The opening time trial of the Nature Valley Grand Prix will change for 2012 due to street construction on the original course. The new test will be 7.7 miles, up from the 6.1 mile course used in the past. The five day race is the seventh of ten races in the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar, and is slated for June 13-17 in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota.
The new course for the time trial will begin to the west of downtown St. Paul near the Ford Dam and follow the Mississippi river north. While it will skip the Ohio Street climb of past years, the organisers promise "a series of technical rollers" that keep the total amount of climbing equal to previous years.
Jonas Carney, the team director of the Optum Pro Cycling/Kelly Benefit Strategies squad of last year's champion Jesse Anthony sees the change as a benefit.
"The longer time trial favors our team, because we have so many strong TT guys", said Carney. "We've had three riders in the Nature Valley Grand Prix yellow jersey: Zwiz (Scott Zwizanski) and (Tom) Zirbel won the time trial on the previous course while (Jesse) Anthony is the defending champion. We have to have a strong TT and hopefully take the jersey. Then if the jersey changes hands, we have to make sure it still says Optum on the front."
The Nature Valley Grand Prix has also continued its policy of banning the use of aero equipment in the time trial.
"Time trials are tests of sustained power, aero position and pain tolerance", said race director David LaPorte said. "We want to take equipment differences out of the equation, particularly since small budget teams can't afford to bring time trial bikes. Our time trial is a test of athlete versus athlete and the best time trialists will still have the top results. For example, four of the top five women in last year's race were also top five the next weekend at the USA Cycling Time Trial Championships, where they used full aero equipment."
Wednesday, June 13, will be a double-stage day, with the time trial in the morning followed by the Downtown St Paul Criterium that night. Racers travel south on Thursday for the Cannon Falls Road Race, returning to Minneapolis for the Uptown Criterium on Friday, head east for Queen stage of the Menomonie Road Race in Wisconsin, before finishing in Minnesota for the marquee event - the Stillwater Criterium, which features the 20 percent grade Chilkoot Hill climb to the finish line.
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