The KHS-Maxxis-JLVelo Cycling Team traveled to Minneapolis, MN to compete in the 2016 North Star Grand Prix. The 5 day event has 6 stages which covering a lot of territory in the region. To begin the event, the riders competed in a 5 mile time trial on their road bikes as this was a Eddy Merckx style event, meaning no time trial bikes or aero equipment could be used. Newcomer to the team Innokenty Zavyalov clocked the best time for the team, finishing top 20 just 20 seconds down on the podium.
The riders had a quick turn around on Wednesday, with the Downtown St. Paul Criterium in the evening. Taking place in the twilight, this race is always animated from the gun with time bonuses offered mid way through the event and at the finale. Prior to the men’s start, the officials made the decision to run the race in the opposite direction – clockwise – in an attempt to increase safety. This worked well, as the peloton was strung out from the start. Alfredo Rodriguez snagged a handful of the sprinter points through out the stage, placing him in contention for the coveted sprinters jersey. As the race came to a close, he and Ulises Castillo finished 6th and 7th.
Thursday took the team to Cannon Falls for an 85 mile road race which was marred by a massive crash 4 miles into the race. With 50+ riders down, the peloton was neutralized as the injured were tended to. Once the race got back under way, the team was down one rider – Duban Sanchez – as he was involved with the crash. This did not deter the team, as Cory Lockwood quickly made his way into a breakaway of 4 which lasted until the final finishing circuit in town. The break worked well together and Cory did an excellent job representing the team through out his stint at the front of the race. As the break got caught, Ulises and Alfredo were in position for the finish, coming in a close 6th on the day again.
The Friday Criterium was the most exciting race to watch on the livestream as Ulises stormed of the front of the race with one other rider with 12 laps remaining in the event. The Uptown Minneapolis Crit is technical in nature and as the laps were winding down, the rain began to fall. With Ulises up the road holding a 10-15 second advantage, Alfredo was able to sit comfortably in the front of the pack in perfect position for the final sprint. With a mere 200 meters left to the finish line, Ulises and his breakaway partner were caught and Alfredo did an excellent job, sprinting to 2nd behind Justin Williams and ahead of US National Criterium Champion Brad Huff.
The Saturday Road Race was a new course for the event, taking the peloton to North Mankato for a 98 mile stage. The KHS riders animated the race, were active in breakaways, and attentive to set Alfredo up for as many sprint points as possible. By the end of the stage, Alfredo was 2nd overall in the sprint points. In the final kilometers of the race, a breakaway of 2 got away up the road to take the win and all our riders finished with the main group, only losing a handful of seconds to the stage winner.
The Stillwater Criterium is an icon amongst American racing, and it is the most challenging stage of the North Star Grand Prix. Team member Fabrizio Von Nacher won the stage in 2015, so our team was well aware of the challenges of the course leading into the 6th and final stage of the event. With sprint points and allure of winning a stage on the line, the team rode aggressive from the gun. Again, Cory Lockwood did a stellar job representing the team in the breakaway as it charged up the 20% grade lap after lap. Eventually, Ulises would join him as the laps ticked down, but with the yellow jersey team of Rally Cycling not in the move, the breakaway was gobbled up as Brad Huff sprinted for the win, and Ulises rode an impressive race to finish 6th on the stage.
The 2016 North Star Grand Prix was a great experience for the team where each rider had the opportunity to test their limits whether it be fighting for a stage win, sprinting for sprint points, or representing the team in the breakaways. Next up, we will be racing at Tour of America’s Dairyland this weekend.
Thank you to our sponsors: KHS Bicycles, Maxxis Tires, JLVelo, Serfas, Shimano, Velo Saddles, Praxis Works, Xpedo Pedals, Kali Protectives, Infinit Nutrition, Bicycle Blue Book, WD-40 BIKE, Chamois Butt’r, Cycling Illustrated, Rennie & Associates, 4iiii, Big Wheel Coaching, Ultra Cycle, and Q2.
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