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Top amateurs qualify for Nature Valley Pro Ride

Between the Nature Valley Pro Ride and Fiber-One Collegiate All-Stars teams, the Nature Valley Grand Prix is a grand stage for up-and-coming amateurs to show their stuff. The former finalized its six-rider men and women’s rosters Friday.

The Nature Valley Pro Ride teams are composite squads built to provide qualified amateurs a pro experience at the race, which starts June 16 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Riders will receive full support from a staff of directors, soigneurs and mechanics throughout the race.

“It’s a great opportunity for amateur athletes to have the full pro experience, but it’s also a talent identification program,” said women’s director Michael Engleman. “Riders who do well will be performing in front of all of the top pro team managers and can end up with pro contracts. Alison Starnes (TIBCO-To The Top) and Olivia Dillon (Peanut Butter & Co. Twenty12) are alumni of this program.”

The women’s team will feature Mary Maroon (Sacramento, California), Anna Barensfeld (Brookline, Massachusetts), Sue Butler (Portland, Oregon), Nancy Jones (Monroe, Georgia), Emily Kachorek (Sacramento, California) and Kristen Meshberg (Lyons, Illinois).

The men’s roster will include Lucas Binder (San Diego, California), Zach Garrett (Sumter, South Carolina), Brandon Gritters (Mission Viejo, California), Jacob Mueller (Skippack, Pennylvania) Joseph Schmalz (Lawrence, Kansas) and Gabe Varaela (Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho).

In addition to support during the event, riders earn free entry to the race, generous travel stipends, team clothing and housing. The amateur qualifiers will also line up next to race leaders in pre-stage call-ups and will participate in promotional and media appearances.

Six events across the U.S. acted as qualifiers for the composite teams this year:

Hillsboro-Roubaix Road Race (April 10) in Illinois

Rock Hill Spring Bicycle Classic (April 10-11) in South Carolina

Cherry Blossom Cycling Classic (April 23-25) in Oregon

Barrio Logan Grand Prix/Mark Reynolds San Luis Rey Road Cycling Classic (May 1-2) in California

Bear Mountain Spring Classic (May 15) in New York

Mt. Hamilton Road Race/Criterium (May 30-31) in California