North Star Grand Prix Cancellation
When I moved to Minnesota, the locals told me that there are two seasons: winter and construction season. I figured that meant a lot of traffic delays in the summer, but never would have imagined how seriously the construction season could affect the Minnesota cycling scene.
Two weeks ago, as I was watching CyclingNew’s Tour of California update feed, I saw the announcement pop up; the 2018 edition of the North Star Grand Prix had been canceled. I didn’t believe it at first, it sounded like an unfounded rumor. Just a few weeks before, I was sitting in Minneapolis’ trendy Birchwood Cafe interviewing Brendon Hale, the North Star Grand Prix’s Race Director, for a pre-race piece that I was working on. In fact, I was putting the finishing touches on the piece just as the cancellation popped up on my screen.
Things change quickly in this sport. When I met with Brendon, everything was going full speed ahead for the 20th edition of the North Star. Since then, two of the race’s most popular stages were put in jeopardy. At the 11th hour, the race organizers were informed that construction would be occurring in the Uptown Minneapolis neighborhood that would make hosting the Stage 4 criterium impossible. Being forced to cancel the Grand Prix’s most popular stage was bad enough, but then the organizers found out that, at the last minute, the Stage 2 criterium in St. Paul would need to be relocated for the third time in three years.
If the race organizers had more time, I’m sure that they could have made something work. Race Director Brendon Hale, in particular, is known for pulling off miracles when it’s crunch time. In 2015, when the women’s race had to be canceled due to a lack of registered teams, Hale was able to organize an amateur race to compliment the men’s race in just a couple of weeks and managed to get 83 of the region’s top amateurs to compete. This time though, with the race just four weeks away, salvaging two criteriums would prove to be too difficult for the race’s dedicated staff.
Even with the sadness I feel about the race’s cancellation, I must praise the all-volunteer staff of the North Star Grand Prix. I know that they put up a big fight trying to make this year’s race happen and are already working on making sure that the race returns in 2019. I can’t wait to see what kind of show they’ll put on next year. I’m sure it will be grand and more than make up for missing out on this year’s adventure.
Still, it’s such a shame that a logistical nightmare derailed this Minnesota institution on the eve of its 20th anniversary. For a state that loves to joke about it’s sports team’s hard luck, the North Star Grand Prix always stood out as a consistent winner. Every year, over 35,000 race fans descended on the tour, rabid to take in one of America’s premier stage races. And, it’s not a local phenomenon either. Last year, the Grand Prix gave its sponsors and the Minnesota communities that it visits over 17 million world-wide impressions. Even with all of Minnesota’s bike paths and cycling advocates, the North Star Grand Prix’s place on USA Cycling’s Pro Road Tour (PRT) legitimizes the Twin Cities Metro like nothing else can. The North Star Grand Prix helped put Minnesota on the map!
So, what does this mean for A Cyclist In a Strange Land? As a new member of the Minnesota cycling community, North Star was going to be a big race for the website. We had hired a professional photographer and were planning a string of interviews and special features. Without the pro racers coming to Minnesota, we’re scrambling to retool. We’ve decided that we’ll keep the photographer and will move forward with planning special features. We just need to figure out what race (or races) can replace the coverage we were planning for the North Star Grand Prix. Perhaps the Tour of America’s Dairyland, the Gateway Cup, or another high-profile race that attracts the big names and teams. Hopefully summer isn’t construction season in those states too.
Stay tuned! Bigger and better things still to come!