6/6/2013 2:38:00 PM Nature Valley Grand Prix in CF June 13
The top men and women cyclists from across the country will contest the 15th annual Nature Valley Grand Prix to be held June 12-16 in Central Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. The Nature Valley Grand Prix is the most prestigious race on the men's and women's USA Cycling National Racing Calendar. It promises to be a battle as defending champion Carmen Small, now riding for Team Specialized lululemon, takes on a strong field of women, including a couple of her former Optum teammates, Jade Wilcoxson and Brianna Walle. Former Nature Valley Grand Prix Champion Shelley Olds will also be back, as will Lauren Tamayo, who just won a silver medal at the London Olympics.
On the men's side, Team Optum will return with defending champion Tom Zirbel as well as 2011 Champion Jesse Anthony and 2010 runner up Scott Zwizanski. They'll have stiff competition from "Fast Freddie" Rodriguez, a four-time U.S. champion who has also won several races in the grand tours in Europe. Another newcomer, Argentinian J.J. Haedo, has also stood atop the podium in the European grand tours and recently won the Joe Martin Road Race in Arkansas. Cole House, the first Native American pro cyclist, hails from Oneida, WI and previously raced for a St. Paul amateur team. He has proven himself on the European racing circuit and is back at the Nature Valley Grand Prix on Team Cash Call Mortgage.
"This is an extremely talented field and we are excited to have several racers with international experience participate in the Nature Valley Grand Prix," said David LaPorte, executive director of the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival. "It will give our fans a chance to see some of the world's best athletes compete right here in the Midwest."
The race starts Wednesday, June 12 with the morning time trial route along Saint Paul's Mississippi River Boulevard and an evening criterium (short circuit race) surrounding downtown's Rice Park. It continues with a road race in and around Cannon Falls on June 13, followed by an evening criterium in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis on Friday, June 14. Cycling teams travel east to Menomonie, Wisc., on Saturday, June 15 for the Menomonie Road Race. The race culminates on Sunday, June 16, with the Stillwater Criterium, which includes a brutal 24-percent-grade climb up Chilkoot Hill, the most difficult climb in North American cycling.