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Twin Cities bike festival will be canceled unless sponsors emerge

Published January 21, 2015
Made director warns that the former Nature Valley Grand Prix is in danger.

By Tony Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (BRAIN) — The 2015 Minnesota's North Star Bicycle Festival – formerly the Nature Valley Grand Prix – one of the country's oldest and largest pro racing events, is in danger of being canceled.

Race director David LaPorte said that no sponsor has stepped in after General Mills' Nature Valley left in 2013, and he'll have to cancel the event unless new sponsors are willing to invest "low six figures" in the event in next six weeks. The event survived in 2014 with budget reserves that are now gone.

"We have to assume it's going to happen, but we have to decide finally by the end of February," LaPorte said. "At some point you have to fish or cut bait. That's only fair to our racers, sponsors and volunteers. ... If we have to do it, it would be a big loss for us here and nationally I think."

The event started in 1999 with the backing of the Lance Armstrong Foundation's Ride for the Roses. It grew from a two-day criterium in St. Paul to a five-city, invitation-only stage race with an international field. Last year, according to organizers, the event's stage races in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Stillwater, and Cannon Falls in Minnesota, and Menomonie, in Wisconsin, attracted 50,000 spectators and 257 professional and amateur riders, more than 100 of whom were women.

Part of USA Cycling's National Racing Calendar, the North Star has become known for its intense, tight-turning, urban criteriums.

"Our model is NASCAR," LaPorte said.

LaPorte said the event's board was ready to cancel the races last fall when USA Cycling's $8,000 registration fee was due. But Jim Pohlad, whose family owns the Minnesota Twins, paid the fee, giving the races at least a temporary reprieve.

The festival's demise would be more bad news for the Twin Cities' large and active cycling community. In December, the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minn., decided to close its aging velodrome, the only velodrome in the state, and the ranking of Minneapolis in Bicycling magazine's "America's Best Bike Cities" dropped from second to third.

"We've never been this close to canceling," LaPorte said. "But we are close."

Topics associated with this article: Racing & Sponsorship, Consumer Expos and Rides

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