The Nature Valley Grand Prix will also be the first event of the 2006 Women's Prestige Cycling Series, which also includes the International Tour de 'Toona and the Bermuda Grand Prix.
Webcor-Platinum returns as the team to beat in the 2006 series. Their roster includes 2005 series champion Christine Thorburn and 2005 series best young rider Erinne Willcock. Team scoring provides bonus points for riders under the age of 26, so Webcor-Platinum's early season acquisition of Alisha Lion, runner-up in the 2005 young rider competition, puts them in a strong position to repeat as the top Series team in 2006.
Thorburn may be challenged for the early lead by Colavita - Cooking Light's Tina Pic and TEAm Lipton's Kori Seehafer. Pic, primarily known as a sprinter, finished a close second in last year's tough Nature Valley Grand Prix and is currently ranked #1 on USA Cycling's National Racing Calendar. Seehafer, a product of the Minnesota racing scene, finished third at the Nature Valley Grand Prix last year.
Willcock will be tough to beat for the Series Best Young Rider competition. She's showing good form this year, as evidenced by her recent win at the Joe Martin Stage Race. Likely challengers include teammate Alisha Lion and Victory Brewing's Lauren Franges.
The sprinter's title is up for grabs this year. Ina Teutenberg appeared to have a lock on the title in 2005, but then dropped out of the running when her team failed to send a squad to the Bermuda Grand Prix. With Teutenberg racing in Europe this year, the sprinter's competition is likely to be a three-way race between Colavita's Tina Pic and Gina Grain and TEAm Lipton's Laura Van Gilder.
For more information see www.womencyclists.com.