The Nature Valley Grand Prix continued with its second stage of the day, on Friday June 14, the Minneapolis Downtown Criterium. A flat 1.2-kilometer course with 6 corners that the men would do 40 times, and 25 laps for the women.
Brooke Miller (Tibco) outsprinted Tina Pic (Colavita/Sutter Home) and Kathy Bates (High Road) to win the stage.
Miller was led out by her teammate Lauren Franges who brought Miller up into a good position in the final laps, while Jo Kiesanowski swept behind Miller, “knocking people off her wheel”. Franges was rewarded with the Most Aggressive jersey for her efforts.
“I had a fantastic lead-out,” said Miller after her victory,“Lauren [Franges] and Jo [Kiesanowski] did a great job. It was a fantastic team effort. Tina [Pic] and Laura [Van Gilder] are fantastic sprinters but with my lead out, I could focus on my race. I can’t say enough about how my team did, they did a great, great job.”
No changes in the overall general classification. Kristin Armstrong (Cervelo-Lifeforce) is still in the lead with 44 seconds ahead of Kat Carroll (Aarons) and 45 seconds over Anne Samplonius. Armstrong only has one teammate to help her protect her lead in the last 2 hard stages. But that may be enough for Armstrong, as last year she soundly won the last 2 stages and she has already shown amazing form.
In the men‘s race, Kirk O’Bee (Health Net-Maxxis) won his second stage by outsprinting Ivan Stevic (Toyota-United) and Ricardo Escuela (Successful Living) to the line.
As soon as the race started, the entire Bissell team came to the front of the field to protect Ben Jacques-Maynes lead, and set a high pace from the get go. Only 2 riders managed to escape, Luis Amaran (Colavita/Sutter Home) and Tom Soladay (Time) but the pair never got more than 10 seconds over the peloton.
The duo was finally reeled in and a few other moves were tried, but Bissell was not letting anything go.
“That’s the easiest I’ve ever done this crit,” Jacques-Maynes said. “My guys were great. This course is so tight, and they set such a hard pace, no one could do a thing.”
With 10 laps to go, the sprinters team massed to the front to wrestle control to set up their leadout train.
And Health Net-Maxxis took control. Riders from the Kelly Benefit/Medifast, Toyota-United and Successful Living teams all tried to disrupt the leadout, argy-bargy at high speed, but to no avail.
With time bonuses on the line for the first 3 finishers, the GC got a little bit tighter before the final 2 stages.
“The 10-second bonus gives me positive energy to get back in the game for the GC” said defending champion Stevic who moved up to fourth place at only 10 seconds down from Jacques-Maynes.
Less than one minute separate 29 riders at the top of the classification. Health Net-Maxxis has 4 riders including NRC leader Rory Sutherland, Toyota-United with 3 and Kelly Benefit/Medifast also has 3 including Andy Bajadali.
“Health Net-Maxxis is the strongest team at the moment here, they showed it by taking control in the final laps. We couldn’t do it, but we still have cards to play.” said Stevic.
The Bissell team can also play a numbers game to defend their lead as they have 5 riders within one minute including Teddy King. Aaron Olson, who showed good form in the first (neutralized) stage, is only at 1 minute 7 seconds down.
The attacks should be non-stop in the last 2 stages – the 91.5-mile (147 km) Mankato Road Race with its 4 difficult finishing circuits and the Stillwater Criterium reputed to be the toughest crit in the country.