the Cannon Falls finishing circuit

Miller wins Stage 2
2007: Brooke Miller (TIBCO) takes Stage 2 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix
©2007 Kurt Jambretz/Action Images-

Stage 3 - St. Paul Riverfront Time Trial - Friday 4.5 miles
The time trial is often called “the race of truth”. There will be no hiding in the pack or drafting behind teammates as each rider must test themselves against the course alone. This will be a 4.5 mile no-frills slug fest, with riders flying up and down Lilydale Road in this individual race against the clock.

There will be one twist this year however. The Time Trial will finish on top of the Ohio Street hill, which should give the sprinters some trouble and allow the climbers to show their strength.

Hilltop Finish Added to the Nature Valley Grand Prix Time Trial
Fan suggestion likely to shake up the final standings
Organizers of the Great River Energy Bicycle Festival and the Nature Valley Grand Prix announced today an extension of the Saint Paul Riverfront Time Trial – the third stage of the 6-stage, 5-day event – that will not only test the strength of the riders, but will give them a majestic view of the Mississippi River valley and Minnesota’s capital city.

The addition to the original 5-mile flat course includes a 1-kilometer climb up the bluffs of the Mississippi River. The climb ramps an average of 8 percent up Saint Paul’s Ohio Street and Cherokee Avenue and dramatically changes the character of the stage and its effect on the final outcome of the Nature Valley Grand Prix.

“This climb will totally change the time trial”, said Jelly Belly Pro Cycling team manager Danny Van Haute. “Time trial specialists are often poor climbers and the time that they gain on the flat sections of the course could be lost on the climb. This is also going to complicate the equipment choices, since it won’t be obvious whether to use a time trial bike or a road bike.”

The 2007 Saint Paul Riverfront Time Trial was a flat, five miles through Saint Paul’s Lilydale Park on the banks of the Mississippi. A time trial, called “the race of truth”, is an individual race against the clock. Although the shortest stage of the event, the time gained or lost in this stage typically impacts the final overall standings, where the top finishers are usually separated by only seconds. Most riders use a special time trial bike designed in wind tunnels to slice through the air on flat courses.

The addition of the climb to the time trial course will impact the decision to use those special bikes, as what makes them aerodynamic can also make them inefficient on climbs.

As the most fan-friendly stage race in North America, the change to the course comes at the suggestion of local racing fans, Tim “Super Rookie” Hayes and Spenser “Dis” Haugh, local amateur cyclists with Grumpy’s / Little Guy Racing.

“We love the Nature Valley Grand Prix,” said Hayes. “But we thought that the time trial needed more character. I’ve been bugging [Nature Valley Grand Prix director David] LaPorte about this for a year and I think that it’s awesome that they’re going to do it. I was shocked that a pro race of this level would take a suggestion from a fan.”

The City of Saint Paul has also shown strong support for the new course. “I think that the cyclists have to be crazy to want to race up that hill,” said Saint Paul Councilman Dave Thune, whose ward includes the new climb. “But, once they finish, I think they will amazed at the view the finish on Cherokee Avenue gives them of the river and Saint Paul. The course extension up the bluff will give fans both a spectacular and scenic race. It will definitely be beautiful to watch, more beautiful than riding that hill yourself.”

The Saint Paul Riverfront Time Trial is scheduled for Friday morning, June 13. Riders will begin the race from a Start House, created by Minneapolis-based RSP Architects, on Lilydale Road under the Smith Avenue High Bridge and then finish on Cherokee Avenue near the top of that same bridge. The first woman will start at 9 a.m. and then men follow beginning at 10:30 a.m.

Stage 4 - Minneapolis Downtown Classic - Friday June 13
The Great River Energy Bicycle Festival changes gears from rolling countryside to urban chic as the action moves to the entertainment district of downtown Minneapolis Friday evening. Pro racing and stunt riders will blend with the rhythm of the City to create an experience that you won’t want to miss on this 6 corner technical course. With three stages behind them, riders will travel to downtown Minneapolis for more racing. The fourth stage is an hour-long high speed chase on a flat fast course.

Stage 5 - Mankato Road Race - Saturday June 14
Racing continues on Saturday with the Mankato Road Race. This will be a test of endurance and racing tactics. The races will start and finish in the City of Mankato. The final 30 to 45 minutes of each race will play out with multiple laps on a finishing circuit inside the City during the community festival. The typical Mid-West wind could shatter the group as eschelons form on the 80 mile route through the local farms; the survivors take on the 4 finishing circuits with the brutal climb up Main Street Hill on tired legs.

Women's Pro/Elite Race: 86 miles
Men's Pro/Elite Race: 86 miles
Finish: Four laps of the Mankato finishing circuit

Stage 6 - Stillwater Criterium - Sunday June 15
The Great River Energy Bicycle Festival returns to historic downtown Stillwater for the Grand Finale. The Stillwater course features a trek up Chilkoot Hill every lap. This lung-busting hill climb along with the heart stopping downhill turns that will stretch the riders’ bike handling skills to their limits combine to give this criterium an international reputation as the hardest in North America.

The peloton approaches the 21percent grade of Chilkoot Hill
Photo © 2007 Kurt Jambretz/Action Images

The 11 corner figure 8 course is one that separates the peloton into the real contenders and wannabees; the Chilkoot Hill often shattering the race into chasing groups with the resulting attrition. The yellow jersey will be under serious pressure, with challengers pushing the pace to try to make the leader crack. The jersey often changes hands on this final day of the Nature Valley Grand Prix.

12:00 PM – Women’s Pro/Elite Race: 50 minutes
1:00   PM – Hoigaard's Tour de Kids
1:30   PM – Men’s Pro/Elite Race: 60 minutes

About the Great River Energy Bicycle Festival and Nature Valley Grand Prix
The Great River Energy Bicycle Festival, now in its tenth year, is one of the nation’s top celebrations of the bicycle culture, with tens of thousands of cycling enthusiasts, pro athletes and avid recreational riders converging in Minnesota each year for nine days in June. The Festival’s professional racing events, the Nature Valley Grand Prix, began as a one-day criterium in Saint Paul in 1999. Ranked as the premier stage race on the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar, the 2008 Nature Valley Grand Prix schedule includes stops in Saint Paul, Cannon Falls, Minneapolis, Mankato and Stillwater, June 11 – 15. The Great River Energy Bicycle Festival is a volunteer-run event, with all proceeds donated to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, the festival’s benefiting charity. For more information, visit:


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