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Rohan Dennis: managing anger and ambition

By some mix-up in communication, I am two minutes late. Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing Team) flops onto a bench just outside the teams dining room in a Breckenridge hotel after the time trial in the USA Pro Challenge. It’s 7:45 p.m. and he’s hungry.

And so the interview begins.

“After a stellar season, BMC Racing Team’s Rohan Dennis seeks to elevate his achievements further while managing that short fuse he talked about during the USA Pro Cycling Challenge…”

Read the full story at Australia’s SBS Cycling Central.

Rohan Dennis USA Pro Challenge photo gallery

 

Colorado Women’s Cycling Project p/b Spark. Hard-working amateurs meet the big time.

Fan support for Kimberley Johnson on Moonstone Road in Breckenridge

Fan support for Kimberley Johnson on Moonstone Road in Breckenridge

The USA Pro Challenge supplies women’s cycling with multiple firsts. There’s the race itself, a new three-day event on the North American calendar shaped in the form of a time trial, road race, and criterium.

The second original element matters enormously to women who race across Colorado roads in all kinds of weather. It’s a composite team of six riders who live in the state, named Colorado Women’s Cycling Project p/b Spark.

“Spark seeks to provide women the opportunity to race at a high level,” explained co-founder Kimberley Johnson, “and Colorado Women’s Cycling Project aims to get more women involved in the sport and invest in the community.”

The team may be the only all-Colorado women’s composite group assembled until now for a national-level competition. Sabrina David, Gwen Inglis, Kimberley Johnson, Kristen “KP” Legan, Jen Sharp, and Meg Hendricks started the race on Friday with the time trial in Breckenridge.

Saturday’s road race travels from Loveland to Fort Collins. The final overall winner will be feted after the criterium in Golden on tomorrow.

Johnson and co-founder Robert Carroll – the man behind Spark – present a squad that’s familiar to many due to the success of its members on the local Colorado racing scene.

“Although we want to be realistic when setting goals (going up against such strong squads as United Healthcare and Optum) we have a few strong sprinters, some good climbers, and some great support riders as well,” wrote Johnson by email.

All six women are accomplished athletes. The tall Inglis is the current state masters criterium champion and frequent criterium winner. Johnson is also handy at a criterium and has competed in higher level events such as the Cascade Cycling Classic. Legan, a former triathlete, has won road races, time trials, and hill climbs. David finds multiple podiums annually. Jen Sharp counts numerous wins on the road this year and is a current track masters national champion and coach. So far this season, Hendricks won an individual and team time trial.

“We are a smaller, low-budget composite team, and admittedly don’t have the firepower or prestige of many of the other pro teams who will be there, but I don’t think that means we have to be complacent and settle for pack finishes,” Johnson noted. “We are all incredibly driven, hard-working individuals, and we may surprise ourselves and others with what we can accomplish!”

The co-founders couldn’t image a race in Colorado without providing an opportunity for the elite amateur women who race and train there and so petitioned the USA Pro Challenge to add their squad. From there it was all-hands on deck. According to Carroll, everything came together in just two months after the invitation to join the race.

Multi-time national champion and retired racer Alison Powers serves as race director / coach.

Longmont’s Becky Furuta, a competitive cyclist who had worked before with Carroll on building a team for the North Star Grand Prix, which in the end was cancelled for the women, supported the effort with sponsor acquisition. Among other sponsors is Real Athlete Diets out of Boulder. The chef service is supplying three days of gourmet meals with items such as chimichurri chicken with mango, roasted chilled peach soup with goat cheese, and chia and flax seed waffles. Pactimo keeps the ladies in kits.

Johnson hopes the effort to make the team a reality for the USA Pro Challenge will carry over into future opportunities.

“Spark was developed as a platform for supporting women’s cycling, and I know Robert [Caroll] has huge passion for growing women’s racing,” Johnson wrote. “Whether that means continued composite teams for individual races or an elite team that focuses on NRC/NCC races, I know many of us would love to see some of this momentum extend beyond the USA Pro Challenge.”

