Nature Valley Grand Prix Cannon Falls Road Race Summaries

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Wilcoxson Widens Overall Lead With A Win At Cannon Falls Road Race
By Cynthia Lou for Nature Valley Grand Prix

On a clear and sunny day across central Minnesota, the Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies team effectively managed the 93-mile road race in Cannon Falls, delivering Jade Wilcoxson to a stage win and an additional 12 seconds of time bonus. Shelley Olds (Team TIBCO) and Carmen Small (Specialized-lululemon) rounded out the podium in second and third, respectively.

“Jade just took it from the front with about 800 meters to go and with a lot of corners it was hard to bring her back,” said Olds. “I had one teammate in front of me that I think I trusted a little too much in the final, I should have gotten in front of my teammate.”

“Shelley Olds, she has a sprint like nobody’s business!” said Wilcoxson. “The only way I could beat her is if I gap her at like 500 meters out, and even then sometimes she can close it!”

This year’s Cannon Falls Road Race course included a one-mile long dirt section and is nearly twice as long from previous years. And Mother Nature was kind this year with warm weather and blue skies. In two of the past five years, this event was rained out or cancelled due to hailstorms and tornados.

The Thursday afternoon road race started slowly, with the teams anticipating a long day in the saddle, attacking at the first Queen of the Hill competition only to return back to the peloton. Understanding the responsibility of the yellow jersey’s team to manage the race, other teams were content to watch Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies’ moves or, for those not a threat to the general classification, to initiate breakaway attempts.

Shannon Parish and Amity Elliot, both of Team Kenda p/b RACC, initiated an early break into the second Queen of the Hill competition. Attacks from Optum and Specialized-lululemon ensued after they were brought back. Eventually a break of Gillian Carleton (Specialized-lululemon), Flavia Oliveira (Birchwood Cycling), and Diana Carolina Penuela Martinez (Colombia Specialized) formed that grew to a lead that ranged up to 55 seconds.

Course Mix Up Gives Teams A Breather
With about half of the race complete, a lead police vehicle led the breakaway group off-course. The peloton was neutralized and the gap restored before racing continued. Though a bit unusual, the break gave teams a chance to rest and refuel.

“Once we got up the road a little bit we could see we were gaining a bit of a break and that was motivating, so, take it as a goes,” said Carleton. “Then, Optum just started chasing again and brought us back.”

Quickly afterwards another break formed with Joy McCulloch (Specialized-lululemon), Sara Clafferty (Birchwood Cycling), Vanessa Drigo (Rose Bandits).

Though they spent most of their time on the defensive, Team TIBCO went on the offensive to help bring back the break to set up Olds for the final circuits.

“We decided we didn’t like the break with about 20k left to go and we closed the gap in the dirt section,” said Olds. “We came into the circuit all together and that’s what we wanted.”

The 2.2-mile long finishing circuit featured 11 turns through the city streets of Cannon Falls.

“This was the longest race I’ve ever done, and I felt surprisingly good in the circuits,” said Nature Valley Best Amateur Katharine Hall (Kowalski’s Markets Collegiate All-Stars). “”

Small’s third place finish earned her a six-second time bonus, keeping her second place on the general classification, eight seconds behind Wilcoxson. Olds claimed an eight-second time bonus for her second place finish, which bumped her into third in the general classification, 14 seconds back.

Taylor Wiles (Specialized-lululemon) reclaimed the TRIA Orthopaedic Center Best Young Rider jersey. Oliveira was awarded the Freewheel Bike Most Aggressive jersey for her efforts in a breakaway. Hall maintaned the Nature Valley Best Amateur jersey, Kimberly Wells (Colavita-Fine Cooking) the Xcel Energy Sprint jersey, and Brianna Walle (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) the SportBeans Queen of the Hills jersey.

The race continues into tomorrow’s Uptown Minneapolis Criterium, which features two sprint and three time bonus competitions.

Complete women’s results are at: http://www.naturevalleybicyclefestival.com/Grand-Prix/Results/CannonFallsRR-Women

Wild Finish in Cannon Falls for Nature Valley Men’s Teams
By Pat Borzi, for Nature Valley Grand Prix

In a wild finish to the wild third stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix, Sean Mazich of Jelly Belly p/b Kenda grabbed a late lead and hung on in the final 400 yards to win the men’s 93-mile Cannon Falls Road Race on Thursday.

Mazich lost contact with a 17-rider group that broke away about 18 miles into the race and never caught up until riders were returning to the city of Cannon Falls for the races finishing circuits. Once in town, he broke away on the second lap of the four-lap circuit to lead by as much as 25 seconds. Optum’s Mike Friedman tried to chase him down but fell three seconds short as Mazich hit the line in three hours, 24 minutes and 59 seconds. Cole House of Cash Call Mortgage finished third.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Mazich, 26. “I have numerous people I need to call and thank for this. I did the work, and I just finally caught a break. That’s the way I’m looking at it. Finally the cards just fell in my favor. I was able to hit them at the right time and hold them off.”

On a warm but windy day in south-central Minnesota, Friedman claimed the overall leaders jersey from Serghei Tvetcov of Jelly Belly, the time trial stage winner who fell back from the lead group just past the 40-mile mark. Tvetcov finished 42nd, nearly 11 minutes behind Mazich. Friedman, who suffered a concussion in last year’s St. Paul Criterium and missed the last three stages, leads teammate Scott Zwizanski by 23 seconds heading into Friday night’s Uptown Minneapolis Criterium. Jelly Belly topped Optum by three seconds in the team standings.

Optum Pushes the Peloton
Optum’s Jesse Anthony, Tom Zirbel and Chad Haga were already pushing the pace when Tvetcov dropped off. That unexpected development led Optum team director Jonas Carney to recalibrate strategy on the fly, telling Friedman from the team car so he could relay it to the others.

“Within a matter of 10 minutes, we changed our plan three times,” Friedman said. “It was pretty chaotic. There’s so much going on.”

As the race wound past dairy farms and freshly-planted farm fields, the 17-rider breakaway group fell off to eight at about 60 miles, with lead amateur Eric Marcotte of Elbowz Racing among the eight. Ten miles later a five-man group broke away, including Jelly Belly’s Freddie Rodriguez, who pushed the pace in the late afternoon heat. Twenty-one riders gave chase, including Optum’s Zirbel and Zwizanski.

Earlier, Mazich missed an Optum attack while distributing water to his teammates. When it happened a second time, Mazich joined in.

“As soon as I passed the bottles to the team, they two-up attacked again, and I was able to follow it with Freddie,” Mazich said. “And we just rode. They drove it because it was their job to drive it, and we just kind of held and sat on it a little bit. More guys came up, and all of a sudden, we caught them.

“We had three guys, four guys in all the moves today. Freddie set it up perfectly for me to go. He chased down an attack, made it really, really hard, and they slowed down enough that I countered them. That was just perfect. I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”

And though Friedman couldn’t catch Mazich, he loved how the stage played out.

“This race was fun, huh?” he said. “It’s not the standard pro tour racing where the break goes and then it’s boring for four hours. That was a race. It was fun. And stressful.”

Men’s results are online at: http://www.naturevalleybicyclefestival.com/Grand-Prix/Results/CannonFallsRR-Men

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