NVGP: Crash Fest in Uptown Minneapolis

(photo credit: Casey Gibson)

Mother Nature took the win in Cannon Falls last night, and for the second time in three years, the third stage of Nature Valley was cancelled once we had arrived for the stage start. Often, when we race in the evening or later in the day, we do a short spin in the morning. Without racing on Thursday, I wanted to do more than a quick spin today to get the legs ready. A few of my teammates shared this idea, and we kitted up for a two hour ride.

We had a great morning. We found this beautiful bike path through some nice neighborhoods, and my legs were happy and responsive. The ride this morning left me fairly confident that tonight, the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium, would go well for me.

My morning legs led me astray. Come evening, when we raced, the legs I had in the morning were MIA. Instead, I felt a little bit sluggish. It was crazy, hectic race from the start, and my legs were not game for that tonight.

I was caught behind a crash on the first lap of the race. I didn’t go down or anything, but I was completely blocked from moving forward. I did the whole ‘foot down’ thing, so I could go to the pit and take a free lap. Free lap done, and I was back in the race – fighting to move to the front.

The fight for position really should not have been as difficult as it felt, and as soon as I won the battle and finally got myself in a decent position, there was a huge crash. Officials neutralized the race.

I got a slow start upon restart, and I found myself shuffled towards the back again. It took me several laps to fight my way back up to where I needed to be, and by the time I got up there, a lot of the race had already happened. There were constant crashes all around the circuit. Super sketchy stuff. I never felt comfortable out there.

With a few laps to go, Leah Kirchman (Optum Health p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) was pushed into the fence that was used to divide the race course from the street. I was on the right side of the field, and Leah was on the left. Her bike bounced all the other from the left side of the road to the right side of ride. Which I know because it hit me. Luckily, it bounced off me, and I don’t know where it went from there. I just know it didn’t go in front of me, and I avoided running over it. Who knows what would have happened if I had?

Deep breath and acknowledgement of the close call, and then it was back to the task at hand. I had every intention of helping Sam Schneider in the final few laps, but with Exergy Twenty12 and Optum controlling the race, there wasn’t much I could do for her. Exergy took over in the finale, and Kristin McGrath got to the front and just drilled it. They kept the pace so high there was no way anyone could come around.

Leah’s crash had split the field, so there were probably around 20 of us left at the end. Kristin had things completely strung out, and the finish ended up being super fast. Sam positioned herself on Theresa Cliff-Ryan’s wheel, and she ended up in second place. Theresa notched her second stage win. Carmen Small (Optum Health p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) rounded out the podium and padded her race lead.

(photo credit: Jonathan Devich / epicimages.us)

Megan Guariner was active tonight. She was in a break during the second half of the race that looked as if it might have some staying power, and she spent a lot of time on or near the front. She received the most aggressive jersey for her efforts.

Alexis Ryan went down in the crash that caused the race to get neutralized. She split her lip and will be sore tomorrow, but she walked away relatively unscathed all things considered. We all did, for the most part. Megan was caught behind a crash with just a few laps to go. Free laps were over by that point, and she had to spend a lot of energy regaining contact with the field. In that sense, we were impacted, but I think we were one of the more lucky teams. A lot of people walked away with road rash tonight.

It’s now late – well after midnight – and I just got back to the house and took a quick shower. We stayed down by the crit course for dinner, and we picked the slowest restaurant ever. So, we’re just now getting home and winding down. I’m about to pack things up for a good night’s sleep ahead of Menomonie road stage tomorrow. The race begins at 1:30PM, and we have at least a two hour transfer – so it’s a relatively early morning after some later nights of racing (or not racing but thinking we were going to).

With Cannon Falls cancelled, Menomonie is the only road stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix this year. There will be a lot of non-criterium specialists who will look to be especially active tomorrow. It’s a good, hard course – and I expect to see some aggressive racing.

Check out the Nature Valley Grand Prix website for official reports and full results.

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