They didn’t show up for a Sunday walk in the park.
Most of the women who started the third and last day of the Superior Morgul Classic barely remained upright on their bikes when they crested “the wall” for the final time, weaving across the road as they relied on whatever momentum remained after the final push to the line to carry them forward.
“If we don’t challenge ourselves in races like this, when we go race a big race then we are not equipped to race a big race,” said the day’s winner, Flavia Oliveira (Firefighters Cycling / Upsala CK).
The women stuck together off the start line. In the second lap the field separated into several groups on the road. The lead set included six riders.
Then in the turn around the last of four 12-mile out-and-back laps Oliveira and the holder of the omnium lead, Alison Powers (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team), struck out as a pair.
“We were in a breakaway of four or five and I just wanted to see who still had anything left and that was Ali [Powers],” Oliveira said after the podium ceremonies. “With one lap to go I just pushed the pace. I attacked and she was the only one who responded so we worked together into the finish.”
Given the uphill finale, to net the win and a nice check Powers had to try to get there alone.
“I knew Flavia would be a hard challenger on an uphill finish and I tried to get rid of her like five miles from the finish,” Powers stated, “but I couldn’t do it. She was still there.
“I got to the wall and we went going really slowly because you don’t want to go too early on an uphill finish. I went a little too early, but I did my best and she was just stronger right there at the end. It was really fun to have that competition.”
Oliveira won just two seconds in advance of Powers. “It was just a matter of patience, Oliveira said. “It’s a hard finish because it is uphill and those 200 meters are much longer than we think they are, so you have to wait until it’s basically the last 25 yards.
“It was a challenging course. Everybody’s so fit right now, getting ready for nationals and so Ali was phenomenal today; she is so strong.”
Originally from Brazil, Oliveira has lived in the US since her late teens and previously raced in Europe on the Italian Michela Fanini team. She moved from California to Littleton, Colorado about a month ago. Powers and the other top five women all reside in Colorado.
Abby Mickey (Twenty16) followed a minute later for third. Amy Charity (Vanderkitten) finished fourth and DNA’s Heather Fischer fifth.
Powers’ second place in the road race meant she kept the omnium leader’s jersey, which she won for the first time. “It is really exciting,” she said. “This is a big local race on roads that I train on a lot and it’s just great training.
“We have good competition here in Colorado and I’m happy to represent.”
For full result see the Without Limits website.
Combining strategically placed prize money, a tough course, and an interesting field containing a previous two-time winner delivered one complex, awesome day of bike racing at Sunday’s men’s pro-1-2 road race in the Superior Morgul Classic.
The race concluded three days of competition in the fourth edition of the Superior Morgul Classic. The highlight of the event, the route traced a portion of the historic Morgul-Bismark circuit, ending in the same place as the Coors Classic stage at the top of “the wall,” a mile-long climb with the steepest estimated 12% grade near the summit.
This year the pro-1-2 men completed six laps of an out-and-back course for a total 73 miles and 4,500 feet of climbing over three hours. The day’s difficulty warranted a deeper purse than the previous time trial and criterium rewards. With that purse also larger than the overall three-day omnium prize, the win represented an attractive target, for some more valuable than the palmare of a local stage race first place.
Other factors further complicated tactical decisions in the field.
Going into the road race Fabio Calabria (Horizon Organic/Einstein Bros) held a slim lead in the omnium, one point ahead of Gage Hecht (Team Specialized Racing) who had upgraded to cat 2 after winning the cat 3 Tour of Gila earlier in the month; three other riders were placed within four points of Calabria’s lead. Also, Horizon Organic/Einstein Bros possessed additional cards to play. After his victory in the criterium on Saturday Emerson Oronte stood within striking distance of the omnium lead. Chris Winn had won the road race twice before.
As if that wasn’t enough to make things interesting, the field contained many freelancers without teammates who could form secret alliances. Finally, anyone who didn’t drink or fuel enough under the hot sun could suffer from cramps or simply blow up.
With all of this in mind, seventy riders rolled away from the road race start line on Sunday morning.
