June 17, 2011 (Cannon Falls, MN) – Of the five Canadian men racing in this year’s Nature Valley Grand Prix, the most experienced is 25-year-old Marsh Cooper (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth). The veteran of the Symmetrics squad is in his second season with Kelly Benefit Strategies, a team with a history of signing young Canadian talent (think David Veilleux and Keven Lacombe). Cooper is in 16th place on GC after 3 stages. I chatted with him after the Cannon Falls Road Race where he finished in the main peloton.
How has the race been going for you so far?
Marsh Cooper: It’s been a little bit frustrating, to be honest. A lot of our guys are riding super well and we just haven’t got the breaks so we’re looking for better things later in the week, that’s for sure.
What were your goals going into today’s stage?
MC: We just actually went out to throw it down, we didn’t really care too much. We had Cando (Alex Candelario) saving it for the finish, he’s won here before so he was feeling super good but the rest of us were going for it out on the road and trying to isolate UHC.
That’s tough though, they’re so strong. I saw that you were making some things happen, you got some KOM points.
MC: Yeah, yeah. Jonas said if we’re there for the KOMs we might as well go for it. I was feeling really good in the break and felt pretty confident that I’d be able to take it from those guys so I just took the opportunity.
Are you also looking at this as training for the Road Nationals, which are next week?
MC: No, I’m not really worried about Nationals at this point. This is a big race for us and we’re just trying to get as much exposure for our sponsors as we can.
Right, Minnesota is your sponsor’s home state so it’s always been big for the team.
MC: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
In the past the team had David Veilleux doing well here…
MC: Incredible, yeah, and we had (Scott) Zwizanski last year having the lead for quite a while, too.
You still have time though!
MC: Yeah! I mean UHC was looking like they were on the ropes a little bit at the end, so that bodes well for the stages coming up here.
I spotted TIBCO/To The Top teammates Joëlle Numainville and Erinne Willock deep in conversation and wanted to find out what was going on:
Joëlle Numainville: I flatted…
Erinne Willock: She got a flat on the circuits and the race was over.
That’s too bad. Erinne, how did it go for you?
EW: I was in the front group, in the top 10 (7th) but Joëlle was meant to be our top finisher for today so we lost that. The GC’s the same, but we wanted a stage podium as well.
Tomorrow’s a crit in Minneapolis, so Joëlle will have another chance.
JN: Yeah, that will be good for me.
In her blog, Leah Kirchmann (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo p/b Cooking Light) describes herself as “a professional cyclist from the prairies.” At age 20, she is also the Canadian National Criterium Champion, the U23 National Road Champ and a teammate of the Road Worlds Champion, Italian sprinter extraordinaire, Giorgia Bronzini. Bronzini lived up to her billing with her second stage win of the Nature Valley Grand Prix and again, Kirchmann played a key part in the victory. Kirchmann is in 2nd place in Wheaties Fuel Sprint competition to Bronzini after three stages.
How did it go out there today for you?
Leah Kirchmann: It was really good. It was a hard race, lots of hills and the finishing circuit was pretty crazy.
Was it pretty aggressive out there throughout the race?
LK: It was pretty aggressive. There were constant small breaks. I was in a small break right off the start, but it all came back together for the sprint at the end going through the circuits.
Talk about the work you did for Giorgia to help get her second win in a row.
LK: Yeah, me and some of the other girls really drove the pace at the end to string it out and set it up for the sprint. We tried doing a leadout (laughs…) and it worked! Because we finished first and third (Theresa Cliff-Ryan).
It must be great racing with the World Champion and being a part of so many wins.
LK: Yeah, it’s pretty cool!