For more on the Colorado Women’s Cycling Project p/b Spark, see this Denver Post story.

Meet Emerson Oronte, all-pro road racer on Team SmartStop

Emerson Oronte leads a group into the USA Pro Challenge Stage 2 finish at Arapahoe Basin

Emerson Oronte leads a group into the USA Pro Challenge Stage 2 finish at Arapahoe Basin

Emerson Oronte knows how to make an impression. On his first day of racing with Team SmartStop he drove a breakaway for nearly five hours in the rain on Stage 1 at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.

This week he’s been at it again. The 25-year-old featured in the breakaway on a circuit through hilly ranch country just outside of Steamboat Springs, Colorado on the opening day of the USA Pro Challenge.

Just before the Pro Challenge start Oronte responded to a Q & A for ProVéloPassion via email. It reveals how a combination of hard work, self-belief, and keeping promises opened doors in professional cycling and has helped him weather the ups and downs of the sport.

Originally from Cohasset, Massachusetts and a resident of Boulder since 2008 when he entered the University of Colorado, he is one of ten riders in the Colorado event that live in the state. Oronte competed collegiately for the Buffs in 2010. That year he also raced for an east coast squad, Team Ora p/b Independent Fabric.

He turned professional in 2011 with Jelly Belly and lined up in that team’s kit through 2013 while he finished his degree at the Leeds School of Business in December 2012.

When the alliance with Jelly Belly concluded he joined a high-performing elite amateur team based out of Boulder. As a member of that Horizon Organic p/b Einstein Bros. Bagels outfit he put his nose in the wind for teammates, tasted victory against uber-strong Denver-Boulder fields, and competed in National Racing Calendar events.

In July 2014 he became the U.S. cat 1 road race champion. Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies picked him up for the end of the year.

Next in a progression of kits, American elite team Alto Velo-SeaSucker added him to their 2015 roster. In March Oronte won the pro/cat 1 uphill time trial out of a field of 155 at the San Dimas Stage Race; he held the leader’s jersey through the end of the four-day staple in early season American road racing.

Emerson Oronte in the break at the 2015 Tour of Utah (photo courtesy of Team SmartStop, by Jonathan Devich Epicimages.us

Emerson Oronte in the break at the 2015 Tour of Utah (photo courtesy of Team SmartStop, by Jonathan Devich Epicimages.us)

Team SmartStop, a UCI continental squad, needed to fill a spot and hired Oronte in May.

Concerning the addition of the talented climber, Sporting Director Michael Creed said, “Emerson has showed a big leap in physical ability this year and a real desire to race which is always a positive influence on the riders – a good energy. He’s turned himself into a really talented GC racer but is also handy enough on the bike to help out when the stages doesn’t suit him.”

His first day of racing in Team SmartStop colors was at the U.S. road championships. In July he finished second in the high altitude Bob Cook Memorial Mt. Evans Hill Climb before moving on to the Tour of Utah. He’ll ride with SmartStop through the end of the year.

ProVéloPassion: When did you decide you wanted to be a professional bike racer and why?

Emerson Oronte: It’s weird to say but there are several answers to this question. The first time I really thought about being a professional was as a junior. Like most kids, I watched the Tour de France and fantasized about racing up Mont Ventoux or any of the other dozen iconic mountains they race in Europe. Mainly though, this was just fantasy—similar to picturing yourself in the Superbowl or at bat in the World Series—and I didn’t think much of it beyond that. By the time I was eighteen (at which point taking cycling VERY seriously) I had somehow convinced myself that I didn’t have what it took to go pro despite being very successful at national level events and having been invited to the USOTC as part of a selection camp for the national team. Instead, I focused my energies on going to school and in my freshman year at CU Boulder I burned out pretty hard and nearly walked away from the bike.

