Nature Valley Grand Prix Reduces Men's Team Size

Minneapolis – The Nature Valley Grand Prix will continue its tradition as a leader in bringing innovations to U.S. stage racing by limiting men's teams to six riders in 2012.

Nature Valley Grand Prix Executive Director David LaPorte said the decision was made after consulting with USA Cycling Managing Director of National Events Micah Rice, who says fielding smaller squads offers benefits for both the race and the teams.

“This change will shake things up and make the racing more exciting for the spectators," Rice said. "With their focus on spectator experience, it’s not surprising that the Nature Valley Grand Prix was the first stage race to make this change. Smaller team sizes will also reduce the travel costs for the teams, a factor that played a big role in the development of the 2012 USA Cycling National Racing Calendar (NRC) and National Criterium Calendar (NCC).”

The Nature Valley Grand Prix was one of the first NRC events to include multiple criteriums in its format and instituted a ban on time trial bikes in 2010. For the past 13 years, the race in Eastern Minnesota and Western Wisconsin and has made it a priority to educate fans and engage spectators.

"The Nature Valley Grand Prix has been a leader in bringing new fans into the sport," Jamis/Sutter Home Director Sebastian Alexandre said. "Reducing the team size will make the racing even more exciting for the fans. For the teams, it will be fun racing, that is for sure. With smaller squads, the teams and riders will have to carefully plan their race strategies and the overall lead could change after every stage.  It will be a really big show."

Three-time U.S. national professional road champion Fred Rodriguez of Team Exergy Pro Cycling – a past stage winner at the Giro d'Italia – said reducing the team size gives the younger riders on his team an opportunity to show themselves and possibly get in a winning move.

"From my experience of races that run smaller teams, it creates more opportunities for everyone in the peloton," Rodriguez said. "It's harder for the big teams to take control and more riders have a chance. It also takes the predictability out of the top riders being on the podium. I see the winner being someone who is aggressive and willing to take a chance."

LaPorte said the reduced team size will only apply to men's teams. The women’s race will continue to have a maximum team size of eight.

“Team size has not been a factor in the women's race," LaPorte said. “The last time the overall winner was on a full team of eight was 2006. If we reduced the women’s maximum team size, all we’d be doing is forcing them to leave their development riders at home. One of our goals is to build women’s racing and excluding their future stars would have the opposite effect.”

The 2012 edition of the Nature Valley Grand Prix will take place June 13-17.

About the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival
Entering its 14th year in 2012, the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival is a 10-day celebration of bicycling that includes amateur and professional racing and community events. The Festival opens on June 8 with the Minnesota Fixed Gear Classic at the National Sports Center Velodrome. The marquee event, the Nature Valley Grand Prix, will be held June 13-17. The stage race is the top-ranked event on the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar, attracting American and international racing teams and nearly 300 riders from around the world. The Festival is a volunteer-run event with all profits donated to Children's Lighthouse of Minnesota, which is building what will be only the third pediatric hospice and respite home on the United States. For more information, visit www.naturevalleybicyclefestival.com.

About Nature Valley
Nature Valley, the brand that created the granola bar category in 1975, brings variety to healthy, active consumers looking for wholesome and great-tasting snacks. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Nature Valley is part of General Mills, a leading global manufacturer and marketer of consumer foods products. For more information, visit www.NatureValley.com.

About the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar (NRC)
The National Racing Calendar (NRC) is the premier season-long domestic road cycling series sanctioned and owned by USA Cycling. With an overall ranking system that determines the best individual male and female cyclists, as well as the best teams in the U.S., the NRC features the nation’s top Pro-Am road race events and is open to both professional and amateur cyclists. For more information on the NRC, visi twww.usacycling.org/nrc. Recognized by the United States Olympic Committee and the Union Cycliste Internationale, USA Cycling is the official governing body for all disciplines of competitive cycling in the United States, including road, track, mountain bike, BMX, and cyclo-cross.