The 16th Annual North Star Bicycle Festival (formerly the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival) will take place June 11-15, 2014 and will include the North Star Grand Prix pro stage bike race June 11-15 in Saint Paul, Cannon Falls, Minneapolis and Stillwater, Minn. and Menomonie, Wisc. In Menomonie the general public can get a taste of the pro bike routes by participating in the festival’s Gran Fondo or Spectator Rides. For maps, event schedules and visitor information on each host city visit www.northstarbicyclefestival.com.
The North Star Grand Prix, the most prestigious event on the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar, opens June 11 in Saint Paul with a morning time trial along East River Parkway. The action moves to the Rice Park district of Downtown Saint Paul that evening with a criterium (short circuit race). The ambiance of the criterium route is reminiscent of the famed pavé races in Europe, with the turrets of the Landmark Center, bricked streets in front of the Ordway Center and classic architecture of the century-old Saint Paul Hotel framing this idyllic town square.
On Thursday, the race moves south to Cannon Falls for a rural road race showcasing the wide open spaces of Minnesota’s heartland, dotted with family farms, boutique wineries and the famed Cannon Valley Trail, stretching 20 miles along the Cannon River. The race finishes with multiple laps at high speeds through the quaint downtown. On Friday, it’s back up to Minneapolis for an evening criterium in the city’s dynamic Uptown area, a neighborhood of trendy shops, bars and restaurants located just south of downtown near the chain of Minneapolis lakes. The Uptown edition of the FREE Kids Race is always a highlight, with hundreds of kids 12 and under riding the crit route, cheered on by thousands of spectators. Each child gets a free medal.
The weekend presents an opportunity to visit some of the most beautiful terrain in the Midwest for the Menomonie and Stillwater stages. Cheer for the pros in the North Star Grand Prix as well as locals competing in the amateur races.
In Menomonie the road race tests the cyclists’ endurance as they traverse 95 miles of rolling farmland in the heart of Wisconsin’s dairy country, finishing with multiple laps of an in-town circuit. Menomonie will also host dozens of events throughout the day, introducing visitors to the arts, historic sites and friendly, family-owned shops and restaurants. Activities also include kids’ contests, tours and Spectator Rides for all levels. Experienced cyclists seeking a challenge can sign up for the Gran Fondo (Italian for Big Ride) which provides a chance to ride the same route the pros will race. For cyclists interested in this event advanced preparation is recommended to be ready to take on the hilly terrain through rural Wisconsin. (Pre-register at www.northstarbicyclefestival.com/granfondo.)
Back in Minnesota on Sunday, June 15, Stillwater will again host the grand finale with its legendary Criterium. Well known for weeding out the field, the course features a 24 degree climb up Chilikoot Hill – the steepest in North American racing. This picturesque town is built on the bluffs of the St. Croix River and the route features a series of high speed, downhill 90 degree turns throughout the city’s historic neighborhoods and charming Main Street area. Make plans for a Father’s Day brunch at a riverfront restaurant or grab a treat at one of the town’s plentiful ice cream shops or candy stores along the way.
Fan Zones set up at each stage include food vendors, stunt riders, live music, bike and fitness expos and The FREE Tour de Kids fun race open to children age 12 and under.
The Minneapolis-Saint Paul area is a premier tourism destination offering arts and cultural attractions, museums, zoos, amusement parks, Mall of America, major league sports, golf, boating and other outdoor recreational activities. Named the top city for cyclists by Bicycling Magazine in 2010, the area boasts hundreds of miles of cycling paths connecting the downtowns to neighborhoods, suburbs and trails along lakes and River. Rental bikes are available at dozens of kiosks around town through the region’s Nice Ride program.
Menomonie, about an hour’s drive east of the Twin Cities, offers several unique eateries near Main Street including the Silver Dollar Saloon and Log Jam bars, local pizza bistros Ted’s Pizza and Jeff’s Pizza and The Raw Deal which prepares dishes assembled from raw ingredients. The Acoustic Café, The Vegabond Bakery and Legacy Chocolates are all great spots for a morning treat. Visitors can also try The Golden Leaf Café and Cancun Restaurant, located just a short drive from the festival area. For more info on the the Gran Fondo and this stage of the race see below!
