Nature Valley Grand Prix Establishes Swart
Most decorated Collegiate Cyclist in USA history, Carla Swart honored by Nature
Valley Grand Prix
Organizers of the Nature Valley Grand Prix have announced the establishment
of the "Carla Swart Sportsmanship Award" as a memorial to an alumna of their
2008 Ryan Collegiate All Star team. The award will recognize the female athlete
at the race who sacrifices her own chances for the good of the team. Carla Swart
was a South African Olympic hopeful and the most decorated collegiate rider in
Swart died Wednesday after she was hit by a truck during a training ride in
the central Free State province of South Africa. The 23-year-old was a member of
the Ryan Collegiate All Star team at the Nature Valley Grand Prix in 2008 and
competed professionally on Team Vera Bradley Foundation in last year's race. She
won 19 national titles during her collegiate career and most recently finished
10th in the women's elite road race at the world championships in Melbourne,
"Cycling is a team sport, with talented athletes often sacrificing their own
chances to support a teammate,” Nature Valley Grand Prix Executive Director
David LaPorte said. "The Carla Swart Sportsmanship award will recognize these
unsung heroes. We'll ask the racers to vote for the rider on another team who
has sacrificed the most in support of her teammates. Particularly since the
radio ban, the riders themselves know the most about who deserves this award."
The Carla Swart Sportsmanship Award winner will be recognized before the
race's final stage, the Stillwater Criterium. The honoree will receive a special
jersey to wear and a front row call-up, LaPorte said. Besides the recognition, a
front row start is particularly valuable in Stillwater since the race hits the
fabled 23 percent grade on Chillkoot Hill almost immediately.
Carla Swart's first experience with the Nature Valley Grand Prix came in 2008 as
a member of the Ryan Collegiate All Star team.
Brian Sheedy, Swart's fiancé and a former professional racer, said he and
Swart's family are extremely grateful to have an award established in her honor.
"She touched so many people with her vibrant and loving nature and her
smile," he said. "She did so many things in this sport in such a short time. She
was probably South Africa's top cyclist – man or woman – and their biggest hope
for the Olympics, by far. On the world stage, she was making a name for herself
really, really fast."
John Barron, director of the Collegiate All Stars, said it made sense to
establish an award in Swart's memory because her performance at the Nature
Valley Grand Prix helped her gain a professional contract.
“No one will forget Carla's infectious smile, razor-sharp focus and her
stunning athleticism that she displayed at the 2008 Nature Valley Grand Prix as
a member of the Ryan Collegiate All Stars,” Barron said. “I expect the recipient
of this annual award will receive the extra strength, spirit and fortitude she
will need to finish the last, brutal stage of the race.”
went on to ride for the Team Vera Bradley Foundation at the Nature Valley Grand
Prix last year. Her former team manager, Lisa, Hunt, said the award will serve
as a long-lasting symbol of the rider that her teammates and friends referred to
as the "ginger ninja."
“Few cyclists will achieve what Carla did in the short span of her career,”
Hunt said. "And by this, I mean not just the victories, but the relationships
she built with her teammates. She gave more than 100 percent in every race. This
award will strive to recognize others who display the same unselfish nature that
made Carla the ultimate teammate.”
The Nature Valley Grand Prix is part of the USA Cycling National Racing
Calendar (NRC) and takes place June 15-19 as part of the Nature Valley Bicycle
About the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival - Now in its 13th year, the Nature
Valley Bicycle Festival is a 10-day celebration of bicycling that includes
amateur and professional racing and community events. The Festival will open on
June 10-12 with the Minnesota Fixed Gear Classic at the National Sports Center
Velodrome. The marquee event, the Nature Valley Grand Prix, will be held June
15-19. The stage race has become the top event on the USA Cycling National
Racing Calendar, attracting top American and international racing teams and
nearly 300 riders from around the world. The Festival is a volunteer-run event
will all profits donated to the pediatric hospice at Children's Hospitals and
Clinics of Minnesota. For more information, visit
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