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October 22, 2014

Twin Cities bike race could skid to stop without sponsor

The 16-year-old elite professional bicycle race that speeds through the Twin Cities each June could hit a brick wall without a new sponsor.

The race, formerly known as the Nature Valley Grand Prix, will be held as planned next week at several metro-area venues under the name North Star Grand Prix. The race starts June 11 in St. Paul, and has stages in Cannon Falls (June 12), Uptown Minneapolis (June 13), Menomonie (June 14) and concludes in Stillwater (June 15).

But after that, the event’s future is uncertain.

The granola bar maker Nature Valley, a division of Minnesota-based General Mills, withdrew its support as it readjusts its marketing strategy, the Pioneer Press reports.

That left race director David LaPorte pedaling after a new corporate sponsor – or more ideally, multiple sponsors – who can contribute about $350,000 to next year’s race.

LaPorte says the event is a perfect fit for a big local company that wants to reach a family audience or be associated with an elite bike race in one of the nation’s most bike-friendly urban areas.

“We’re unique. We’re the only professional bike race in the Midwest,” LaPorte told the Pioneer Press. “They can get into our race for 1 percent of what they’d pay for the naming rights for a stadium.”

The event attracts roughly 55,000 spectators who can watch the races for free.

The event starts June 11 with a morning time trial route along Saint Paul’s Mississippi River Boulevard and an evening criterium around downtown’s Rice Park. It ends with the Stillwater Criterium, which includes a 24-percent-grade climb up Chilkoot Hill, the most difficult incline in North American cycling, according to race organizers.

This race page tells you who to watch for, including 18-year-old phenom Kelly Catlin, who just finished her senior year at Mounds View High School.