About the North Star Bicycle Festival
Now in its 16th year, the North Star Bicycle Festival is a celebration of bicycling that includes amateur and professional racing and community events. The North Star Grand Prix has become the most prestigious event on the USA Cycling Racing calendar, attracting top American racing teams and nearly 300 top riders from around the world. It is the only professional sporting event in Minnesota which is open to the public, for which no admission ticket is required. Proceeds from the North Star Bicycle Festival are donated to Children’s Lighthouse of Minnesota, a pediatric hospice project. For a schedule of events visit www.northstarbicyclefestival.com.
About the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar
Entering its 18th season in 2014, the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar (NRC) is a road cycling series sanctioned by USA Cycling. It is designed to provide a ranking system for all elite-level cyclists, both amateur and professional, through participation in the nation’s premier cycling events.
North Star Bicycle Festival Hosts Grand Fondo and Spectator Rides at Menomonie Stage Sat, June 14, 2014
Spectators who come to watch the North Star Grand Prix (formerly the Nature Valley Grand Prix) in Menomonie, Wisconsin on Saturday, June 14 can get a taste of the pro bike routes by participating in the festival’s Gran Fondo or Spectator Rides.
The Gran Fondo (Italian for “Big Ride”) provides avid recreational riders with an opportunity to ride along the same roads the pros will take later in the day. Experienced cyclists can choose the 90-mile route that the men will take, which includes over 5000 ft. of climbing, or they can choose the 70-mile route that the women will race, which shares the opening 50 miles of the men’s route, then takes a “short-cut” back to Menomonie. A shorter 59-mile route is also an option. Gran Fondo rides depart from Menomonie at 9 am and will return in time for the thrilling finishing circuits of the pro races. Rides will also include a Sports Beans King/Queen of the Hill Time Trial, with chip timing to identify the fastest climber up the showcase summit – Star Hill.
Recreational cyclists can sign up for 15-mile or 35-mile Spectator Rides, which will take place during the pro races and will allow participants to ride ahead of the pros to Calvary Hill. This is a great opportunity to cheer on the pro men and to watch the race á bicyclette, as they say in Europe. Once the pros pass, the Spectator Rides continue along some of the most beautiful terrain in Dunn County. The 35-mile ride will include a trip to watch the pro men on the infamous Star Hill – a 17% grade for half a mile. Both Spectator Rides depart Menomonie at 11:15 am, and will return for the exhilarating finishing circuits in town.
Families can enter kids age 12 and under in the FREE Kid’s fun race, or take a leisurely ride on their own along the Red Cedar Trail, a fairly flat, easy Rails-to-Trails route from Menomonie to Irvington. There will be an opportunity to watch the pros fly by in Irvington before retracing the Rails-to-Trails route back to Menomonie. Those riding the trail must purchase a $4 trail pass.
The Expo, which runs from 11 am to 5 pm on race day, includes food vendors, stunt riders and booths of cycling related products and services. North Star Bicycle Festival activities will also include three levels of amateur racing in town, while the pros are out in the country.
Menomonie has planned a separate Summerdaze Festival that weekend, which will include an arts and crafts festival and games and contests for children. Other activities throughout the day include tours of Menomonie attractions, as well as a bean bag tournament and wiener dog races. Attractions in the National Downtown Historic District include several museums, the Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater and the Woodlawn Homestead, of the book Caddie Woodlawn fame.
Menomonie offers several unique eateries near Main Street including the Silver Dollar Saloon and Log Jam bars, local pizza bistros Ted’s Pizza and Jeff’s Pizza and The Raw Deal which prepares dishes assembled from raw ingredients. The Acoustic Café, The Vegabond Bakery and Legacy Chocolates are all great spots for a morning treat. Visitors can also try The Golden Leaf Café and Cancun Restaurant, located just a short drive from the festival area.
Fees and Registration
Registration fees range from $20 to $35 for either the Gran Fondo or Spectator Rides. Participation is limited to the first 500 registrants for the Gran Fondo and the first 250 registrants for the Spectator Rides. Registration fees include SAG support, snacks, fruits and beverages along the route and hot showers upon your return to Menomonie. Net proceeds from the rides go to Children’s Lighthouse of Minnesota, a pediatric hospice program. Although on-site registration is available, pre-registration is highly recommended to ensure a spot and to facilitate check in. Online registration is available via the Gran Fondo section of the website, www.northstarbicyclefestival.com.
Lying about an hour east from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Menomonie, Wisc. is a college town situated in the heart of Dunn County. The Menomonie Chamber of Commerce website can help you find comfortable accommodations. www.menomoniechamber.org