Thanks to their bold moves last Sunday Tayler Wiles (Specialized-lululemon) and Joey Rosskopf (Hincapie Development Team) are the initial USA Cycling National Racing Calendar (NRC) leaders. On that final day of the Redlands Cycling Classic they each attacked and gained enough time on rivals to leave the event as the overall race leader; Wiles rose from fourth place in the general classification and Rosskopf from seventh.
It turns out these athletes hold more in common than daring and NRC ranking.
They’re both 24 years-old. Both attended college, Rosskopf at Georgia State University and Wiles at the University of Utah. They like to cook. One glance at Wiles’ recipe page on her website would send almost anyone into the kitchen to try the quinoa granola or pumpkin crumble, both gluten-free. In Rosskopf’s bio on the Hincapie Development Team website, he says he’s been baking bread.
Additionally, Wiles and Rosskopf both point to the importance of support from their families.
“My Mom has believed in my dream from the very beginning, when it was just me, my heavy pink bike, and some borrowed spandex, she was there cheering,” Wiles writes in a blog at velociosports.com. She also mentions the unflagging support of a friend, Matt Bradley, and her entire family.
The current men’s NRC leader names his parents as his biggest supporters. “When I was younger they would pay for and drive me to all the races. Now they try to visit me at all the races they can,” he says.
However, while Rosskopf cornered his bike in the pack as a young teen, Wiles was pursuing other sports. She competed in soccer and track in high school and didn’t start racing bikes until sophomore year in college. Just two years later in 2010 she finished second overall in the Tour of Walla Walla, second in the U23 category at the national elite road championships, and made it onto the US national team and raced in Europe. Last year she was second overall at Redlands.
At 6’1” Rosskopf is an all-arounder who can ace a time trial. He won the race against the clock in the 2013 Tour de Beauce. Last year he also won the two-day Paris-Arras Tour, finished third in the Philly Cycling Classic, and came in first in the fifth stage circuit race at the Cascade Cycling Classic.
The next event on the NRC appears to offer the Hincapie Devo rider a good opportunity to retain the series lead. The Winston-Salem Cycling Classic is a two-day event with a circuit race and criterium that begins on April 18. Specialized-lululemon’s calendar doesn’t currently list the Winston-Salem race. The 2014 NRC includes nine events and ends on September 13.
Ask men which active American female pro cyclist they most admire and you’ll need more than one hand to count the names on.
In an informal survey conducted via Twitter and Facebook, 24 guys responded to the question – the intention was to generate thought and discussion, not a statistically valid sample. A few respondents found it difficult to choose just one rider and named several. The resulting list of athletes is long enough to form three teams.
Sarah Hammer (Twenty16), Laura Van Gilder (Van Dessel), Carmen Small (Specialized-lululemon), and Maureen Bruno Roy (Bob’s Red Mill p/b Seven Cycles) received more than one shout-out. So did Helen Wyman (Kona Factory Team), the eight-time British cyclocross champion who likes racing in the US.
Sixteen additional women were mentioned. UnitedHealthcare’s Cari Higgins, Mara Abbott, Alison Powers, and Alexis Ryan. BMX national champion Alise Post (Redline). Vanderkitten’s Amy Charity and Emily Kachorek. Pan Am Continental track champion Beth Newell. Jade Wilcoxson and Amber Pierce on Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies. Ali Tetrick (Twenty16). Filmmaker Kathryn Bertine (SKN). Mountain bikers Chloe Woodruff (Backcountry Bike Team), Heather Irmiger (Trek Factory Racing), Sonia Looney (Topeak Ergon) and Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team).
A handful of women decided to weigh in with their favorite pros too. One additional name that popped up was Nicole Duke as an example of women who race and mother.
Why did such a long list emerge? Is it because America’s talent pool is deep? Do many women pro cyclists have exceptional, unique stories – like this one about Small and how she’s helping to raise her sister’s kids?
Or is it because, as professional photographer Dejan Smaic suggests, these women all possess a similar quality?
“Where do you start? Each professional female cyclist I know has unique individual qualities I admire,” Smaic wrote. “But, the one thing I do consider a rare quality, but common in each, is the sacrifice and commitment made by each one of them to get to where they are now. Following their passion and heart to reach the pinnacle of their physical and mental ability, and the drive.”
Like Smaic, a couple of others declined to respond to the question; they respect every rider and couldn’t choose only one.
One reader suggested having respondents include why they admire the riders they named. For sure that would enrich this piece and help others learn about these riders’ accomplishments. He mentioned Beth Newell, he said, because she made a dream come true by launching Keirin Cut Jeans. Newell has designed jeans that fit athletes with well-developed quads, such as track racers – hence the name.
