The racing was fast in the first road race, stage 3, at the Nature Valley Grand Prix. With rolling terrain, it was time to test the mettle of the yellow jersey Kristin Armstrong and her Peanut Butter & Co Twenty12 on the 66.5-mile Cannon Falls Road Race.
Attacks flew constantly but nothing was allowed to get away too long. One break did manage to get almost 60 seconds on the field with the first QOH sprint with Leah Kirchmann (Colavita-Forno D’Asolo), Rachel Warner (Missing Link Coaching Systems/Specialized), and Amity Elliot (Team Kenda) but it was quickly back together.
More attacks flew with Emma Mackie and Camen Small (TIBCO/To The Top), Kathleen Billington (Danbury Audi), Shelley Olds and Rachel Neylan (Diadora Pasta Zara), Rushlee Buchanan (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo) and more getting into short lived breaks. Riders from HTC-Highroad, Colavita/Forno d’Asolo and Diadora Pasta Zara were pushing the pace, trying to get a gap but the field was still together when they started the first of six finishing circuits in Cannon Falls.
Kirchmann led the field, down to around 25 riders, the first time up the finishing climb with the dropped riders trailing behind. The next time around Amber Neben (HTC-Highroad) put in a solo attack which Lauren Tamayo (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) covered bringing everything back with three to go. HTC-Highroad’s Evelyn Stevens took over the front with one lap to go. Spinters were lined up behind their teammates for the inevitable bunch sprint.
Stage 2 winner and World Champion Giorgia Bronzini was playing the role of sweep for her Colavita Forno d’Asolo teammate Theresa Cliff-Ryan. But Cliff-Ryan took the wrong side and screamed out to the rainbow wearer to go halfway up the climb, and that’s what Bronzini did to claim her second win in as many days. Chloe Hosking (HTC-Highroad) was a close second while Cliff-Ryan hung on for third.
No changes at all to the jerseys. Armstrong remains in the lead with 23 seconds on Stevens and 29 on Neben. Buchanan remains in white as Best Young Rider, Jade Wilcoxson (Nature Valley Pro Ride) in green for Best Cat 2 rider. Armstrong also leads the QOH competition and Bronzini tops the sprint points. For the second stage in a row , Olds was awarded Most Aggressive.
Racing continues of Friday evening with the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium raced on a pancake-flat .88-km (0.5 mi) course with six tight corners. Positioning coming out of the final corner will be crucial. Starting at 6:15pm, the women do 30 laps.
Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo). “There were a lot of attacks, a bit of crosswind and headwind so us, HTC were trying to split it up for a bit but it wasn’t working so then the attacks started, it was constant the whole race. Rushlee was in a break that stuck a little bit, maybe five K. But it came down to a sprint.”
About the final laps. “It was pretty aggressive and fast, I love this finishing circuit, it’s pretty fun. The sprint was going to be for me today and I lined on Shelley with Giorgia behind me as sweep and that also gives us a chance if I screw up the sprint where Giorgia can come and that just happened to be. I chose to go on the left side and was swarmed to the curb because they come over to the left, so halfway up the hill I had to yell at Giorgia to go. But it’s great, we still won with Giorgia first and me third so it was a great finish.”
About racing with Bronzini. “That’s what great about having two great sprinters on the team. We stick around each other see who is feeling best and if we both feel good, we’ll what happens in the sprint. If she gets boxed I’ll go, or if I get boxed she’ll go. It just happens to be great.”
Shelley Olds (Diadora Pasta Zara). “There were a lot that were really aggressive today so I’m not really sure how they select that. I was in a couple of breaks but there were really aggressive rides by Amanda Miller, all the Highroads attacking, my teammate Amber Pierce was in 7 breakaways. ”
About the final sprint. “I just had an unfortunate day, I missed the sprint, I was in the small ring and that was a mistake. I learned my lesson and it wasn’t that I couldn’t have been there and tomorrow is a new day.”
Top 10 Stage 3 Results (Complete results)
1. Giorgia Bronzini (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo p/b Cooking Light) 2.38’02″
2. *Chloe Hosking (HTC-High Road)
3. Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo p/b Cooking Light)
4. Shelley Olds (Diadora Pasta Zara)
5. *Emily Collins (Vanderkitten-Focus)
6. Jennifer Purcell (Danbury Audi)
7. Anne Samplonius (NOW And Novartis For MS)
8. Erinne Willock (Team TIBCO/To The Top)
9. Kaytee Boyd (BikeNZ National Team)
10. #Jade Wilcoxson (NVGP Pro Ride)
Top 10 GC after Stage 3
1. Kristin Armstrong (Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12) 3.51’36″
2. Evelyn Stevens (HTC-High Road) 23″
3. Amber Neben (HTC-High Road) 29″
4. Kristin Mcgrath (Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12) 33″
5. Anne Samplonius (NOW And Novartis For MS) 45″
6. Amber Pierce (Diadora Pasta Zara) 45″
7. *Rushlee Buchanan (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo p/b Cooking Light) 47″
8. Erinne Willock (Team TIBCO/To The Top) 48″
9. #Jade Wilcoxson (NVGP Pro Ride) 55″
10. Rachel Neylan (Diadora Pasta Zara) 56″