A big weekend lies ahead for the Nature Valley Pro Ride, cycling’s version of “American Idol.” The Sterling Road Race in Boston on Saturday and Sunday’s Jefferson Cup in Charlottesville, Va., present the opportunity for four riders to gain roster spots on special men’s and women’s teams for the Nature Valley Grand Prix.
A staple on the New England road cycling scene, the Sterling Road Race is run on an eight-mile loop. Men’s Pro/Category 1 race 80 miles, Women’s Pro/Category 1/2/3 for 48. The top amateur man and woman will become part of composite Nature Valley Cycling Teams for the 13th annual edition of the premier stage race on the 2011 USA Cycling National Racing Calendar.
Race Director Bill Turner said being part of the Nature Valley Pro Ride provides the Minuteman Road Club (sponsor of the race for the past 17 years) national exposure and validates the club’s hard work.
“Our course provides excitement for both racers and spectators,” Turner said. “We have fresh pavement on the twisting downhill that will bring high speeds and an opportunity for racers to take a flier and disappear out of sight. The major climb, where the start/finish is located, is right in the center of town and provides a great opportunity for spectators to watch the race unfold.”
Originally scheduled for March 27, the Jefferson Cup was postponed by winter weather. The race staged on a 10-mile circuit that winds through rolling countryside south of Charlottesville. The race is 70 miles for men and 50 for women.
“It meant a lot more work and money lost to postpone the race, but with the snow in the forecast, I thought it was best for all concerned,” Jefferson Cup promoter Ruth Stornetta said. “The new race date seems to have brought out even more women, which is great, and I can just about guarantee there won’t be snow. But with the wild weather the East Coast has experienced lately, it’s hard to know what this new race day will bring.”
Already qualifying for the Nature Valley Pro Ride men’s team are Stefan Rothe (from the Tour of the Depot in Utah) and Scott Simmons (from the Fayetteville, Stage Race in Texas). Women’s qualifiers are Laurel Larsen from the Tour of the Depot and Louise Smyth from Fayetteville.
Larsen, a resident of Arlington, Va., is a research ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey department. Though she’s been riding bikes as her primary form of transportation her whole life, she only began racing in 2009. The following year, she won Virginia state titles in the criterium, road race, time trial, and hill climb.
Rothe brings a wealth of experience to the Nature Valley Pro Ride men’s team, with three past participations in the Nature Valley Grand Prix and four wins already this season. Born in Germany, he runs his own coaching business in Austin.
“It’s definitely a highlight in my season and I like racing up in Minnesota in the summer,” he said. “The final stage in Stillwater is one of the toughest crits you do all year. I’m hoping we as a team can contribute to some exciting racing and pull off a surprise or two.”
Nature Valley Pro Riders earn free entries to the race, generous travel stipends, team clothing, housing, ground transportation, and staff support for their composite teams. They also receive pro-level recognition before, during and after the events, including pre-race call-ups and participation in promotional and media appearances.
More details and a complete set of rules for the qualifying process can be found at: www.NatureValleyProRide.com
After this weekend, only two more opportunities to qualify remain on the Nature Valley Pro Ride calendar: the Mutual of Enumclaw Stage Race in Seattle (May 21-22), and the Quad Cities race weekend in Iowa and Illinois (May 28-30).