The second time I really wanted to be a professional came after the 2009 U23 National Championships in Bend, Oregon. Despite not training much my freshman year of college, I had already committed to riding for a local team back in Massachusetts and since I would have felt guilty quitting, I stuck with it. As it turned out, the team was a great group of guys and we traveled around and raced all summer and had a blast. Our season was capped off with a cross-country driving trip to Bend where we competed in the Cascade Classic and Nationals. Through what I can only assume to be divine intervention or something similar, I managed to get 9th in the nationals road race—I was pretty much the first non-Livestrong or Chipotle rider in the top-10 and the best placed first year U23.

The result blew my mind and for the first time in my life I actually believed “Oh man, you can do this!” The next season Jelly Belly signed me.

Most recently, the desire to become a professional came in the autumn of 2013. At this point, I knew Jelly Belly wasn’t going to resign me for a fourth year and I was at a crossroads. The previous December I had graduated from CU and had a degree, which I could leverage to get a full-time job—thereby ending my cycling ambitions. I don’t think anybody would have faulted me for joining the “real world”—after all, I had experienced quite a bit in my racing career to that point and turning over a new leaf would have been totally understandable.

Still, part of me really wanted to keep going because I knew I had more to offer and—as cliché as it sounds—I knew I had the talent to be successful. So, I gave it another shot and raced as an amateur for a season and a half and, as you can reasonably guess, it worked out.

Emerson Oronte leads another rider into the finish at the 2014 Mt. Evans hill climb

Emerson Oronte leads another rider into the finish at the 2014 Mt. Evans hill climb

Q: If we look back to 2014, assuming the team list above is right, you’ve raced in four different kits. That is a lot of change, and seems to show how hard it is to be a bike racer. What have the transitions from UCI Continental team to elite amateur team and back to continental team been like?

EO: The hardest part of the transition was probably the mental aspect of taking that step back to elite amateur. I see with a lot of very good amateurs this acceptance of the idea that professionals are just better—and for fairly superficial reasons. They’ll say things like “oh, so-and-so gets a massage after every stage. I can’t compete with that,” or “they flew to the race and we drove, they are so much better off now.” Honestly, it’s kind of an easy mindset to adopt—especially when you’re roughing it in a car for twelve hours to the next race.

Having been at that upper level before though, I knew that “pros” are just normal people who worked harder than the average amateur. Sure, their team setup has higher production value but when strip away those things you realize what really determines the outcome of the race is who worked harder leading up to it and who wants it more. Reminding myself of that was something I had to do quite frequently—especially on those days when you weren’t motivated or disheartened by whatever—but it definitely paid off.

Q: Let’s revisit San Dimas. Yellow all the way through. Wow. What has changed for you as a rider and person with that win (aside from moving to SmartStop)?

EO: I’m much more confident now. That win was definitely validation of all the hard work I put in this winter and it was a big sigh of relief to say “OK, you’re on the right path, just keep doing what you’re doing.” Prior to San Dimas, I just didn’t know where I stood and whether my training was working. That victory put those doubts to bed and I’ve carried that confidence throughout the whole of this season.

Q: At the end of Utah you tweeted, “Mixed emotions about the week. Pumped to be part of a great race for @TeamSmartStop but bummed by my own performances. On to the next one…” How much did that effort on day 1 cost and what did it give you?

EO: That first day definitely put me in a hole for the rest of the week and it was quite the humbling experience. In short, I did way too much work in the group and it cost me. That said, it was a good lesson in not only how to ride a break for that long but also how to recover from an effort like that. If I could hit rewind there are so many things I would do differently—especially nutritionally.

That said, Utah was a huge success for SmartStop and to play a supporting role in that is something I take a lot of pride in. Still, you always want to do more and I tend to be very critical of my performances—hence, that tweet.

Emerson Oronte in Steamboat Springs

Emerson Oronte in Steamboat Springs

Q: What is the atmosphere like at Team SmartStop? It looks like everyone knows how to work hard and still have a lot of fun.

