Sunday, June 14, 2009

Nature Valley Grand Prix

Friday night after battling a week of bad backs and head colds I made my way to Uptown to watch a stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. This was actually the first time I had gone to see a bike race in person. It was impressive to see how many spectators had gathered to see the Uptown Criterium. I got to check out the new Dura Ace electric shift system at the Penn Cycle tent. Pretty cool idea, but I'm not sure if it makes enough of a difference to be worth so much money.

The NVGP is actually a pretty big deal as far as US Cycling goes and draws some fairly big names and gets quite a bit of coverage from cycling media.

The Race started on Wednesday with a Time Trial along the Mississippi followed by a Criterium in downtown St Paul that afternoon. When the day was done Tom Zirbel was leading the men and Olympic gold medalist and last years winner Kristen Armstrong (no relation to that other Armstrong biker guy) was leading the women.

Day two was a 66.5 mile road race that started and finished in Canon Falls. Zirbel and Armstrong still held the GC leads after it was done.

Day three was the Uptown Criterium

A criterium (crit for short) is generally multiple laps on a short course with a bunch of sharp corners. In this case it was a 1k circuit with 6 90 degree turns. Throw a few dozen cyclist on this course going as fast as they can in a tight group and you can imagine it can actually get quite exciting.

We planted our selves at the first turn at the corner of 32nd and Hennipen and had a great view as the cyclists roared past inches away from us lap after lap.

Kristen Armstrong enters the first turn:

Some guy named Floyd Landis at the apex of turn 1:

Sebastien Haedo and Brooke Miller won the day while Zirbel and Armstrong held their overall leads.

It was a great time sitting and watching these riders FLYING around the course. After a couple of laps some riders were dropped off the back and were just limping along at a much, much slower pace. Q and I joked that these riders who had popped (to quote Mr Liggit)were still riding faster than us on our best days.

Saturday was an 80 mile road race in the Mankato area. Zirbel and Armstrong still held their leads.

Today is the final stage. A crit in super hilly Stillwater. With the top GC poitions seperated by only a few seconds there could be a shakeup. It is up in the air who is going to win this thing.

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