Nature Valley Grand Prix, Pt. 1

Today was the start of the Nature Valley Grand Prix, which if you don’t know is only the most coolest bike race in all of America.

We got into Minneapolis on Tuesday and were able to take a ride around, visiting some local sites like the campus of the University of Minnesota, and a local training crit that was home to the famous ‘Ninja Prime’s”. A Ninja Prime involves a guitarist at the start line, who will jam out on the guitar every once in a while, whoever is at the front of the field when the guitarist plays wins a prime. Also, if you have never been to the ‘twin cities’ they really are just two cities next to each other, which means really a lot of urban sprawl, enough to rival Chicago. So basically so far I have no idea why Bicycling named this as the no. 1 city for cycling; there’s a lot of traffic everywhere, a lot of urban sprawl….however there does seem to be a lot of cyclist here.

The race opened up with an individual time trial, that ran along one of the rivers through town then climbed out of the river valley for a little under a mile. The climb wasn’t too tough, but hard enough that after 5 miles of flat TT effort you had to drop it into the little ring. I tried to pace myself and think I did a little too good of a job and got caught by Jake Rytlewski (who started 30 seconds behind me) right after the turn around. In the end I finished with a time of 14’22”, which was good enough for 80’s, respectable enough. More importantly, Paul Martin, who is our team director, came in at 21st in the time trial which put him in the lead for the best Amateur jersey.

The second stage was a downtown criterium in the eastern of the twin cities. The course was a 6 corner affair at just over a mile. However nearly all the pavement on the corners were in terrible condition, and the final corner was one of two hairpins…on brick. Needless to say it was going to be a rough race. I missed the boat getting to the start on time, so had to start in the back. Once the race got underway Kelly Benefits, who had the lead with Zwizanski, set tempo at the front and kept the race pretty constant. In the back of the field, where I was sitting, it was yo-yo city. Every hairpin turn was an exercise of burning through brake pad to about 20 mph then sprinting all out up to around 35 mph before the next corner. Every move up I made was followed by 10 guys diving past in a corner while I was recovering.

At 11 to go there was a sprint, and from then on we were on the gas. The lead out trains started setting up and racing got fast enough to start opening up gaps in the field. On the last lap I was about 15 riders behind a gap that opened up. Paul stayed in the lead of the Amateur competition and Ryan Knapp was our best finisher at 29th today.

Tomorrow is a RR in Cannon Falls, MN. Only 60 some miles, however the Weather channel is telling us 20 mph winds with gusts up to 35, plus thunderstorms with hail. Should be a fun day.

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