EO: Team culture is something I personally think is very important but gets overlooked all too often. To Mike’s credit, he’s put together a group of guys that not only get along really well but who also are incredibly ambitious and want to prove something. There hasn’t been a race this season where it seems like guys are just going through the motions. Everyday, the people on this team—especially the staff—show up and do their job at 110%. It’s really great to be a part of something like that.

Q: This is your first time racing the USA Pro Challenge, yes? It must have been hard to sit it out the last four years (or maybe it wasn’t?). What does it mean to you to be in the race?

EO: Yes, this will be my first shot at the USA Pro Challenge. It’s funny, that last four years I definitely had a chip on my shoulder whenever this race was going on—whether it be because I wasn’t selected to race or I just couldn’t. Usually, I would avoid all coverage of the race (which was hard) and I refused to watch the highlights on TV. In 2012 when a stage came through Boulder I remember just leaving town and riding as long and as far away as I could only to return was I was sure the race as over. It sounds really silly now but at the time it frustrated me that my peers were racing and I wasn’t.

Q: What kind of ride would you like to have at the Colorado race?

EO: As with all the races this season, my goal is to get as many Strava KOMs as possible. Everything else is supplementary.

Just kidding…Mike has yet to lay out his grand plan for the team this week but my objectives include playing an active part in accomplishing those goals. Perhaps I’ll be given some free reign to go in breaks—if so, I’d love to take one to the line and see if I can get a result.

Q: You know a lot of the women who will race in the 3-day event overlapping the men’s race. What are your thoughts about this inaugural event and how important it is to them?

EO: It’s great to see a women’s race alongside the men’s event here at the USA Pro Challenge and I know a lot of the racers are excited to be a part of it. Personally, I see women’s racing as the largest avenue for growth for cycling as a whole and the more people see these races the more I think they will come to realize that it’s as exciting as the men’s events. With any luck that will help accelerate its growth. In the years to come I hope that these events will cover just as many days as the men’s race does.

USA Pro Challenge Stage 1 fan gallery

Devoted cycling fans of all ages came out to watch the USA Pro Challenge’s first men’s stage around Steamboat Springs. The circuit race provided an opportunity to see riders twice.

Those at the finish line witnessed Taylor Phinney’s (BMC Racing Team) first victory after a 15 month post-accident recovery period.

Taylor Phinney wins in Steamboat Springs

Taylor Phinney wins in Steamboat Springs

Gallery

 

Winn and Norris team-up with a winning program ahead of USA Pro Challenge

Get your Aussie on! Check out my piece for SBS Cycling Central on Drapac Professional Cycling’s Lachlan Norris and his partner in summer training, GS-Ciao’s Chris Winn.

Joe Dombrowski’s win on Snowbird calls to mind a 2012 ride, signals comeback

Joe Dombro wins on Snowbird at Tour of Utah 2015 (image via Tour Tracker and Tour of Utah)

Joe Dombrowski wins on Snowbird at 2015 Tour of Utah stage 6 in a “comeback” year after iliac surgery (photo: Tour Tracker / Tour of Utah)

Congratulations to Virginia’s Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale-Garmin) on his win at Snowbird today in the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.

It brings back memories of his 2012 climb up to the same finish line alongside then teammate Ian Boswell (Team Sky).

This year Dombrowski ascended with the help of Cannondale-Garmin teammate Ben King.

“Ben buried himself for a kilometer or two,” said Dombrowksi. “He rode a really hard tempo. When I looked back, no one was left except Franck Schleck and Mike Woods. When Ben swung off, I put in another dig. Frank followed at first, but eventually everyone was gone.”

Everyone. Winning solo, Dombrowski also took the race lead with a margin of 50 seconds going into tomorrow’s final stage.

“This win means a lot to me,” said Dombrowski. “I had a lot of success really early in my cycling career. I started late, and I was really good straightaway. I struggled when I moved up to the WorldTour, and I didn’t really know what was wrong for about a year. Around this time last year, we had finally sorted things out. I had the operation on my iliac artery last August.

“This year, it was like starting from zero, almost like being a neo-pro again,” Dombrowski said. “I’ve had to take my time to build-up and hopefully deliver the results I feel like I’m capable of achieving.

