The only race series in the United States offering amateur cyclists trips to the Nature Valley Grand Prix, where they will compete against the country’s top men and women professionals, has a new name and several new cities for 2012.
Formerly known as the Nature Valley Pro Ride, the new “Nature Valley Pro Chase” will select the top amateur man and woman at six races to become part of a pair of composite Nature Valley Cycling Teams for the 14th annual edition of the premier stage race on the 2012 USA Cycling National Racing Calendar.
”This name better reflects the goal of the program, which is to emotionally engage the entire cycling community by telling the stories of the participants,” Nature Valley Grand Prix Executive Director David LaPorte said. ”What hasn’t changed is the opportunity it gives top amateurs to be noticed by pro team managers and potentially receive a pro contract.”
Rider invitations will be issued following each of the six stops on the Nature Valley Pro Chase national tour: Tour de Murrieta (March 10-11) near San Diego; Jefferson Cup (April 1) near Charlottesville, Va.; Tour de Moore (April 28) near Raleigh, N.C.; Superior Morgul Classic (May 18-20) near Boulder, Colo.; Memorial Day Weekend Omnium (May 26-28) in the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois; San Jose Omnium (May 30-31) near San Jose, Calif.
The Tour de Murrieta, the Tour de Moore and the Superior Morgul Classic are new to the calendar while the Memorial Day Weekend Omnium and Jefferson Cup return from last year. The San Jose Omnium was a stop on the series in 2010.
Tour de Murrieta promoter Ernie Sanchez said he looks to add a new element to his race each year and the Nature Valley Pro Chase is a perfect fit.
“This is huge for us it’s going to add that extra element of excitement to our race,” Sanchez said. “We’ve had some great competitors over the years, from Chris Horner to Sarah Hammer and Chad Beyer and we always have a very strong, competitive men’s category 1 field. I know they’ll be looking forward to what some refer to as the “American Idol” of cycling. So we’re proud to be a part of it.”
Nature Valley Pro Chase qualifiers will earn free entries to the Nature Valley Grand Prix, generous travel stipends, team clothing, housing, ground transportation, and staff support for their composite teams. They will also receive pro-level recognition before, during and after the events, including pre-race call-ups and participation in promotional and media appearances. Their entire journey can be followed through blogs and on-line videos on the Nature Valley Pro Chase website (www.naturevalleyprochase), the Nature Valley Grand Prix Facebook page and on Twitter (@NVBikeFest).
Snapshot glances at the six Nature Valley Pro Chase events:
Tour de Murrieta (March 10-11), San Diego: Three unique courses comprise a weekend of racing – Friday’s time trial features a 1.2-mile portion of unpaved/dirt road. Saturday’s criterium is run on a lightning-fast, one-mile course in historic Downtown Murrieta, while Sunday’s circuit race is run on a 3.5-mile course (56 miles for men, 46 miles for women).
Jefferson Cup (April 1), Charlottesville, Va.: Nearly two dozen editions make this is the oldest continually run road race in the Mid-Atlantic region. The course for the one-day race winds through rolling countryside south of Charlottesville. The race is 70 miles for men and 40 miles for women.
Tour de Moore (April 28), Raleigh, N.C.: The oldest road race in the South (this is the 37th edition) has previously been used as both a Pan American games qualifier. Men will tackle four laps of a 27-mile rolling loop of the Fort Bragg Military Reservation (112 miles) while women do two laps for a 58-mile race.
Superior Morgul Classic (May 18-20), Boulder, Colo.: The Morgul Classic has three days of racing and roots in the famed Red Zinger and Coors Classic races. Friday’s time trial starts on top of “The Hump” and is a 6.5-mile course up “The Wall.” Satruday is a criterium through the town of Superior, followed by Sunday’s road race on the fabled Morgul Bismark course.
Memorial Day Weekend Omnium (May 26-28), Iowa and Illinois: Returning for the second straight year, the three days of racing consist of a trio of unique criteriums: Snake Alley, Melon City and the Quad City Criterium – which, at 47 years old, is the fourth oldest criterium in the nation and the oldest in Illiois. All three have been a fixture on the Midwest racing circuit on Memorial Day weekend for more than a quarter century.
San Jose Omnium (May 27-28), San Jose, Calif.: One of the longest running bike races in San Jose, Calif., the road race (63.5 miles for men, 63.5 miles for women) climbs 4,500 feet in 20 miles over Mt. Hamilton, the highest peak in the Bay area, on a course that was part of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California. The criterium is run over a one-mile course in Morgan Hill, Calif.
photo courtesy Matthew Moses