Stillwater, MN – One day after Rory Sutherland found himself alone in the now infamous break of 18 riders that made it onto the Stage 5 finish circuits in Menomomie, Wisconsin, the Blue Train’s captain found himself alone again in the final lap of Stage 6 of the Stillwater Criterium. This time however, he was alone, leaving the balance of the peloton in his wake as he crossed the finish line and secured the Team’s fifth stage win in six attempts during the final day of racing in Southeastern Minnesota.
Sutherland, who won the previous three Nature Valley Grand Prix events, rocketed up the 21 percent grade 850-foot incline known as Chilkoot Hill in Stillwater, Minnesota, with an unprecedented surge of energy the competition had no answer for, finishing seconds ahead of second place finisher and overall Nature Valley Grand Prix winner, Jesse Anthony of Kelly Benefits Strategies-Optum Health. Robert Förster, who has been so effective in the sprints this season for Team UnitedHealthcare, emerged as the sprint champion and was awarded the Wheaties Sprint Leader’s Jersey after another monumental effort this afternoon.
Sutherland opened and closed this year’s stage race in identical fashion – with stage wins. Afterward, he had much to say about his Team’s effort and the competition.
“We’ve come here for several years now and I know the circuit,” said the victor of the final stage. “I’ve done it five years in a row and I love the circuit. If there’s any circuit in the world that I think is made for me as a rider, this one fits me perfectly. Every day we try to win the bike race and do the best we can. On some days we have better chances like in the crits, and some days like yesterday there are a lot of people racing against us.”
Speaking about his Team’s success at Nature Valley and throughout the season, Sutherland attributed it to hard work, strategy and the foundation the Team built early in the season.
“We’ve done a lot of stuff in Europe this year and by doing the harder racing you generally get stronger and you get more depth,” he said. “It’s all part of growing as an organization. When signing riders they (Momentum Sports Group, LLC, owner and operator of the Team) made great choices, securing guys who can race and dominate criteriums and they’ve built up on that side of things. The Team has been building and generating results for all five years I’ve been on it.”
At the finish line, Sutherland spoke with the media and emphasized the importance of experience on this course along with the electric crowd pulling the peloton through.
“I won the stage last year and didn’t know it right until the end, but today I had the gap and was able to pull away,” he continued. “My Teammates did an outstanding job and put us in a position to win the stage. I’ve got a job to do out there. Even when I was leading the race, I had to look after our sprinters and get us a win. The beauty of this Team is everyone does what’s required when it’s required. It’s a pretty amazing dynamic we have.”
Reflecting on the overall week, the true sportsman who has established himself as one of North America’s premier cyclists, said, “It’s been a great week for everyone here. Our sponsors and the fans have been fantastic. I was able to enjoy the win today a little more going up Chilkoot Hill hearing them cheer and pull for all of us out here. This is one of America’s great races and the Nature Valley Grand Prix race organizers do a great job putting this event on every year.”