Nature Valley Grand Prix Uptown Minneapolis Criterium Summaries

Haedo Steals Uptown Stage, Friedman Maintains Lead

By Pat Borzi, for Nature Valley Grand Prix

Optum Pro Cycling controlled the pace throughout the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium (Stage 4 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix), but J.J. Haedo of Jamis Hagens Berman stole the stage victory from Optum’s Mike Friedman.

With darkness falling, Haedo propelled himself out of the final corner to beat amateur Travis McCabe of Elbowz Racing and Friedman, the overall leader, to the line in one hour, 10 minutes and 54 seconds. Friedman earned 14 seconds worth of time bonuses to maintain the leader’s yellow jersey by 37 seconds over teammate Scott Zwizanski going into Saturday’s fifth stage, the Menomonie Road Race. The NVGP concludes Sunday with the Stillwater Criterium.

“It was really, really chaotic,” Friedman said.

It didn’t have to be. Friedman’s five teammates – Jesse Anthony, defending champion Tom Zirbel, Michael Creed, Chad Haga and Zwizanski – chased downed every rider who tried to break away. A single-file line of orange helmets escorted Friedman into the final lap.

“You guys saw it. It was unbelieveable,” Friedman said. “Every guy sold out. It was fantastic.”

Meanwhile, Haedo, Fast Freddie Rodriguez of Jelly Belly and McCabe, one of five amateurs on the seven-member Elbowz team, positioned themselves near Friedman for a final sprint. The last turn, a 90-degree right from Lake Street onto Hennepin Avenue, tripped up Rodriguez.

“Freddie kind of got in front of me with one lap to go,” Haedo said. “I let him in because he’s a good rider and I know he can go from a sprint. He got in a little bit of trouble in the last corner. That’s why I got next to him out of the corner. From then to the line, it was more like a drag race.”

“We really knew Optum was really just trying to maintain (Friedman’s yellow jersey),” said McCabe. “It’s their job right now to pretty much control the field and keep everything in grasp.

“We knew coming in that at the end, Jelly Belly had a lot of strong sprinters – Brad Huff, Freddie Rodriguez. We knew Haedo is always going to be right there. I was just up there to fight for myself. Eric (Marcotte) put me in good position, and on the last lap I was on my own.”

Friedman led into the last corner, with Rodriguez second, Haedo third and McCabe fourth. McCabe took an inside route and passed Rodriguez, but Haedo proved too strong to catch.

“I wasn’t too worried about getting to that last corner first,” Friedman said. “I just had to be in the top three to the last corner so I could get across the line in one of the top spots. My team sold out for me, so I have to sell out for them.

“If you make mistake, you’re going to crash. Your bar to bar, going into a corner at 33-miles an hour. You have to jump out of the corner. It’s bumpy. If you make one mistake, you’re in the ditch. And it’s getting dark on top of it. You can’t hear anything because the crowd’s yelling. And you have five different teams vying for that last spot, going into that corner first. It’s a battle royale, man.”

And Haedo had no problem denying an Optum victory.

“They did what they had to do,” he said. “They had to control the race. Mike is taking the little bonuses. They had to control it. They have the strongest team.  We don’t have the team to do that. It’s not taking advantage. It’s the way the game is.”

Complete men’s results from the Stage 4 race and the overall Nature Valley Grand Prix are online at: www.naturevalleybicyclefestival.com/Grand-Prix/Results/UptownCrit-Men

Second Win in a Row for Wilcoxson at Uptown Minneapolis Criterium

By Cynthia Lou for Nature Valley Grand Prix

Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefits Strategies showed the depth of its talent through the team’s relentless attacking on the day, then quickly regrouping during the frenetic last laps of the race to deliver Jade Wilcoxson and her yellow jersey to the finish line for her second Nature Valley Grand Prix stage win in a row.

It was a day again governed by the fight to chip away seconds and reach for the overall race victory as Team TIBCO set up Shelley Olds for 18 seconds of time bonuses on the stage and a second placed finish. Carmen Small (Specialized-lululemon) claimed 10 seconds of time bonus and third on the stage in Minneapolis on Friday night.

Typically the yellow jersey team rides on the defensive, but Optum p/b Kelly Benefits Strategies was on the hunt, sending rider after rider out on the attack.

“The riders going off the front are all still within a minute of the lead so the other teams just can’t let them go and lap the field, they have to react,” said Rachel Heal, team director of the women’s Optum p/b Kelly Benefits Strategies squad. “That was the plan, leave the other teams to work until a lap to go.”

Denise Ramsden and Brianna Walle (both Optum) were on the attack in the first lap. Team TIBCO was on the chase to bring it all together for Olds to claim the first time bonus victory. Within a few laps, another break was established by Leah Kirchmann (Optum). The pattern repeated, with Team TIBCO and Specialized-lululemon on the chase to bring Olds and Small to claim first and third on the second time bonus sprint.

Ramsden was again out on a break shortly after that time bonus competition that lasted nearly half the race.

Team TIBCO kept the break at about a 10 second leash, and lined up what seemed to be a perfect lead out to the finish, a straight line of blue from five laps out, Olds tucked in 4 deep with a sweeper behind her.  With two laps to go, Wilcoxson tucked in behind the blue train with just one teammate nearby. Carmen Small sat in her saddle right behind Wilcoxson.

“I’m not gonna lie, with two to go,” laughed Wilcoxson while shaking her head. “Lauren was there, Lauren took care of me. Things were kind of sketchy out there and I told her just to get me to the front and keep me safe. Forget about the sprint let’s stay safe. With one to go all my girls were up there, like a dream. I was on their wheel and from there on out it was a perfect lead out.”

Olds moves up to second place overall, nine seconds behind Wilcoxson. Small is in third overall, 11 seconds back.

“That’s why I love this race, it’s wide-open-the-whole-way stage race,” said Olds. “It’s interesting every day, and a different type of rider can win every day.”

“We had to gamble a little bit because we don’t have the depth of the other two teams,” said Small, about her surfing for position through the last laps. “We have to play our cards when they count and tonight isn’t necessarily what’s going to make or break the race for us. We needed to cover moves [at this race] and save a little bit for Saturday.”

Olds received the Freewheel Bike Most Aggressive Rider jersey for the day.
Wilcoxson takes over the Xcel Energy Sprint points lead. Walle keeps the SportBeans Queen of the Hills jersey, Mia Loquai the Nature Valley Best Amateur jersey, and Ramsden the TRIA Orthopaedic Center Best Young Rider jersey.

For complete results from the women’s race in Minneapolis, visit:http://www.naturevalleybicyclefestival.com/Grand-Prix/Results/UptownCrit-Women

On Saturday, the women face 82.3-miles while the men will bike a 101-mile road race in Menomonie, Wisc., a hilly course sure to bring out a different set of strengths within the riders and teams.

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