“This is the best thing I’ve done yet in this comeback year, if you will. I’m really happy about it.”

Read Cannondale-Garmin’s full stage report on the team’s website.

Ian Boswell and Joe Dombrowski right after 2012 Tour of Utah Stage 5 finish

Ian Boswell and Joe Dombrowski right after 2012 Tour of Utah Stage 5 finish on Snowbird

Tour of Utah Women’s Edition announces preliminary roster with last year’s top 3: Rivera, Heintz, and Miller

Inaugural Tour of Utah Women's Edition podium (l-r) Mandy Heintz 2nd, Coryn Rivera 1st, Meredith Miller 3rd

Inaugural Tour of Utah Women’s Edition podium (l-r) Mandy Heintz 2nd, Coryn Rivera 1st, Meredith Miller 3rd

The preliminary roster for the Tour of Utah Women’s Edition includes the returning 2014 winner, 22-year-old American Coryn Rivera of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team. Rivera has 68 national titles so far in her career covering three disciplines (road, track, cyclocross). She is currently ranked fifth in the individual standing of the USA Cycling National Criterium Calendar (NCC).

Last year’s second and third place finishers, Mandy Heintz (Fearless Femme p/b Haute Wheels Racing) and Meredith Miller (Pepper Palace Pro Cycling presented by The Happy Tooth) are also expected to compete.

The 2015 Tour of Utah Women’s Edition: Criterium Classic is an omnium-style competition that will take place over two days – Aug. 3 in Logan and Aug. 4 in Ogden. It is sanctioned by USA Cycling as part of the NCC.

All of the women’s professional teams currently ranked in the Top 11 of the NCC are confirmed to race in the 17-team field. In addition, the Top 10 riders on the NCC individual rankings will compete.

Rivera will be joined by NCC points leader Erica Allar, racing for LA Sweat; Samantha Schneider of ISCorp presented by Smart Choice MRI (second overall); Tina Pic of Pepper Palace Pro Cycling presented by The Happy Tooth (third); Skylar Schneider of ISCorp presented by Smart Choice MRI (fourth); and Kendall Ryan of Team TIBCO-SVB (sixth), who will wear the stars-and-stripes jersey as the U.S. national criterium champion.

Sprint specialist Allar has won the individual NCC title for four consecutive seasons. This year she has 11 podium finishes, including a third place at one stage of the Amgen Tour of California Women’s Edition and the Omnium title at the 2015 Saint Francis Tulsa Tough. Pic, a Bountiful, Utah resident, is a six-time U.S. national criterium champion and four-time NRC champion.

The ISCorp, a Domestic Elite team from Wisconsin, leads the NCC team standings by 472 points over UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling. This top team is led by the Schneider sisters. Twenty-four-year-old Samantha holds 11 U.S. national titles (U23 & Junior) and has two NCC event wins this year (Saint Francis Tulsa Tough and Chevron Manhattan Beach Grand Prix). Skyler, 17, won the 2014 USA Cycling Junior Criterium national championships and has three podium finishes this season.

(l-r) Coryn Rivera and  Lauren De Crescenzo finish 2nd and 3rd in women's p-1-2

(l-r) Coryn Rivera and Lauren De Crescenzo finish 2nd and 3rd in women’s p-1-2 at the Morgul-Bismark Road Race, day 3 of the Superior Morgul Classic in Colorado

Two Utah-based teams will fight for top honors as well.

DNA Cycling p/b K4 brings a roster including Lauren De Crescenzo and Breanne Nalder. Nalder won the most aggressive rider prize in 2014. De Crescenzo recently returned from racing in Europe.

Canyon Bicycles-Shimano fields a team led by Mindy McCutcheon, the current Utah state time trial champion.

Coryn Rivera wins the inaugural Tour of Utah Women's Edition. "[Winning] is special because we’re here for the first women’s edition race."