Early on Scott Tietzel (California Giant Cycling Team) and Kevin Nicol (Natural Grocers) tested their legs in a two-man breakaway. Seven riders formed a chase group: Ian London (Primal-Audi Denver), Jonathan Toftoy, Leroy Popowski (Juwi-Slipstream), Kit Recca (Horizon Organic/Einstein Bros), Jon Moro, and Riley Majeune-Fagan with one of his Rio Grande teammates.
Horizon Organic/Einstein Bros men guided the peloton, Calabria inserted safely after them. With the break containing no significant threats to the overall as well as one of their teammates, the Horizon boys didn’t need to chase overly hard. But unfurling too much leash could hurt Winn’s chances at a hat trick.
“Our team was at the front all day virtually,” Winn said after the race. “A lot of guys on the team did a ton of work the first four/five laps to keep things together and kept a few of us fresh for the finish.”
In the third lap the two groups off the front consolidated and shed a few guys.
The main field chipped away at the break’s advantage of 90 seconds in the remaining three laps, reabsorbing all but three while shelling fatigued riders.
Hecht rode in the pack, biding his time. Just four omnium points shy of Calabria’s total, Taylor Shelden (5-hour Energy p/b Kenda) later said he launched attacks but couldn’t stay away.
The remaining front-runners – London, Recca, and Jon Tarkington (Natural Grocers) were pulled back during the final lap’s trip west toward the Flatirons and snow-topped Rocky Mountains. Once again Shelden went for it, this time on the climb coming back east. He flew around the corner and under the finish line with about half a lap remaining.
Calabria was with him.
Maybe the Aussie could have waited for other riders high in the standings to respond to the real threat of a feisty Shelden. Or maybe the others were worn down by five trips up the wall and the thought of one more.
Whatever the reason, as Calabria took that corner his face resembled one of a man thrilled to be aggressively in the hunt.
The pack arrived a little over ten seconds later led by a Rio Grande rider, Maxx Chance (Panache), Michael Burleigh (Primal-Audi Denver), and several Horizon Organic/Einstein Bros men next in line. Burleigh had started the day third overall in the omnium competition.
Before the final climb up the wall everything came together in the fastest of the race’s six laps.
Winn stepped on the gas with 200 meters to go and claimed his third victory wearing a wide smile as he crossed the line five long seconds before eighteen year-old Bissell Development’s Keegan Swirbul.
The master of the Morgul-Bismark wall said gaging his effort on the final ascent helped him score the win.
“It was kind of one of those things where if you can snap that rubber band, and I can get that gap and the initial acceleration, then that can be just the game-changer right there.”
As Winn caught his breath he replied to a question about the possibility of the sixteen year-old Hecht coming away with first in the omnium.
“To win two stages but come away without the overall is definitely bittersweet because we were going all-in for Fabio today,” Winn said. “So it’s not quite the perfect ending, but sometimes bike racing doesn’t always fall out the way you want it.”
In the road race Hecht got third just over a second after Swirbul. Shelden arrived in twenty-sixth place. Calabria, Oronte, and Burleigh finished in the top ten, but short of points to claim first overall in the omnium. That prize would go to Hecht, with Oronte and Winn completing the omnium podium in second and third.
The junior’s good fortune came as a bit of surprise since he’d finished ninth in Friday’s time trial.
“I didn’t think I’d move up much past my position where I was on Friday,” Hecht said. “So I’m pretty stoked about how I did today and how I’ve done this week.”
The three-day Superior Morgul Classic, his first omnium and road race as a pro-1-2, was “pretty tough,” Hecht said. “That last lap I was really starting to question my ability to stay with the group actually.”
While the omnium points were tallied the junior waited on hallowed ground with his family and over 100 athletes in the same place where Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond stood almost thirty years ago.
When asked what his reaction might be if he took the overall, Hecht said, “I’d be extremely excited because it’s my first real major race as pro-1-2 and I think that would be such an awesome feat to have done.”
And so it was.
For full results see the Without Limits or Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado websites.
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 Bicycle 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.