Brad Huff, Theresa Cliff-Ryan win stage 4 of Nature Valley Grand Prix

John Murphy and Carmen Small keep their leaders' jerseys going into stage 5

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

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MINNEAPOLIS (VN) — Brad Huff (Jelly Belly-Kenda) and Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Exergy Twenty12) both won field sprints on Friday during the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium, stage 4 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix.

John Murphy (Kenda-5-hour Energy) and Carmen Small (Optum Pro Cycling-Kelly Benefit Strategies) retained their leaders’ jerseys.

The men’s race saw a four-man break containing Optum’s Jesse Anthony threaten Murphy’s overall lead. Just 28 seconds off the lead, Anthony — with teammate Michael Creed (Team Optum), Ricardo Van der Velde (Jelly Belly) and Carlos Alzate (Team Exergy) — gained a 26-second advantage before the escape was retrieved with four laps to go.

Kenda-5-hour Energy was left to do most of the chasing until Bissell Pro Cycling came up to help.

“We were pretty sure someone would come up to help,” said Murphy. “We’re not the only team who wants to win this race. The boys kept it together well today, and it ended in a bunch sprint like we wanted.”

Frank Pipp (Bissell) said the team contributed Andrew Dahlheim to the chase “because we saw they were getting tired.”

“We decided at six to go that we were going to take over the front,” Pipp said. “About two to go it got a little bit crazy, and Eric (Young) and I were able to tuck in. I tried to lead out Eric, but we ended up getting mixed up in the sprint so it was just me out there sprinting for the line.”

Pipp crossed third, behind Alejandro Borrajo (Jamis-Sutter Home).

Huff said Ben Jacques-Mayne (Bissell) and Freddie Rodriguez (Team Exergy) came around him with one lap to go.

“I think we came out (of the final corner) four abreast,” Huff said. “I was lucky enough to jump on the other side of the guys and get some momentum.”

“Kenda did a great job on the front. Bissell came up with them. The race wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for those two teams.”

Murphy retained the overall lead by two seconds over Pipp with Tom Zirbel (Optum) third at four seconds.

Anthony was awarded the day’s Freewheel Bike Most Aggressive Rider jersey, the only jersey to change hands on stage 4. Alzate increased his sprint-points lead and will wear the Exergy Sprinter jersey into Saturday’s stage-5 Menomonie Road Race. Scott Zwizanski (Team Optum) held onto the Sports Beans King of the Hills jersey, and Devon Dunn (CashCall Mortgage) retains the Nature Valley Top Amateur jersey and TRIA Orthopaedic Center Best Young Rider jersey.

 Cliff-Ryan takes 2nd stage win

In the women’s race, Cliff-Ryan claimed her second stage win of this year’s race in a crazy finish that saw Optum scrambling after sprinter Leah Kirchmann crashed eight laps into the race.

Optum seemingly had the race in hand with four laps to go after retrieving lone breakaway Megan Guamier (Team TIBCO). But race leader Carmen Small, without Kirchmann to lead her out for the final laps, decided to pull her other teammates off the front and see if she could sneak onto the podium on her own.

“With a lead-out, we can definitely win,” Small said. “But we missed Leah. We don’t have another true sprinter. I didn’t want the girls to do a bunch of unnecessary work just for me to get second or third anyway. I’m pretty confident I can get at least top three with other girls.”

When Optum pulled back, Exergy jumped to the front.

“The girls felt the panic in the field,” Clliff-Ryan said. “They gathered and we got to the front with three to go, and we strung it out. I was out of the cluster that had it strung out and going so fast that no one could pass me. They did an awesome job.”

Samantha Schneider (TIBCO) finished second with Small third.

Small holds the overall lead by 41 seconds over defending champ Amber Neben (Specialized-lululemon). Janel Holcomb (Optum) sits third at 43 seconds.

Neben, who learned shortly before the start that she had been named to her second consecutive Olympic road team, chose not to mix it up on Friday. She dropped back after the opening laps and was never a factor, finishing 25th.

“No disrespect to the race, but the Olympics only come around every four years, and if you get a chance you’ve got to put everything into that,” she said. “I just found a nice little pocket where I was comfortable, and I wasn’t having to fight too many wheels. That was just my priority tonight, staying safe.”



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