Nature Valley Grand Prix: Menomonie Road Race
Warmer weather brings sports fans outdoors and into the sun. While many will flock to the stadiums for baseball and soccer, Minnesota also hosts one of the top cycling events of the season. Each year, the Nature Valley Grand Prix invites bike fanatics to watch professional racers — both male and female — take to the streets for a five-day series that tests the athletes' endurance, stamina, precision, and speed. Things kick off Wednesday at the St. Paul Downtown Criterium (75 W. Fifth St., St. Paul) where competitors will make tight turns amid skyscrapers and parking lots from 4 to 9 p.m. Endurance is the challenge at Thursday's Cannon Falls Road Race (421 Mill St. W., Cannon Falls), where folks will wind through a mountainous trail that ends in downtown (the event runs from 4:30-9 p.m.). The Uptown Minneapolis Criterium (3001 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis), from 4:30 to 9 p.m., is a major nail-biter. Here, riders will be required to make sharp turns at incredible speeds, all while traveling in a tight pack. Saturday's Menomonie Road Race (Third St. E. and Main St. E., Menomonie) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. boasts 101- and 76-mile courses through rural Wisconsin. Finally, the Stillwater Criterium (306 W. Olive St., Stillwater) from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday continues its notoriety as one of the most brutal courses out there, as athletes must bike up the steep Chilkoot Hill every lap. In addition to professional races, each event will feature a kids' fun race, a bike expo, and other special activities. For more info and details on locations, visit www.naturevalleybicyclefestival.com. (Photo by Stephanie Williams)
Sat., June 15, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., 2013
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