Photo Essay | North Star Grand Prix | Stage Five | Menomonie Road Race

The Menomonie Road Race might run through the middle of some of the USA’s most quaint countryside, but that makes it even more fitting as the host for a dogfight of a bike race. It may not feature the towering mountaintop finishes of California and Colorado, but the race’s jagged profile and penchant for crosswinds makes it “the day” at the North Star Grand Prix. This year’s edition, the fifth time the course has been used, served again as the opportunity for the team to reclaim the yellow jersey. This was no simple task – Donkey Label Racing’s breakout Aussie Ben Hill has proved to be a formidable competitor, and it would take an exhausting team effort to finally dislodge the yellow jersey.

Tom Zirbel and Ryan Anderson both began the stage within striking distance of yellow jersey holder Ben HIll. | Photo © Sam Wiebe

Tom Zirbel and Ryan Anderson both began the stage within striking distance of yellow jersey holder Ben Hill.

Beautiful clear skies were a nice change of pace in the typically rain soaked Menomonie Road Race. | Photo © Sam Wiebe

Beautiful clear skies were a nice change of pace in the typically rain soaked Menomonie Road Race.

Carmen Small has become the fan favorite this week in Minnesota. | Photo © Sam Wiebe

Carmen Small has become the fan favorite this week in Minnesota.

Scott Zwizanski talks strategy with Performance Director Jonas Carney from the team's Acura RDX. | Photo © Sam Wiebe

Scott Zwizanski talks strategy with Performance Director Jonas Carney from the team’s Acura RDX.

A nervous group rolled out of Menomonie, still far away from the tough part of the race. | Photo © Sam Wiebe

A nervous group rolled out of Menomonie, still far away from the tough part of the race.

Lush green countryside met the peloton for the majority of the stage. | Photo © Sam Wiebe

Lush green countryside met the peloton for the majority of the stage.

From this photographer’s view, Will Routley did a massive amount of pacemaking over the first several dozen miles of the race. Every time the peloton was in focus, Will was at the front of a long line of riders that become longer, thinner, and more tired as the race approached the decisive climbing sequence.

The road began to undulate a few miles before the toughest part of the course in the forest. | Photo © Sam Wiebe

The road began to undulate a few miles before the toughest part of the course in the forest.

Things were strung out early and eventually shattered completely. | Photo © Sam Wiebe

Things were strung out early and eventually shattered completely.

 

Optum Pro Cycling stays positioned near the front as the peloton approached the major climbs. | Photo © Sam Wiebe

Optum Pro Cycling stays positioned near the front as the peloton approached the major climbs.

There’s something extremely refreshing about a bike race that never sees the inside of a town, city, and rarely encounters even a fan. There were a few though, and some signifiers that we were in the heart of Wisconsin’s iconic farm country.

Ryan Anderson (Optum Pro Cycling) launches a solo attack in the hopes of dislodging yellow jersey holder Ben Hill (Donkey Label) | Photo © Sam Wiebe

Ryan Anderson (Optum Pro Cycling) launches a solo attack in the hopes of dislodging yellow jersey holder Ben Hill (Donkey Label)

Nearing the courses midway point, the course headed through some beautiful forests. | Photo © Sam Wiebe

Nearing the courses midway point, the course headed through some beautiful forests.

The GC contenders battle it out, including a breakout star at the race, Ben Hill (Donkey Label). Photo © Sam Wiebe

The GC contenders battle it out, including a breakout star at the race, Ben Hill (Donkey Label).

Tom Zirbel (Optum Pro Cycling) made a brilliant move to bridge across to the breakaway, putting enough distance between himself and race leader Ben Hill (Donkey Label) to take back the yellow jersey. | Photo © Sam Wiebe

Tom Zirbel (Optum Pro Cycling) made a brilliant move to bridge across to the breakaway, putting enough distance between himself and race leader Ben Hill (Donkey Label) to take back the yellow jersey.

The Optum team's Acura RDX is one of the sleekest caravan vehicles, with a distincive pinstripe design. | Photo © Sam Wiebe

The Optum team’s Acura RDX is one of the sleekest caravan vehicles, with a distincive pinstripe design.

The final selection worked well together and had lots of horsepower, the keys to success to make it to the line. | Photo © Sam Wiebe

The final selection worked well together and had lots of horsepower, the keys to success to make it to the line.

The breakaway rolls through Wisconsin farm country on one of the race's rare flat roads. | Photo © Sam Wiebe

The breakaway rolls through Wisconsin farm country on one of the race’s rare flat roads.

At times, the sky was ominous, but thankfully they never opened up. | Photo © Sam Wiebe

At times, the sky was ominous, but thankfully they never opened up.

The beautiful Maple Tainter Memorial building looms over  the closing circuits. | Photo © Sam Wiebe

The beautiful Maple Tainter Memorial building looms over the closing circuits.

Tom Zirbel knew the real reason he took yellow in Menomonie – his teammates relentless work at the front of the race. | Photo © Sam Wiebe

Tom Zirbel knew the real reason he took yellow in Menomonie – his teammates relentless work at the front of the race.

North Memorial Hospital's medical staff were amazing all week, keeping riders safe and healthy. | Photo © Sam Wiebe

North Memorial Hospital’s medical staff were amazing all week, keeping riders safe and healthy.

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