This Wednesday, June 13, from 8:30 a.m. until noon, teams of professional and elite-amateur cyclists competing in the Nature Valley Grand Prix will speed down Mississippi River Boulevard past the University of St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus. The competitors, who include international stars such as Team Exergy’s “Fast Freddie” Rodriguez, and riders competing in this summer’s London Olympic games, will be racing in stage one – the St. Paul Riverfront Time Trial − of the six-stage bike race held June 13 through 17.
Spectators will have two chances to spot each racer on the challenging, technical rolling course. The 7.7-mile, individual time trial will begin near the Ford Plant on East Mississippi River Boulevard and travel north past the Lake Street/Marshall Avenue Bridge. Racers will turn around at Eustis Street and retrace the route back to the starting line.
Riders, nearly 300 in all, will be released individually in 30-second intervals from the starting line. The first female will start at 8:30 a.m., with the first male rider beginning at 10 a.m.
A time trial is a race in which cyclists compete as individuals or teams in a race against the clock for the fastest time. Individual time trials, such as Wednesday’s race, are considered tests of sustained effort and pain tolerance; as no drafting is allowed, racers cannot conserve energy by riding in the “slipstream,” or close behind, another rider. The NVGP calls it “a no-frills slug fest” and “a race of truth.”
One team competing in the event has a special connection to St. Thomas. John Barron, director of printing and mailing services, Service Center, also is director of the all-female Kowalski's Markets’ Collegiate All-Stars. Unlike the other teams and individuals, the All-Stars are not professional or elite amateur racers, yet. The six team members earned their all-expenses-paid berths by placing the highest in May at the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships in Ogden, Utah.
Barron, who has coached the team since 2007 and has raced locally for 13 years, said, “Managing these student-athletes is a privilege. It’s difficult enough being college students, but these young women are also gifted elite athletes who train and race for hundreds of miles each week in order to compete with some of the best women cyclists in North America at the Nature Valley Grand Prix.” He added, “There’s nothing more pleasing than watching children and adults approach my riders after each race to ask them for their autographs on their trading cards. These young women are true role models to many.”
The NVGP is the marquee event in the 14th annual Nature Valley Bicycle Festival, held June 7-17. Spectators can watch all the races for free.