Nature Valley Grand Prix 2006
Race 3 - Van
Gilder takes razor-thin, rain-drenched crit at Nature Valley
Minneapolis Downtown Classic - Criterium, 40 minutes
By Steven Kay
For the third consecutive year, rain played a major factor in the Minneapolis Downtown Classic, the third stage of the Great River Energy’s Nature Valley Grand Prix.
Heavy rain and hail hit the course about an hour before the scheduled start, delaying the start of the race by 15 minutes and shortening it from 45 to 30 minutes.
The shortened race, though, didn’t short-change the spectators or racers from the drama, as TEAm Lipton’s Laura Van Gilder took the hotly contested finish from Victory Brewing’s Katharine Carroll.
Van Gilder’s victory continued TEAm Lipton’s dominance, with overall leader Kristin Armstrong keeping the leader’s jersey and both Armstrong and Kori Seehofer in contention throughout the race. Armstrong also picked up a time bonus by taking the first sprint of the 1-mile, 6-corner criterium.
Van Gilder’s victory was not assured. While the team lined up the train to launch her in the final lap, initially it appeared that Carroll had nipped her at the line. Only after a protest and more than 30 minutes did Carroll learn the victory was awarded to van Gilder.
“I knew going into the final stretch that it was going to be tough to keep up with them,” she said. “They were really in control throughout. So I tried to make my move just before that on the back with the crosswind.”
The wet pavement and threat of more rain certainly played a role in the riders’ ability to move up in the beginning. TEAm Lipton attempted to control much of the race, keeping their leader near the front and out of trouble.
“It was a little slick out there for the first couple laps, but after that things seemed to go rather smoothly,” Carroll said.
Early in the race, Argon 18/Champion Systems rider Katie Mactier – a former champion of the Nature Valley Grand Prix – jumped out to an early lead and seemed to be a contender until a flat tire sidelined her during the third lap. A mechanical also took Thursday’s second stage winner, Palo Alto Bicycle Works/TIBCO's Brooke Miller, out of contention with a couple of laps to go.
Among the lead group was defending Nature Valley Grand Prix champion and Webcor-Platinum Builder’s rider Christine Thorburn, who maintained her second place on GC.
The Nature Valley Grand Prix continues Saturday with an 86-mile road race through Mankato, Minn., which features a 4-lap circuit finish that includes a 14-percent climb. The Nature Valley Grand Prix concludes Sunday in Stillwater.
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