The women's field at Minnesota's Nature Valley Grand Prix has filled its 145 available entries and closed registration early, the first time since the race began in 1999. The event, part of the Great River Energy Bicycle Festival, is likely to be one of the largest women's races of the year, compared with fields of 140 for the Montreal World Cup and 120 for the Liberty Classic.
While the women's field has grown dramatically since 1999, the race's breakthrough year came in 2003 when the Hewlett Packard International Women's Challenge, which was scheduled for the same dates, was discontinued and teams attended Nature Valley instead. Originally the race was open to Category 4 riders, but due to its popularity is now limited to professionals and Category 1 and 2 amateurs.
Race director David LaPorte said the race's growth was testament to its continued support of women's racing. "We host the Rasmussen College Women's Cycling Summit annually and then give the women's race prime time slots all week," said LaPorte. "We're the organizers of the Women's Prestige Cycling Series, have women-only programs like the Ryan Collegiate All-Stars and our media relations efforts put equal emphasis on the women's race. We're living proof that the women will support the races that support them."
The Nature Valley Grand Prix is the signature event of the Great River Energy Bicycle Festival. The race kicks off on Wednesday, June 11, with the Downtown Saint Paul Criterium before visiting Cannon Falls, Minneapolis and Mankato, then finishing with the legendary Stillwater Criterium on Sunday, June 15.
For more information, visit www.minnbikefest.com