Nurturing the Inner Bike Geek - The Nature Valley Grand Prix & Jelly Belly Team Ride

6:22 AM

The Nature Valley Grand Prix rolled through (sorry, I hate puns) came through town last week – six races in five days that give everyone in the Twin Cities area an opportunity to see a USA Cycling National Racing Calendar stage race up close.  The three criteriums provide excellent opportunities to watch pro cyclists compete in some rather challenging conditions: Saint Paul’s cobblestones, Minneapolis’ narrow neighborhoods, and Stillwater’s Chilkoot Hill (22% grade at its steepest).  It is truly incredible to stand on the sidelines and feel the rush of wind as the riders swoosh past at 35 miles an hour. 

In previous years I’ve followed the General Classification, but not this year.  This year was all about finding the cross racers and cheering for them.  One of my favorites, Meredith Miller (that is her “Pretty In Mud” design I use as my avatar), was her racing for TIBCO.  And Team Jelly Belly would be nothing without the 2012 US Cyclocross Champion Jeremy Powers. 

About a week before the Grand Prix one of my teammates posted a unique opportunity on the message boards: a relaxed team ride with Jelly Belly on the Friday before the Minneapolis crit.  Now, the Spouse and I are complete and committed introverts, but even we couldn’t pass up the chance to meet J-Pow! (if you haven’t watched the two seasons of Behind the Barriers you can catch up here) and marvel at the awesome Focus Jelly Belly bikes.  (I hate to admit it, but the Jelly Belly kits look a bit dated and silly, but for some reason the same design on the bikes just looks festive.)

So last Friday the Spouse and I turned out with a bunch of our teammates (it appears we have a dedicated Jeremy Powers fan club because of all the crossers on my team) to ride around Minneapolis, talk racing with some pros, and get some autographs after the ride at The Fix studio.

It was a bit odd at first; tapping into your inner fan-girl means heading back to a 14-year-old version of yourself that is both awkward and giggle-inducing.  The guys on the team were great, chatting us up and talking about their experiences so far in the Grand Prix.  The previous day’s stage had been cancelled due to a storm that dropped eight inches of rain – even guests to Minnesota can’t get by without discussing the weather incessantly.  I saw a couple of the most dedicated crossers riding with J-Pows and had a laugh upon discovering that I wasn’t the only giddy fan.  At the end of the afternoon one of my female teammates grabbed my elbow and said, “C’mon, let’s go find one of those cute guys and get a picture!”  And, of course, random cute guy obliged.

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