Tens of thousands of spectators and nearly 200 riders are expected for the 14th year of Minnesota's Nature Valley Grand Prix, the state's biggest competitive bicycling event.
The annual bike race kicks off Wednesday in the Twin Cities, and continues through Sunday in various parts of the state. Jade Wilcoxen, the top woman road bike racer in the nation, is expected to compete.
The competition takes form in series of stages over several days. Bike racers take to the streets starting 8:30 a.m. in St. Paul's Highland Park neighborhood to race against the clock along Mississippi River Boulevard.
A circuit race will be run after 4 p.m. Wednesday on streets around Rice Park in downtown St. Paul. In uptown Minneapolis, another circuit race called a criterium starts at 4:30 p.m. Friday. In all three cities, some streets in the area will be closed to accommodate the races and spectators. Long-distance road races will be in Cannon Falls on Thursday and in Menomonie on Saturday. A criterium starting at 10:45 a.m. on Sunday in Stillwater closes out the competition, and is considered its most grueling stage.
"The spectators grow each year, and I would expect something in the neighborhood of 60- to- 70 thousand," said race organizer Dave LaPorte. "Certainly the most popular stage will be uptown again."