A large and very violent crash at the start of the bell lap forced the cancellation of stage 4, the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. The pace was already high with the final sprint coming in and many riders, 39 to be exact out of a field of 81 riders, hit the deck hard. Four were attended to EMS on-site before being transported to the hospital.
All sprint points, time bonus sprints were nullified and the GC stands from stage 3.
From the official race report:
Defending champion Shelley Olds (Diadora-Pasta Zara-Manhattan) was knocked out of the Nature Valley Grand Prix Friday night when a huge crash on the penultimate lap forced race officials to stop the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium and eventually nullify the stage.
Race leader Kristin Armstrong (Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12) was among the 39 riders who went down in the crash on the finishing straight. Four of them had injuries serious enough to require transport to a local hospital: Olds (rib injuries), Laura Ralston (facial lacerations, possible broken collarbone), Robin Bauer (separated shoulder) and Hillary Billington (extent of injuries unknown). None will start Stage 5.
Teammates gathered around Armstrong after she was helped to the side of the road by a race medic. The yellow jersey wearer cut her elbow and suffered a bruise on her back.
“Kristin’s pretty banged up,” Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12 Director Nicola Cranmer said. “She was at the bottom of the pile, so she had a lot of riders on top of her. Her spirits are good, but it was a shock to her system. It’s obvious she’s uncomfortable.”
After the crash, officials and medical personnel tried to clear the road in hopes of allowing for a final sprint. But as the lead motorcycle rounded the final corner, fallen riders were still being attended to and the race was stopped.
”Our initial thought was to restart the race with five to go and try to get the it back up to speed,“ Chief Judge Dot Abbott said. ”But with the injuries we had, it was pretty upsetting for everybody so we decided to cancel the stage and nullify all of the points and the time bonuses, as though today’s race didn’t happen.”
Cranmer said despite her injuries, Armstrong and her team are up to the challenge of defending the race lead for two more days. First up, a hilly, 81-mile road race that begins and ends in Menomonie.
“I think the team has rallied around her,” Cranmer said. “They’re pretty fired up about protecting the jersey. Obviously it will be a challenge.”
Before the brutal crash, the racing was fast and exciting. Two laps into the 28 lap race around a flat, 6-corner course in Uptown Minneapolis, three riders escaped. Olds, Joëlle Numainville (TIBCO/To The Top) and Leah Kirchmann (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo). The gap went up to 9 seconds in one lap as they sprinted for the first of two intermediate time bonuses won by Kirchmann.
Armstrong’s teammates organized at the front to control the leash while Amanda Miller (HTC-Highroad) jumped across to the trio with Lauren Tamayo (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) coming along to monitor things. With four of the five strong riders working hard, the gap went up to 20 seconds by the second time bonus sprint. This time, Miller took the 5 second bonus. With 10 laps to go, the gap was up to 27 seconds and alarm bells rang in the Armstrong camp. Tamayo dropped back to the field to lead the chase and reduced by 8 seconds in two laps.
With 7 laps to go, Tamayo’s power reeled back the escapees and the field was all back together. Time to start thinking about the final bunch sprint. The sprinters’ teams massed at the front with no one team able to control more than one lap. As the field was approaching the start/finish line for the second to last time, Erinne Willock (TIBCO/To The Top) attacked with a few riders responding. But behind, the massive crash happened, and the riders that were unscathed were stopped on the backside.
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″