Posted by Editoress on 06/10/04
Nature Valley Grand Prix Virginia MN
Courtesy Giana Roberge
Grain makes good, Bessette retains her Lead in crash marred finish
The second stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix picked up where yesterday's stage ended, in downtown Virginia. With Quark's Lyne Bessette in the race leader's jersey, the Quark Team had their work cut out for them. The challenge of the race in the Iron Range was not the mountains, rather the very strong winds. Up for grabs was 45 seconds of time bonuses and with notable sprinters Katrina Grove (Rona), Laura Van Gilder (Genesis-Scuba) and Lynn Gaggiolli (T-Mobile) only seconds out of the jersey, Bessette and Quark certainly felt the pressure.
The wind pushed the women out of town and into the first points sprint, which was won handily by Victory Brewing. After a few tentative attacks by various riders, Rona's Erinne Willock took a flyer and found herself with about 100 meter gap. The peloton was nonchalant in their reaction and soon Willock had one minute. From there her gap grew to nearly two minutes with everyone waiting for Quark to take the bait. Uninterested in wasting the team early on in the race, Quark chose to sit it out and play the gambling game.
Soon Willock began to fade and Victory Brewing picked up the pace in order to collect more sprint points. As the group reorganized, the peloton settled in for what would become a field sprint.
On the final laps, the field was thinned by natural attrition, but a main group of about 60 riders remained. Coming across the finish line first was Van Gilder (Genesis-Scuba) collecting the 15 seconds of time bonus and moving her to within 20 seconds of Bessette's lead. Second in the sprint was Megan Long and third was Sarah Uhl (Quark).
As things wound up for the final sprint, elbows were flying. With 30 seconds awarded to the winner of the stage, Van Gilder could smell the leader's jersey. In the last corner, it was Van Gilder and Uhl neck and neck for the finish when the two came together. Attempting to keep it up, Van Gilder leaned on Uhl and the two crashed into the barriers, hitting the pavement hard. Managing to escape unscathed was Gina Grain (Victory Brewing) with a strong win over Joanne Kiesanowski (Colavita Olive Oil) and Jenny Eyerman in third.
Bessette remains in the Leader's Jersey going into tomorrow criterium. With ample time bonuses on the line, the sprints once again promise to be aggressive.
Stage 2: Iron Range Road Race, 80 miles/128.7km
1. Gina Grain (Can) Victory Brewing
2. Joanne Kiesanowski (NZl) Colavita Olive Oil
3. Jenny Eyerman (USA) Red 5 Racing
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