The North Star Grand Prix kicks off on Wednesday in St. Paul, Minnesota, where its two defending champions - Evan Huffman (Rally Cycling) and Brianna Walle (Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank) will get down to work in the opening stage, an 8km time trial.
Last year, Walle won the time trial and held on to the race lead through to the finish to claim the overall victory, while Huffman broke away on the penultimate stage to move into the yellow jersey, then suffered through the final criterium to seal the win.
Now, with two stage wins in the WorldTour-ranked Tour of California under his belt, Huffman returns with renewed motivation.
"I'm excited to head back to the North Star Grand Prix as the defending champion, and hope to repeat my overall victory," Huffman said in a team press release. "I've had a nice break at home after the Tour of California, relaxing and recovering after all the team's success, so I'm ready to get back to racing."
Huffman will be joined by veterans Danny Pate and Brad Huff, Junior time trial world champion Brandon McNulty, Colin Joyce and Tom Soladay.
Walle will have the support of a strong Tibco squad, assembled by directeur sportif Ed Beamon. "With the combination of road races and criteriums, the North Star Grand Prix requires a good grasp of multiple disciplines," Beamon said. "The final stage in Stillwater is brutally hard and will require disciplined team riding and strong individual effort. We are looking forward to a week of tough, tactical racing."
Walle will be joined by Kate Buss, Ingrid Drexel, Heather Fischer, Lindsay Myers, Madeleine Park, Kendall Ryan and Jennifer Tetrick.
The 18th edition of the race starts with the 8km time trial in St. Paul. This year, the North Star Grand Prix has reversed its no-TT-bikes rule, and will allow full time trial rigs in the opening stage. The test is followed by an evening criterium for stage 2.
Stage 3, the Cannon Falls Road Race, features a hilly route with a climb just before several flat closing circuits. Stage 4 is the Minneapolis Uptown Criterium, stage 5 is the Mankato Road Race, and the final stage, the Stillwater Criterium, climbs Chilkoot Hill, with gradients up to 24 per cent on each lap.