The world’s best female cyclists will soon converge on Breckenridge for the start of the first-ever Women’s USA Pro Challenge, and now fans can learn their names.
Race officials announced Aug. 10 the inaugural event’s much-anticipated teams and riders.
Kristin Armstrong, two-time Olympic gold medalist in the time trial, and Boulder’s Mara Abbott, two-time Giro Rosa winner, will lead a field of top international and U.S. riders.
The race, held Aug. 21-23, will feature 12 women’s teams with riders from seven countries and many of the top professional cyclists who call Colorado home.
“There is a tremendous amount of excitement built around the women’s race, and it will be the first time in 27 years both the men and women share the same roads,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO of USA Pro Challenge.
The event will bring back international-level women’s stage racing in Colorado for the first time since the Coors Classic in 1988, when Boulderite Connie Carpenter-Phinney dominated international fields of riders.
“The U.S. women really have been consistently strong at the World Championships and the Olympics really since Connie,” said Sean Petty, the Women’s USA Pro Challenge race director and the former COO of USA Cycling, but since then, they’ve had to race mostly in Europe, and the event will allow them to showcase their abilities at home.
The three-day stage race starts with an individual time trial, which favors Armstrong, and then moves to a road race from Loveland to Fort Collins before the finishing criterium on a circuit in downtown Golden. The three days will feature time trial, climbing and sprinting disciplines.
“We are very pleased with the response and support from the women’s teams who are going to provide three days of exciting racing,” Petty said. “The women will be energized by the challenging courses, huge crowds and great host communities.”
Armstrong, who is not related to former pro cyclist Lance Armstrong, will use the Pro Challenge as prep for the UCI Road World Championships in Virginia in September as well as next summer’s Olympics in Brazil, Petty said.
Her team — Twenty16 presented by Sho-Air — features Andrea Dvorak, who recently won Oregon’s Cascade Classic, and top time trialist Allie Dragoo.
“The Twenty16 team is bringing a really strong team,” Petty said. “They’ve got a lot of weapons.”
The Twenty16 squad’s biggest challenger will most likely be the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team with Hannah Barnes and Katie Hall. UHC’s Coryn Rivera is one of the world’s fastest sprinters, and climber Abby Mickey will give Hall support during the hilly Stage 2 route.
“The UHC is also strong and pretty deep,” Petty said. “They can also be very much in the mix.”
Canadian and rising star Jasmin Glaesser — on the Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies team — most recently won the Pan American Games in Toronto. Veteran sprinter and time trialist Ali Tetrick will also be on the Optum team.
One newcomer to watch is 18-year-old Chloe Dygert, Petty said. “You’ve got all the way from juniors to 40-year-old women to everything in between.”
Golden’s criterium stage may be the most hotly contested with several good sprinters. Besides Tetrick, Rivera, and Barnes, look for New Zealand’s Jo Kiesanowski, of Team Tibco-SVB, and Americans Erica Zaveta, of BMW presented by Happy Tooth Dental, and Meredith Miller, of Pepper Palace Pro Cycling presented by The Happy Tooth.
Mara Abbott, arguably the most versatile of all American cyclists, will lead the Amy D. Foundation team. Abbott was second at this year’s Giro Rosa and also won Tour of the Gila and Redlands Bicycle Classic stage races.
The Colorado Women’s Cycling Project presented by Spark team will feature a composite team of some of Colorado’s top, elite women.