It was so close he didn’t have time to raise his arms skyward. Emerson Oronte (Horizon Organic/Einstein Bros) got his first win in four years on day two of the three-day Superior Morgul Classic in a criterium race. He attacked the field with two laps remaining and held on, finishing two seconds in front of second place Gage Hecht (Team Specialized Racing) and third place David Kessler (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized).
Oronte’s team rode aggressively throughout the sixty minute contest, placing riders in the break and driving a hard pace.
“It was quick, a little bit hectic,” the winner said post-race. “There are few places to move up and it’s hard to move up so it’s about holding position. The whole race was just kind of this washing machine from start to finish.
“We like to show at these local races and do well. We usually travel a lot on the NRC circuit and so when we’re here we like to let our presence be known and have fun and I think we did that today.”
Taylor Shelden (5-hour Energy p/b Kenda), Kessler, and members of the Primal-Audi Denver and Rio Grande teams also made strong efforts to separate from the field.
Oronte made his move when the field caught a breakaway of three guys.
“There was a little bit of a lull heading into the more technical neighborhood section,” he said, “and I just sort of hit it and put my head down and hung on to the end.
“I’m pretty happy. I haven’t won a bike race in a pretty long time so this is great. I really don’t know how to digest it quite yet. It’s a good group of guys and a great team and I’m happy to be racing in Colorado.”
The twenty-four year-old’s last win came in 2000 in the local New England Tokeneke Classic Road Race where he got in a break-away with Jeremy Powers. “I still managed to win and I remember being so excited about that,” Oronte recalled.
Today the peloton of about forty riders tackles a portion of the legendary Morgul-Bismark circuit on the final day of the Superior Morgul Classic. Oronte’s teammate Fabio Calabria holds the omnium lead. With four riders within five points of his total, the day’s action should prove to be one of the best in the local Colorado road season.
“We’re looking to have some fun and make the race hard tomorrow,” Oronte said on Saturday.
For full results see the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado website.
Gallery (in progress)
On Saturday Mara Abbott (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) joined seventeen women in one of the biggest pro-1-2 local road racing fields in Colorado to replay some treasured cycling history and update a bit of her own.
Abbott won the second race of the three-day Superior Morgul Classic, the Summit Criterium. She crossed the finish line solo after extending a lead she had gained while taking a prime in the closing laps around the 0.8 mile suburban circuit. Teammate Alison Powers claimed the field sprint for second.
Powers started the crit in the overall leader’s jersey after clocking the best result in the individual time trial Friday evening. Going into day three Powers retains the overall lead with Flavia Oliveira (FCS|Zngine p/b Mr. Restore) holding second. The three-day event scores overall results using the omnium system.
The Superior Morgul Classic has taken place every year since 2010 in the Town of Superior just southeast of Boulder. It’s designed around a venerated piece of American cycling history, the Morgul-Bismark loop. The circuit was one of the stages in what many consider the greatest American road race, the former Red Zinger / Coors Classic. Both put on women’s races as well as men’s; notable overall winners included Connie Carpenter Phinney and Jeannie Longo.
Day three of the Superior Morgul Classic traces the Morgul-Bismark loop, however road construction will again alter the course this year.
Criterium race action
After climbing from the start line the riders turned into an alleyway between residential driveways then continued onto wide road. A descent and turn led them back uphill to the start/finish line.
The strongest among the field emerged in the initial two-minute laps. Twenty16’s Abby Mickey, Maura Kinsella (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies), Abbott and Powers, Oliveira, and Tibco’s Patricia Schwager drove the pace early on, stretching out the field. Small splits appeared periodically at the front, but the group quickly came back together.
Powers for the most part remained tucked in behind Abbott or among the field. “Alison is doing the full omnium and I’m not,” Abbott said after the race. “So it was important that we kept her in the omnium points.” With both women racing extremely well so far this season and a field without full-strength teams, they intended to keep their heads up and see what their combined strengths could yield.
Both women said their knowledge of crit racing rules helped on a course where four categories intermingled and sorting out who belonged to which category proved challenging.
“Because we lapped so many people and we were so many different fields, it was like: Wait, we just lapped our own field, so now we start over. I don’t think some of the other girls realized that,” said Powers, the current national criterium champion.