The announcement of the Amaury Sport Organisation’s new race for women on the final day of the Tour de France has brought attention to the momentum that’s been lifting the ladies’ side of pro cycling in the last year or so. For a summary of recent advocacy activities, see the USA Cycling story about benefits expected from the new race. La Course by Le Tour de France is the third competition the ASO puts on for women. The other two are the Ladies Tour of Qatar and La Fleche Wallonne Femmes.
As cycling enthusiasts and others learn more about women’s pro cycling they’ll begin to understand why advocates have been lobbying for increased equality and recognition for the efforts and achievements of female riders.
Did you know: Kristin Armstrong, twice an Olympic gold medalist, twice a world champion, and five times a national champion, has not featured on a Wheaties box. Michael Jordan holds the Wheaties box appearance record with eighteen. Admittedly, the cereal maker favors heroes from ball sports and other Olympic events over cycling athletes by a wide margin.
Did you know: American women didn’t race in the professional national championships, which had been staged only for the men, until 2013. Previously they competed for national honors alongside amateur classes as part of the elite event.
New fans will discover women’s pro cycling has a much shorter history compared to the men. The latter’s story could be measured by the duration of the Tour de France which first traveled through the country in 1903.
Did you know: The first women’s UCI Road World Championships was held in 1958. For the men, road worlds began in 1927. The initial worlds time trial took place in 1994 for both groups.
Did you know: Men first raced bikes for Olympic medals in 1896; the Olympic Games didn’t include a women’s road race until 88 years later in 1984.
Did you know: Cycling’s governing body, the UCI, came into existence in 1900. It launched its first Women’s Commission in 2013.
Women’s cycling devotees can watch more UCI Road World Cup racing in 2014. According to Cycle Sport, this season the women’s world cup series “will receive full television production and broadcasting” for the first time.
UCI President Brian Cookson told Cycle Sport, “We’re looking at getting a coverage package of each World Cup round available on the internet, as well as available to broadcasters such as Eurosport, to help the process of change in women’s cycling.”
The messaging and images in the promo video for the series are engaging; will it encourage potential viewers to tune in?
2014 cyclocross nationals at Valmont Bike Park will go down as one of the best races ever for many of the elite women athletes, regardless of where they placed.
Meredith Miller catches Crystal Anthony, her breath, and the crowd’s energy
After stalking third on course Crystal Anthony (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) for most of the race, Meredith Miller (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) finally lassoed her quarry in the bell lap. Miller sprinted to the finish line to gain the last podium place and stopped just past the clutch of photographers. Anthony followed close behind for fourth place.
Someone trying to catch her breath can only utter a few words between exhales.
“Oh shit. Oh my God. Holy crap,” Miller said, as she leaned over the handlebars. “Crystal definitely made me work every bit for that.”
When asked how she felt, Miller looked up and replied, “Like I’m gonna throw up. Good, I feel really good. I’m having a hard time breathing. I’ve been a little under the weather for the last week so catching my breath today was a challenge.”
Miller spoke later with Dirtwire.tv about vibes from the spectators. “I couldn’t have done it without all the crowd here, my family being here. And they gave me that little extra bit that I needed to catch and pass Crystal. This is going to go down as one of my absolute all time favorite races for sure.”
Anthony, who took the holeshot, may remember this year as the podium spot that got away or as her best result in the last five years of competing at cyclocross nationals. Since 2009 she has improved her result every year, coming in fifth in 2013.
“I feel like I rode a pretty consistent race, was just riding right at my limit the whole time. Meredith, she rode a really smart race, kind of getting stronger as the race went on and I tried my best to hold her off, but she was just super strong at the end,” the Optum rider said. “It’s a little disappointing not to hold onto third but I’m still happy.”
Nicole Duke kept her eyes and ears open
Nicole Duke (Marin/Spy) shared thoughts about her overall performance after finishing eighth: “…I just tried to hold my own and stay consistent and when somebody passed me, not freak out or anything…”
“I have never heard my name called more in a race in my life. It was like every second somebody said my name,” Duke said. “It was so cool and there was so much encouragement. Even if I didn’t do as well as I wanted to and get on the podium it was like one of the best races of my life. Just hearing everyone out here was awesome.
“I just wanted to have a solid race and not be disappointed.” And she wasn’t. From Duke’s point of view, attendance at Valmont ranked among the biggest spectator showings she’s experienced at a nationals event.
Georgia Gould enjoys the feeling of winning while finishing fifth
Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team) lined up behind Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective), hoping for a fast start from the nine-time champion. Compton – who told Gould her potential for a good start based recent performance was about 50/50 – missed her pedal. Gould rode in about ninth position early in the race and worked her way up to a fifth place finish.
“The crowd was – I felt like I was winning the race the whole time,” Gould said in a dirtwire.tv video post-race. “It was awesome. People were going bazooka out there. It was so fun. I wish I had the legs to ride the way I wanted to for everyone out there…”
Katie Compton deals with the pressure of going for nationals win number ten
The national champion took a start position in the middle of the front row. She appeared calm and confident, arriving with superb late-season fitness.
