June 3, 2008 (Minneapolis, Minnesota) – For the first time in its history, the women’s field at Minnesota’s Nature Valley Grand Prix, part of the Great River Energy Bicycle Festival, has filled and registration has been closed early. At 145 riders, the Nature Valley Grand Prix field is likely to be the largest women’s race of the year, compared with 140 for the Montreal World Cup, 120 for the Liberty Classic and 84 for the Mount Hood Classic.
The women’s field of riders has grown drastically since 1999, the first year of this race, when Category 4s were admitted to the race in order to field a grand total of 19 riders. The breakthrough year for the Nature Valley Grand Prix came in 2003, when the Hewlett Packard International Women’s Challenge, which had been scheduled on the same dates, was discontinued and the teams that planned to attend that prestigious event added the Nature Valley Grand Prix as their “Plan B” race. The women’s race, which is now limited to professionals and Category 1 and 2 amateurs, has shown strong, steady growth ever since.
Nature Valley Grand Prix director David LaPorte attributes this growth in the women’s field to the fact that this event is a showcase for women’s racing.
“We host the Rasmussen College Women’s Cycling Summit annually and then give the women’s race prime time slots all week,” said LaPorte. “We’re the organizers of the Women’s Prestige Cycling Series, have women-only programs like the Ryan Collegiate All-Stars and our media relations efforts put equal emphasis on the women’s race. We’re living proof that the women will support the races that support them.”
The Nature Valley Grand Prix is the signature event of the Great River Energy Bicycle Festival. The race kicks off on Wednesday, June 11, with the Downtown Saint Paul Criterium before visiting Cannon Falls, Minneapolis and Mankato, then finishing with the legendary Stillwater Criterium on Sunday, June 15.
Visit www.MinnBikeFest.com for more information.
About the Great River Energy Bicycle Festival and Nature Valley Grand Prix
The Great River Energy Bicycle Festival, now in its 10th year, is one of the nation’s top celebrations of the bicycle culture, with tens of thousands of cycling enthusiasts, pro athletes and avid recreational riders converging in Minnesota each June. The MN Fixed Gear Classic held at the National Sports Center Velodrome in Blaine, Minn., is a prelude to the Great River Energy Bicycle Festival. The Festival’s professional road racing event, the Nature Valley Grand Prix, began as a one-day criterium in Saint Paul in 1999. Ranked as the premier stage race on the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar, the 2008 Nature Valley Grand Prix schedule includes stops in Saint Paul, Cannon Falls, Minneapolis, Mankato, and Stillwater. The Great River Energy Bicycle Festival is a volunteer-run event, with all proceeds donated to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, the festival’s benefiting charity. For more information, visit: www.minnbikefestival.com.