Coryn Rivera wins the inaugural Tour of Utah Women’s Edition. “[Winning] is special because we’re here for the first women’s edition race.”

Find an in-depth feature on last year’s race here on ProVéloPassion.

Team Presentation
For the first time, all the men’s teams will be joined by the women’s teams at a special event for cycling fans on Saturday, Aug. 1. The Team Presentation, hosted at the Logan Golf and Country Club, will take place at 7 p.m. The event provides free general admission seating for all spectators, and cameras are welcome.

The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah continues to be free to all spectators, making professional cycling one of the most unique professional sports in the world today. Read details about the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah by visiting www.tourofutah.com, as well as social channels Facebook (tourofutah), Twitter (@tourofutah #TOU15, #TOUWE15), Instagram (thetourofutah) and YouTube (Tour of Utah).

About the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah
The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, referred to as “America’s Toughest Stage RaceTM,” is a week-long, professional stage race for the best men’s cycling teams in the world. The 2015 event, Aug. 3-9, has been elevated to a 2.HC-rated UCI stage race, making it one of the premier events in North America. For women’s professional and elite teams, a two-day Tour of Utah Women’s Edition: Criterium Classic, Aug. 3-4, is sanctioned by USA Cycling on the National Criterium Calendar.

Host venues for 2015 are Logan, Tremonton, Ogden, Antelope Island State Park, Bountiful, Soldier Hollow/Heber Valley, Salt Lake City, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, and Park City. In 2014, the Tour of Utah expanded to seven days of racing and community festivals. The 2015 Tour of Utah covers 712 miles of racing and 51,442 feet of climbing. A total of 16 men’s professional teams will compete, bringing more than 120 athletes from 20 countries. American Tom Danielson of Team Garmin-Sharp claimed the overall men’s title for the Tour of Utah for a second year in a row. The inaugural Tour of Utah Women’s Edition was won by American Coryn Rivera of UnitedHealthcare. For more information visit www.tourofutah.com.

Why the Vic Williams Memorial Grand Prix will live on

Kirsten Williams leads a silent lap at the 7-Eleven Olympic Training Center Velodrome  in honor of her father, Vic Willaims

Kirsten Williams leads a silent lap at the 7-Eleven Olympic Training Center Velodrome in honor of her father, Vic Willaims

Track cyclists pose in a balance dance over their bikes – until the official drops the flag to start a race. Harnessing all of their bodily strength, they power through the initial pedal revolutions slowly, as if they’re churning through a trough of caramel.

Sweat rises almost immediately, especially at an outdoor track like the 7-Eleven Olympic Training Center Velodrome in Colorado Springs on a sunny summer day.

Naturally those salty drops evaporate after splashing onto the track surface. But imagine they seep into crevices in the concrete and leave behind slivers of souls, making athletes like Vic Williams forever part of that oval facing the sky.

In mid-June last year Williams left much more behind there; he lost his life in an accident on the bike. A new multi-day track event named after Williams took place at that velodrome two weeks ago.

At least two other memorial races occur on the Front Range in Colorado: the Bob Cook Memorial Mt. Evans Hill Climb and Fred Prindle Memorial City Park Criterium. They’ve become fixtures in the cycling community; the first has run for 50 years and the second for 44.

There’s every chance the Vic Williams Memorial Grand Prix will carry on for many years as well.

Memorial events endure because they remember special people. We remember those athletes for their physical presence, athletic qualities, and demeanor as competitors, friends, and family members. We remember them too for the places of respect they held and contributions they made to the cycling communities that surrounded them.

Riders and their handlers roll to a keirin start

Riders and their handlers roll to a keirin start

Like all bike races, the new one named after Williams happened because many people came together to pull it off. Races wouldn’t exist without promoters and course volunteers and riders. Coaches, training companions, and family help racers prepare to compete. Then there’s the spectators, people that look after facilities like the 7-Eleven velodrome, sponsors, and benefactors who lend equipment like barriers and the ubiquitous orange cones.