As the race neared its fifty minute conclusion Abbott took charge at the front; the women at the end of the line struggled to hold on and several dropped away. Abbott secured a prime with five laps remaining. Nobody latched onto her wheel. She gained ten seconds in that lap and went on to finish on the circuit’s hill with a cushion of 28 seconds.
Abbott said the finish line across a hill factored into her result. First, she got her gap there when she sprinted for the prime. Then the hill hampered efforts to catch her.
“I think when people are chasing – especially if they don’t have teammates, the hill makes it harder to chase because it breaks up the race and it’s harder to get a rhythm,” she said. “So I think once I was off the front it also helped me, not necessarily because climbing is my strength but just because it makes it a harder race to chase on.”
It was Abbott’s first crit win in probably five years or more, a different kind of conquest to add to her recent history of successes. As an ace climber she’s more accustomed to showing her strength in hilly road races or uphill time trials.
“It was super fun,” the 2013 Giro d’Italia Femminile winner said, “and to be able to back it up with Alison winning the sprint, it was kind of perfect.”
For full results see the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado website.
Imagine a version of West Side Story where instead of two street gangs on hot summer pavement parrying with switchblades, over twenty teams fight it out on bicycles.
These twilight criteriums, like the men’s races in the national USA Crits series, typically begin as the last rays of sun lie horizontal; the riders stream around downtown circuits where thousands of spectators lean over barriers to find out who will be crowned the king of the night.
Drew Christopher describes how the atmosphere compares to racing during the day. “The feel of the race at night is definitely much more electric than ones in the daytime. This is especially accentuated in the Pro-1 race which falls as the last of the day and has all the build-up of the previous races. By the time the race starts at around 7:30 p.m., there is a large crowd built up and the whole of the course is alive with sounds of the cheers.”
Christopher is 29 years-old, a member of the Primal-Audi Denver Cycling Team, and a USA Cycling certified coach who works at the Inspired Training Center in downtown Denver. He’s been competing across the country this spring for the Primal team as well as guest-riding on the Seasucker/Guttenplan Coaching team and recently shared his perspective on night time racing with ProVéloPassion via email.
Earlier this month Christopher finished eighth in the Sunny King Criterium, a full day of racing and street festival in Anniston Alabama that ends with an evening contest for the pro men’s field. Sunny King led off the USA Cycling National Criterium Calendar (NCC). It’s not part of the USA Crits schedule but one of 18 NCC races in 2014, some of which are USA Crits competitions.
Sunny King concluded its twelfth edition this year. Like other communities with long-standing evening criterium events, Anniston takes pride in the race and festival that invites visitors into town, especially its designation as one of the state’s top ten events in 2006, 2010, and 2012.
When Christopher describes Sunny King, he cites the support of the community. “The starter of the race is the mayor of the town and he stresses the importance of the event to the overall health of the community,” notes Christopher. “It is also really well attended by locals who come out in droves to cheer on the competitors. Another really great accomplishment of Sunny King is its broadcast quality.”
He mentions organizers streamed the entire day of racing live online. In this coverage of the women’s and men’s pro races, the women’s finish occurs at about 1:03 and the men’s at 2:51 into the video.
So how does taking fast corners at night compare to railing the same lines in daylight? In addition to the charged atmosphere, Christopher says “The feel of the race inside the peloton is different at night as well.” Even though the entire circuit isn’t lit, the pack’s speed doesn’t slow down. Racing a crit after sundown requires more trust. And nerve.
“The speed in combination with the limited lighting makes for a very fast feeling out on course. Just like in a daytime race, the twilight crit requires riders to trust their fellow racers but to a further degree than the level of trust during the day,” Christopher writes. “There are lights on the course but they do not cover every meter and sometimes you ride through particularly dark sections. During these times your eyes adjust as quickly as pupils can move, but you have to trust that the riders around you will continue to move in a smooth and predictable fashion.”
It’s a unique experience for riders and spectators. “You will be able to enjoy some of the most exciting and interesting racing that can be found anywhere in the world.”
With four of the eleven races in the USA Crits series now wrapped up, the fifth and next stop is the 35th edition of the Athens Orthopedic Clinic Twilight Criterium on April 26th.
Next on the National Criterium Calendar is the Dana Point Grand Prix on May 4th in California.
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.