Missing a pedal at the start didn’t cost her much. Sitting in about eighth position into the first turn, she flew up the ensuing long hill and was the first of the women to greet the top section of the course. Only Cal Giant’s Elle Anderson could try to hang onto Compton’s pace. She soon succumbed and Compton won her tenth US championship.
“It feels pretty good,” Compton told the media about extending her winning streak. “It was hard today with everyone talking about number ten. It was a little more pressure. It builds every year. It was amazing, everyone was so loud and cheering. It was pretty special, that last lap, I took some time to take it all in and appreciate it.”
Kristen Peterson celebrates racing in a robust women’s field
This Evol Foods rider is relatively new to cyclocross and comes from a triathlon background. She competed well during the 2013/14 local Colorado racing scene.
How did she describe racing nationals, in one word? “Awesome.” Then she added, “You can’t ask for anything more, having nationals in your backyard and on a course that we train on every week. Yea, it’s just so cool to be out here with all the women. I mean 115 women were on the start line, so you just love to see the progress in the sport.”
Peterson finished forty-fifth among the sixty finishers on the lead lap.
One thing remains the same no matter where Logan Owen races. And it will doubtless hold true tomorrow in Hoogerheide at the 2014 cyclocross U23 world championships.
Sometime before he joins the field in the staging area prior to the start, his mom will text him or otherwise find a way to send him this message: GFWSB. It stands for “Go Fast Win Seabiscuit.”
His grandparents, uncles, parents – pretty much everyone in his family – and he sat down to watch the movie Seabiscuit when it was first released about ten years ago, which would have been before Owen’s first cyclocross national championship victory. The thoroughbred’s comeback story transformed into the motivational mantra GFWSB that fuels Owen when he races.
After winning his ninth straight ‘cross national championship in January, Owen explained that he’s had to comeback in the past to win nationals. Sharing the mantra between mom and son has become a tradition, one could even say a part of his pre-race preparation.
Every year at ‘cross nationals his mom holds a sign inked with GFWSB. This year the back side of the sign read, “Nine is fine.”
Tomorrow in Holland Owen’s targeting a top ten from his first go in the U23 category at worlds. He said in January that he believes the course suits him well. One strong favorite to beat is Holland’s Mathieu van der Poel, Owen’s major nemesis last year in the 17 – 18 worlds race.
“Last year I was on such good form that I think if I didn’t have all the mechanicals and the crash at the beginning, if I rode a clean race, I think I would have gave [van der Poel] a run for his money. I had really good legs that day,” Owen said. “I haven’t really felt that great at all this season, except for maybe in Italy for road worlds…Hopefully I’m on great form again [in Hoogerheide] and I can challenge him again and maybe that would be my ticket to a top five, having that good of legs again.”
Perhaps the thought of GFWSB will give him the legs he needs.
Owen will be joined by the other men on the U.S. U23 team, Curtis White, Cody Kaiser, Tobin Ortenblad, and Yannick Eckmann. Eckmann is also targeting a top ten result in Hoogerheide.
They surrounded the 5280 Stairs like fans swarm l’Alpe d’Huez switchbacks during the Tour de France. They took up position at the ditch, the sand hill, the uphill barriers, and by the blue course tape in-between. Along the start-finish straight they pressed shoulder to shoulder, five deep in places.
The hometown crowds came out in droves for cyclocross nationals at Valmont Bike Park, especially for the elite races. And the athletes noticed.
Here’s what three elite men from Colorado had to say about the crowds and their rides.
Allen Krughoff (Raleigh-Clement)
Among 105 starters, Krughoff made it around the initial two turns and up the first climb in sixth position.
“I missed four crashes at the start,” he said. “I felt like that scene in Star Wars where they’re going into the Death Star.”
Never had he sped past and soaked in the cheers of that many supporters in the crowd.
“So great. I made these goofy tee-shirts I bought from the thrift store. It’s just awesome.”
Always one to note the performance of his equipment, Krughoff added, “We had these Clement MXP tires and they’re just insane. It was awesome all around.” The MXP is an all-conditions model.
Krughoff finished fifth with a show of strength that helped earn him a discretionary slot for the world championships.
Speaking about his nationals result, he said, “I consider this a win. That was my top goal - fifth, legitimate goal. I was like, ‘If I get fifth, you can dump the champagne on me.’ So here we are.’”
Brady Kappius (Clif Bar)
“It was good. I had a good start and then I might have faded a bit. My stomach was giving me issues half-way through,” Kappius said. “Russell [Finsterwald] dropped me like a rock.” Kappius gives his elite mountain bike friend, Finsterwald, pointers on cyclocross skills.