Williams promoted races. He ran teams. He was a leader, a member of the board of directors for the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado and the Colorado Velodrome Association. He coached juniors. With his wife he raised a young woman and track star for today and the future, his daughter Kirsten.

Eighteen year-old Kirsten returned to the velodrome within days of her father’s passing. Then only two weeks later she made the journey to California and won two U.S. junior national track championships.

A friend was spot on when he wrote about Williams’ appetite for learning and how he passed that trait onto his daughter. Bruce Hecht wrote this about Kirsten while remembering her dad: “As she has moved to the top of her cycling she is just like her father, always knowing she has one mouth and two ears for a reason. She will absorb anything of value, and quickly push out what she knows is wrong.”

Kirsten Williams takes off for the individual pursuit bronze medal round at the Vic Williams Memorial Grand Prix

Kirsten Williams takes off for the individual pursuit bronze medal round at the Vic Williams Memorial Grand Prix

At the Colorado Springs race in memory of her father, Kirsten validated Hecht’s observation. She raced the individual women’s pursuit and qualified for the bronze medal final. In that round she clocked consistent laps which ultimately shaved two seconds off her time because she had banked strength for the last laps. She was trying something new, she said. Previously she’d zoom off too hard in the opening laps.

As a junior cyclist Kirsten supplied her talent and positive spirit to the track community, her TWENTY16 Junior Development Team, and the local Colorado racing scene. She supported and encouraged other young riders.

Kirsten’s courage and persistence in coping with deep adversity has become a model in the cycling community she and her father shared and beyond. Now a member of the elite ranks, in August she expects to contest the individual and team pursuit at the U.S. elite national track championships.

On day two of the Vic Williams Memorial Grand Prix, shadows lengthened over the edge of the velodrome railing as the second session of racing paused for a lap of silence in honor of Williams. Kirsten led 50-plus riders around the oval, her head held high. Her mother played a role too; she draped medals over the top three riders in the completed events.

It must have required all of their strength to manage the painful reminder of a missing devoted father and husband.

The next day, Kirsten said, she and her mom were okay. “It actually was really good and helpful I think,” Kirsten said, “to feel the love and support of everyone still remembering him.”

Kirsten Williams in the individual pursuit qualifying round

Kirsten Williams in the individual pursuit qualifying round

Gallery

 

Catharine Pendrel and Raphael Gagne make US Cup a Canadian sweep

2015 Pro XCT Series winners, Catharine Pendrel and Raphael Gagne

2015 US Cup series winners, Catharine Pendrel and Raphael Gagne

updated with full report, June 28, 2015

Canadians Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team) and Raphael Gagne (Rocky Mountain Bicycles) both won the final US Cup event in the 2015 USA Cycling Pro XCT mountain bike calendar as well as the overall series titles in Colorado Springs on Saturday. Off the front from the gun in their respective fields, they stayed away for 90 minutes under a brilliant sun at an altitude of approximately 1,800 metres.

In the women’s race Pendrel led with teammate Katerina Nash who finished second. Erin Huck (Scott – 3Rox) took third.

“It was pretty much perfect for me out there today,” Pendrel said after the race, “because Katerina and myself got away early and so I knew I’d be with my teammate and no matter who came out on top it was going to be a good day for the team in terms of the overall and the individual day.”

Series leader Gagne raced in a group of three with Russell Finsterwald (SRAM) and American champion Todd Wells (Specialized). Geoff Kabush (Scott – 3Rox) snuck up on them at the finish after chasing the entire race and finished fourth behind Wells. Local racer Finsterwald placed second.

After winning the first race in the series at Bonelli Park, the Colorado win presented a neat wrap-up for Gagne’s US Cup efforts.

“This year I got my first US Cup win at the beginning of the season and here it’s a [UCI] HC race so it’s even bigger,” Gagne said. “So I am very happy with this.” The series title, he said, was another first for him.

