“This race here is just sort of one of the bigger races in the country, so if you're an aspiring bike racer, this is kind of the place to be,” says Ryan Knapp of Bloomington, Indiana, as his bike is fixed by his racing team Saturday morning.
Knapp came all the way from Indiana to participate in the Nature Valley Grand Prix. The five stage bike race that normally winds through Minnesota, but it’s making a stop across the Mississippi for the first time this year right here in Menomonie.
“The area around Menomonie really provides a great opportunity with all the river bluffs and the river valleys,” says Jason Lardy, marketing director for the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival. “It's a great place for the climbers to show their stuff.”
The Chamber of Commerce hopes this race doesn't just bring out tourists to Menomonie. They say they hope it draws attention to the local bike trails in our area.
“It will bring people in the surrounding communities and further to come to Menomonie and the hope is that there's a long-term effect with destination biking,” says Lisa Montgomery of the Menomonie Chamber of Commerce.
Local people with an interest in cycling came out not only to cheer on the bikers, but to staff booths at the bicycle festival and help on the 96 mile course for men and the 76 mile course for women.
“We've had more volunteers than we've ever had for a race outside the Twin Cities here today at the Menomonie race course so it's really been a fantastic welcome from western Wisconsin,” says Lardy.
Both race organizers and the Menomonie Chamber of Commerce say they hope this year's race sets the wheels in motion for a great partnership and more Grand Prixs to come.
Those biking in the Nature Valley Grand Prix say they weren't deterred by the occasional drizzle and clouds during part of today's race, because the second leg of their races in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, was cancelled on Thursday because of tornados.
The race wraps up tomorrow in Stillwater, MN.
The Nature Valley Grand Prix benefits the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.