“When I came through with two to go I figured out I was the last person who wasn’t pulled so the last two laps were just like a joy ride. It was fun.” Only one-fifth of the starters, 22 riders, finished on the lead lap.
Where did the Clif Bar rider find the most fun? “The 5280 Stairs were sweet – there were so many people there – and all the technical spots. I was hearing my name every two seconds. It was pretty awesome.”
Hours before the elite race, Maxx Chance (Clif Bar Devo) placed second in the 17 – 18 race. He had plenty of time to change and return to watch his elite counterparts compete. He cheered on Kappius with a poster. “Oh yea, I saw my poster,” Kappius said. “He was trying to hit me with it.”
Danny Summerhill (K-Edge/Felt)
“It’s always nice to race in front of a hometown crowd,” Summerhill told Dirtwire.tv. I would have liked to race a little bit better in front of them, but…”
Summerhill started fast. He placed seventh. In the finish zone he leaned on his Felt bike, quiet and with a heavy face that lacked his warm smile. Clearly he wouldn’t count Valmont among his best ‘cross nationals outings. “I’m not too happy with [my race]. Not the day I was hoping for by any stretch of the imagination,” Summerhill said.
When asked what happened he offered that he was “just trying to get my hands back together from Bend and they’re not really there. Yea, that’s all I got.” One month earlier on December 7, riders raced in windy, snowy conditions and near zero degree Fahrenheit cold at the Deschutes Brewery Cup in Bend, Oregon. Some later reported frostbike and lack of feeling in their fingers.
At nationals in Boulder, the K-Edge/Felt rider’s supporters weren’t shy. Alex Howes, now a roadie with Garmin-Sharp, blasted an airhorn when Summerhill swung by. The two shared the ‘cross nationals 17 – 18 podium in 2005 when Summerhill earned gold and Howes silver.
“One thing I learned quite quickly is that pressure and race anxiety is felt by the unprepared. When you are as well prepared as anybody out there, there is no point in being stressed out; just control what you can control.” — Erin Hartwell, U.S. Olympian track cyclist
Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) took back the stars and stripes at the 2014 cyclocross national championships by riding a completely different race from his last outing with the nationals favorites at Valmont Bike Park and carrying out pre-event preparation that left almost nothing to chance.
Three months ago Powers approached the Boulder Cup at Valmont conservatively, attacking only on the final lap and taking advantage of others’ mistakes to win. He said then that he didn’t want to risk going too hard at altitude. So he carefully measured out his efforts.
At nationals on Sunday he turned that plan upside down, scoring the holeshot and then driving into first position at the top of the circuit’s initial hill. His speed took Ryan Trebon (Cannondale – Cyclocrossworld.com) by surprise. “I thought it would be a hard final twenty minutes, but Jeremy went from the start, and I had to suffer,” Trebon told the media.
The elevation in Boulder hadn’t changed. But it appeared something had changed in Powers.
He arrived in Boulder the day after Christmas, sixteen days prior to the nationals elite race. Powers, who is from Massachusetts, indicated he felt stronger for his time at 5,400 feet (1,646 meters).
“Today was a great day. I had great legs,” he said after becoming champion again. “Colorado treated me right. Being here early was the right decision. I was able to push and push and push. I never felt like I was out of oxygen.”
Possibly Powers developed increased oxygen efficiency over two weeks at altitude. But if, as research indicates, that wasn’t enough time to create a real physiological boost, how is it Powers appeared and felt more effortless on course than the others?
Perhaps he breathed easily because he gained a psychological edge from dedicating himself to two weeks of pre-race preparation. An edge that reinforced his mental game. Training on Boulder roads and pre-riding the nationals course from the earliest opportunity signified a commitment to produce his best race which translated into performance. When he got to the start line he could fire it up from the gun and push even harder on the first hill because he believed he could dig deeper. Because he was ready.
Probably Powers’ preparation for nationals extends back to the evening of last year’s championship event where passed on the laurels to Jonathan Page. Powers wanted to reclaim the title this year “Pretty bad,” he told ProVéloPassion on Sunday. “I felt like last year I definitely came up short on my own expectations…”
In 2013 he came to Madison tired. He rode like he towed a mechanic’s toolbox off the back of his bike, finishing sixth and three minutes off the winning pace.
This season he adjusted his game plan to arrive at his best later in the season for nationals. And it worked.
But he’s not taking full credit for pulling on a kit next season that includes red, white, and blue on more than just the collar.
“…I feel like, any time you are able to win a national championship there are so many things that go into it,” he said on Sunday. “So to win today, it’s not just my win. It’s for a lot of people. Every single one of my family members is here and to be able to do that in front of them, it’s a lifetime of work.”
Stay tuned for more nationals photos and comments from Colorado-based riders Danny Summerhill, Allen Krughoff, and Brady Kappius.