Leah Kirchmann Wins Best Young Rider, Both Teams Crowned Best Overall
Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies claimed their fourth straight North Star Grand Prix title yesterday, taking home the yellow jersey on Ryan Anderson’s shoulders after a near-perfectly executed team performance over the 5 day, 6 stage race. Anderson took yellow with a stage win in the Cannon Falls road race and never looked back, relying on a strong, general classification focused team to guide the Canuck to the finish safely in yellow at the notoriously difficult final stage, the Stillwater Criterium. He finished third on the stage in Stillwater, locking up the overall prize.
Anderson’s teammate Jesse Anthony, the 2011 North Star Grand Prix champ, finished third overall after defending the yellow jersey taken by 2012 champ Tom Zirbel after a win in the opening time trial. It was the fourth straight yellow jersey in Minneapolis for the team, an unprecedented number at the race.
“The team was amazing all week and I am very glad I could finish it off for them,” said Anderson. “We selected a really talented roster for this race and that really showed on some of the harder stages. As the hometown race for Optum, we come here every year with the goal of taking home yellow and putting on a show for people, and all of us worked as hard as we possibly could this week to make that happen.”
Leah Kirchmann had an impressive week for the women, taking home the Best Young Rider prize, finishing second in three stages and third overall on the general classification. Kirchmann took over every category of the women’s Prestige Series – best overall, best rider under 25, and best sprinter.
In a special moment, both teams climbed on the stage together to celebrate their dual victories in the best overall team category. It is the first time in team history both the men and women have won the prize.
North Star GP Turning Point for Anderson
Anderson, who spent the early part of the season recovering from a hard crash in Portugal, missed out on some of his early season goals due to injury and illness. The North Star win reinstalled some confidence for the talented all-arounder.
“I think this could be a turning point for me this year after a bit of a rough go this spring,” he added. “There are some big races in Utah and Colorado approaching fast, and we have our sights set on performing well there as a team.”
Since 2011 the Orange & Black have won the overall prize at their hometown race each year. In ’11 with Jesse Anthony, ’12 with Tom Zirbel, ’13 with Mike Friedman, and in ’14 with Anderson. All four riders are still teammates, and the collection of wins shows that the emphasis on teamwork and unselfish racing tactics for Jonas Carney’s 6-man team at the race paid off.
“We come here every year with our best possible team to contest the yellow jersey,” said Carney. “The guys rode an incredibly strong race tactically – when you take over yellow on the first day, the burden is on the team to defend that for the rest of the week, which is challenging. Every day, the guys went out and laid it on the line, and finished strong on a very tough course in Stillwater. All six guys shared the work this week and Ryan gets to go home champion because of that.”
In Friday’s Uptown Criterium. Maura Kinsella suffered a hard crash in a pileup late in the race. After the race was restarted, she was able to impressively continue and complete the stage, however X-rays that evening showed a broken finger, wrist and elbow. The always resilient Kinsella was able to join her teammates on the podium yesterday to celebrate the overall team win, and will be back racing again in 6-8 weeks.
North Star Grand Prix Men’s Roster