As for whether 2015 marks the initial occasion of a Canadian sweep of the American series, Pendrel thought not. During the early days of the National Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA), which launched in 1983, Canadians were “pretty dominant on the men’s and the women’s sides,” she said. Pendrel won the Pro XCT overall in 2009.

Raphael Gagne with Rocky Mountain team rep Joe after the win

Raphael Gagne with Rocky Mountain team mechanic Joe Anderson after the win

Women’s race

Current world champion Prendrel and Nash built a lead of nearly 20 seconds after the completing the opening partial lap. Chloe Woodruff (Stan’s NoTubes) and Luna’s Georgia Gould each chased singly, followed by a group including Kate Courtney (Specialized), Huck, Larissa Conners (Ridebiker Alliance), and Rose Grant (Stan’s NoTubes). The remainder of the field consisted of lone riders and occasional groups. Soon the early chasers solidified into the group of Huck, Conners, and Woodruff.

Chloe Woodruff tries to pass Erin Huck near the top of the long climb

Chloe Woodruff tries to pass Erin Huck near the top of the long climb

As Nash and Pendrel stretched out their lead lap after lap, a fight for position and UCI HC points developed between the chasers and the two women who stalked them, Gould and Grant. Small gaps opened between Huck, Woodruff, and Conners, which appeared to be driven by Huck’s pace. Gould steadily worked her way forward as Conners lost some ground.

With about one lap to go Pendrel attacked and out-distanced Nash, winning over her teammate by 13 seconds.

Pendrel said the slick, gravely soil conditions played a role in selecting the winner. “We were pretty evenly matched and it just came down to who stayed upright pretty much on that last lap.”

Huck clinched third with a fist pump 30 seconds after Nash. The remainder of the top ten came in one by one. Woodruff placed fourth and Gould held off Conners for fifth.

Two factors played into Pendrel’s satisfaction with her results in Colorado Springs.

“It was definitely a slow burning start to the season and coming into here where it’s at altitude, it’s a little bit different for me. And so I’m really happy with how good I felt today because I just came off of a big training block too,” the world champion said.

“It also gives me confidence going into next weekend in Switzerland which is at the same elevation because my plan was to start hard today and just push my body and see what I could handle at altitude. And I’m happy with what I got.” The Swiss event is part of the World Cup calendar.

Men’s race

Wells left no doubt about his desire to repeat last year’s victory at the same venue. He attacked partway through the first lap, taking a handful of rivals with him.

Eventually the Wells group thinned to three with series leader Gagne and Finsterwald. Fernando Riveros (Raleigh Clement) flatted and lost contact with the leaders whom he continued to pursue despite another flat and a dropped chain. That left Kabush and his teammate Derek Zandstra with the Sho-Air/Cannondale riders, Stephen Ettinger and Keegan Swenson, in a four-man chase group.

“I know the two guys I was racing with are guys that live at altitude, which was definitely a factor for me,” Gagne later said. “So I felt like I had to go kind of steady and play it smart and that’s why I stayed in the group the whole race.”

Todd Wells takes charge

Todd Wells takes charge

The leaders built a gap of at least 45 seconds mid-way through the contest. From there the gap began to drop. With about half a lap remaining the leaders’ advantage had tumbled to just five seconds. The chasers, which now excluded Swenson, could glimpse the threesome. Kabush made a last push and caught the leaders before the finish line.

Gagne said he felt strong in the last lap and that helped him to best Finsterwald in the finale. Wells nipped Kabush at the line, getting third. Zandstra placed fifth.

The first time series winner will remain in the U.S. for altitude training. He’ll prepare for his next race, the Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada on July 9.

For full results visit the Sho-Air Cycling Group website.

Gallery

Taylor Phinney uses art for recovery

Taylor Phinney celebrates his 2012 USA Pro Challenge time trial win in Denver

Taylor Phinney celebrates his 2012 USA Pro Challenge time trial win in Denver

Facing a setback?

Taylor Phinney is still recovering from a crash a year ago at national road championships. Here’s how he’s moving forward, thanks to lululemon.

Read more in the blog on the lululemon website.

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