Key sponsor Nature Valley, maker of granola bars, has extended its sponsorship of the Nature Valley Grand Prix through 2010. The race is part of the five-day Great River Energy Bicycle Festival in Minnesota. Organizers attributed the renewal to a growth in public interest in cycling in Minnesota. General Mills, owner of Nature Valley brand, calls its hometown Minneapolis, where the race is anchored.
The race was first held in 1999 as a one-day USA Cycling National Racing Calendar (NRC) event, and only three pro women showed up. Growing over the years, the race now includes six stages and is ranked as a major NRC event.
The 2007 Nature Valley Grand Prix will take place June 20 24. Beginning with a new stage, the Downtown Saint Paul Criterium, the race will then visit Cannon Falls, downtown Minneapolis, Mankato, and Stillwater. The start lists, which will be released in the coming weeks. Favorites thus far include last year's Nature Valley GP champions World Champion Kristen Armstrong (TEAm Lipton) and Tasmanian Karl Menzies (HealthNet), who ranked second in the NRC overall for 2006.