Nature Valley Grand Prix Reduces Men’s Team Size

Posted on 18. Oct, 2011 by in news, releases

Adrian Hegyvary at the front of the UnitedHealthcare train at 2011 Nature Valley Grand Prix

Adrian Hegyvary at the front of the UnitedHealthcare train at 2011 Nature Valley Grand Prix

Very interesting. The Nature Valley Grand Prix will be limiting men’s teams to six riders in 2012. For the past few years, the UnitedHealthcare train has dominated the three crits by putting all their eight-men train at the front and setting a punishing pace that squashed most if not all attempts at breakaways.  The tactics, though great for UHC results, leads to predictable results.

It is also important to note that Pro Continental team UnitedHealthcare received special permission to be able to race at the NRC stage race, which according to UCI rules is not permissible.

With many amateur and development riders in the field, the reduced team sizes should, in theory, lead to more dynamic racing. We’ll have to wait until June to see if it happens.

However, though UHC won four stages last year, Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies) claimed the overall following an explosive penultimate stage, the Menomonie Road Race.

The limit on team sizes will not apply to women’s teams.

Here’s the press release:

Nature Valley Grand Prix Executive Director David LaPorte said the decision was made after consulting with USA Cycling Managing Director of National Events Micah Rice, who says fielding smaller squads offers benefits for both the race and the teams.

“This change will shake things up and make the racing more exciting for the spectators,” Rice said. “With their focus on spectator experience, it’s not surprising that the Nature Valley Grand Prix was the first stage race to make this change. Smaller team sizes will also reduce the travel costs for the teams, a factor that played a big role in the development of the 2012 USA Cycling National Racing Calendar (NRC) and National Criterium Calendar (NCC).”

The Nature Valley Grand Prix was one of the first NRC events to include multiple criteriums in its format and instituted a ban on time trial bikes in 2010. For the past 13 years, the race in Eastern Minnesota and Western Wisconsin and has made it a priority to educate fans and engage spectators.

“The Nature Valley Grand Prix has been a leader in bringing new fans into the sport,” Jamis/Sutter Home Director Sebastian Alexandre said. “Reducing the team size will make the racing even more exciting for the fans. For the teams, it will be fun racing, that is for sure. With smaller squads, the teams and riders will have to carefully plan their race strategies and the overall lead could change after every stage. It will be a really big show.”

Three-time U.S. national professional road champion Fred Rodriguez of Team Exergy Pro Cycling – a past stage winner at the Giro d’Italia – said reducing the team size gives the younger riders on his team an opportunity to show themselves and possibly get in a winning move.

“From my experience of races that run smaller teams, it creates more opportunities for everyone in the peloton,” Rodriguez said. “It’s harder for the big teams to take control and more riders have a chance. It also takes the predictability out of the top riders being on the podium. I see the winner being someone who is aggressive and willing to take a chance.”

LaPorte said the reduced team size will only apply to men’s teams. The women’s race will continue to have a maximum team size of eight.

“Team size has not been a factor in the women’s race,” LaPorte said. “The last time the overall winner was on a full team of eight was 2006. If we reduced the women’s maximum team size, all we’d be doing is forcing them to leave their development riders at home. One of our goals is to build women’s racing and excluding their future stars would have the opposite effect.”

The 2012 edition of the Nature Valley Grand Prix will take place June 13-17.

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5 Responses to “Nature Valley Grand Prix Reduces Men’s Team Size”

  1. Name

    19. Oct, 2011

    I’m left confused why NV is the only 2.1 NRC stage race. It’s nearly all criteriums, down to 6 riders, no TT bikes for the prologue.
    Cascade is longer at 6 days, lots of road races, prologue and full TT and 8 riders. But it is a 2.2. It should be the premier NRC event in the country

  2. BigRing

    19. Oct, 2011

    That’s a good question – one for USA Cycling. Maybe Lyne can ask.

    The way ratings are issued for races is really a mystery. And all those numbers are mumbo-jumbo to me.

  3. Name

    20. Oct, 2011

    Nature Valley has big crowds at nearly every stage and lots of media coverage. That’s important if you want to grow the fan base. Cascade only has a crowd at their crit and relatively little media coverage. Good race, but only of interest to people who are already fans.

  4. Name

    20. Oct, 2011

    no doubt nature valley has the most media coverage of any smaller race in the u.s. (so not California or Colorado.) wish it had some bigger name teams like philly.

  5. Name

    21. Oct, 2011

    True, good crowds. It helps that it is nearly all criteriums to get those crowds. I don’t think anyone was standing in a corn field outside of Menomonie. But is a race like Cascade not getting 2.1 because they run road races and have a tougher event, but fewer crowds as a result?