The first two of six races of the Nature Valley Pro Ride begin next weekend with the Hillsboro-Roubaix (Illinois) Road Race on April 10 near Saint Louis, and the Rock Hill Spring Races on April 10-11 in South Carolina, near Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Nature Valley Pro Ride races are selection events for the Pro Ride program, which gives amateur racers an opportunity to compete against the pros in the Nature Valley Grand Prix as part of a composite team. Selected riders receive free entries, a travel subsidy, housing and team support.
One male and one female rider will be invited from each selection event, starting with Hillsboro-Roubaix and the Rock Hill races.
Like its namesake, the fabled Paris-Roubaix classic in France, Hillsboro-Roubaix favors hardy, experienced riders due to its short, sharp climbs, twisting descents and long, open sections where the wind can be a major factor. But the race's signature feature is its brick roads. Like the pavé of Paris-Roubaix, Hillsboro-Roubaix is often decided on the old-style streets that take their toll on riders and their equipment.
"Despite the challenges of this course – or perhaps because of them – Hillsboro-Roubaix is enormously popular," Nature Valley Grand Prix Executive Director David LaPorte said. "That was a major factor in its selection for a second straight year."
While the Rock Hill Spring Races are a new addition to the Nature Valley Pro Ride, they have been a fixture on the Southeastern racing scene for years. Like Hillsboro-Roubaix, the 30-year-old event is enormously popular. The Nature Valley Pro Ride will play out as a two-day omnium, with racers contesting the Patriot's Trail Road Race Saturday and the Winthrop Lake Criterium on Sunday.
"With omnium scoring, the Rock Hill Spring Races will select the best all-around rider, which is a perfect fit for the event they will qualify for," LaPorte said. "The Nature Valley Grand Prix is unique on the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar because it is designed to specifically appeal to spectators by including three criteriums and uses finishing circuits at the ends of the two road races."
Riders who fail to qualify at the Hillsboro-Roubaix and the Rock Hill Spring Races will have four more opportunities. The other stops on the Nature Valley Pro Ride are the Cherry Blossom Cycling Classic (April 23-25) near Portlan, Oregon, the Bear Mountain Spring Classic (May 16) in New York, the San Luis Rey Cycling Classic (May 1-2), near San Diego, California and the Mt. Hamilton Classic Road Race/Memorial Day Criterium (May 30-31), near San Jose, California.