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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

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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.

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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.

Consider this before putting the kibosh on a redo

Paul Morris takes men's P12 win in front of local paparazzi

Paul Morris takes the men’s P12 win in front of local paparazzi

Paul Morris proved that something that ended totally wrong can go totally right the next time.

One year ago he turned his life on end and moved to Colorado. Very soon after arriving he started the Fred Prindle Memorial City Park Criterium. On the last turn of the sixty minute race he crashed, hard. He walked away from the park toting a broken bike.

Last Saturday he returned to the scene of destruction with one thought: I really want to win.

He tried to break away but the pack defeated his attempts. Then in the final laps around the two mile circuit he watched several riders go, past green green lawns, fountains spilling water, and spiky trees overtaken by hooting Cormorant fledglings.

Morris dug in and joined what became the winning break. Rubber-side down out of the final turn, he out-sprinted the others and took the win.

So the next time something ends in bitter disappointment and the temptation to stew in regret or avoid the situation begins to settle in your heart, remember Paul Morris’ victory at the City Park criterium.

The Rocky Mountain Road Club (RMRC) stages the Fred Prindle Memorial City Park Criterium. RMRC athletes currently compete as the Thump Cycling p/b Turin squad. According to a Thump Cycling representative, the RMRC, which has existed for forty-plus years, named the race after team member Fred Prindle who died on a training ride while attending college in California.

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New cycling sponsor COGA backs elite U23 Colorado-based team

Four U23 athletes race for the COGA elite team. Three mentors assist and race with them. (photo by ___)

Four U23 athletes race for the COGA Elite Cycling Team. Three mentors assist and race with them. (photo by Tim Lucking)

Four young men sat attentively around a dining room table in suburban Denver on a sunny March day perfect for riding their bikes. They ignored their smart phones for over an hour.

They are Ian McPherson, Maxx Chance, Liam Dunn, and Taylor Schmidt, members of a new elite under-23 cycling team. They were learning details about the nature of the organization sponsoring them, COGA (Colorado Oil and Gas Association). Also present were team mentors Taylor Jung, Jason Short, and Anuthee Korder. Jung manages and directs the squad.

Some might not align an outdoor, community-based activity like cycling with this industry. That’s exactly why COGA is championing the young sportsmen. The association hopes the team can spread a message regarding its members’ goodwill contributions in the state.

Jung points out that not many people know, for example, that the industry supplied relief for Colorado communities affected by the September, 2013 flood disaster. According to data supplied by COGA, donations totaled $2.1 million.

In mid-July over two thousand cyclists will have a chance to see the message in action at the Courage Classic. The team has invited COGA energy company employees and their friends to pedal over mountain passes with its riders to reach a $100,000 fundraising goal for the benefit of Children’s Hospital Colorado.

“There are a lot cyclists in the energy industry, which shouldn’t really be surprising since people who live in Colorado tend to love outdoor activity, regardless of what industry they work for,” notes Jung.

Another objective for the organization is to increase understanding about the oil and gas business. On that sunny March day James Cole, an energy subject matter expert with Colorado Legislative Services, supplied industry context and answered questions. Christina Delpone, a COGA employee, passed around information in paper and thumb drive form.

They talked about how most of the parts on their bikes can be traced back to the oil and gas industry, as well as the fabrics stitched into cycling kits.

Jung first contacted the organization through Delpone. “When Taylor first met with COGA he came prepared with a COGA specific proposal that aligned with our organizational mission and values,” she says.

“Also, Taylor has proven a commitment and genuine passion for what he does with the team and we could see that since day one.”

About 50,000 people in Colorado work in the industry, according to a fact sheet on COGA’s website. The organization’s representatives indicate the state ranks sixth nationwide for natural gas production and ninth for crude oil production. Significant growth over several years has brought more attention to the industry’s activities and raised concerns among some residents of mineral-rich communities.

At the meeting the riders and mentors speculated about the response to their title sponsor. Would people welcome a new cycling benefactor? Or would those critical about the industry give them an earful?

Whichever it would be, the four U23 riders seemed confident about handling either situation.

From the team and sponsor’s perspective, ideally when people see these young men wearing the COGA logo while training or racing their bikes they will connect the industry with a sport that is a part of a healthy lifestyle for many Coloradans – or at a minimum become curious about the flame insignia.

Jung says he’s not received any negative reactions thus far.

“I have had some very positive feedback from people in the [bike] racing community. They seem to like the idea of money from outside the cycling world coming into our sport,” Jung says. “Even people who I am guessing tend toward the liberal side of the issue have approached me with ‘So oil and gas…tell me about that,’ which opens a conversation.”

Investing in young adults

By choosing U23 riders for its first cycling sponsorship venture COGA supports a cohort of ambitious bike racers who, Jung says, needs assistance to make a successful leap from junior competition to the serious senior ranks and also lacks the attention and resources focused on other adults or juniors.

“When you’re eighteen you’re not likely to be ready to move to a pro level, no matter how good you are from a racing stand point or how strong you are as a rider,” comments Jung. “There is a maturity that builds over time and so a need for a step in between a junior program and a professional level.”

Taylor Jung in his bicycle-friendly garage

Taylor Jung in his bicycle-friendly garage with one the team’s Cannondale CAAD10s

Jung devotes himself to their cause. He launched his first development outfit in 2012 under the name pedal p/b Cannondale. Pedal, a bike shop in Littleton, also backs the current elite team. Jung owns the COGA Elite Cycling Team through his management organization, Rocky Mountain Velo.

The four U23 riders frequently race in the same field as mentors Jung, Short, and Korder. In their early thirties, the mentors can call on fresh memories regarding the chase for glory and struggles faced by their young charges.

Together with this guidance the riders benefit from logistics planning, transportation, housing when traveling, fully built Cannondale CAAD10 bikes outfitted with Shimano Ultegra components, and performance coaching if a rider hasn’t yet secured it. Additional equipment sponsors on board are Cannondale for helmets and gloves, Pactimo for performance-grade kits, Fizik saddles, and Continental tires.

This season riders expect to compete in a set of major events they likely couldn’t enter on their own; that could be due to cost or coordination for travel and items like mechanical assistance during events. Racing fees are covered for events that include the Joe Martin Stage Race in Arkansas, the eleven-day Wisconsin Tour of America’s Dairyland in June, and Oregon’s Cascade Cycling Classic in July.

“On a small scale I want the team to operate as much like a professional team as possible,” says Jung. “We allow them to focus on the racing instead of housing, transport, food, etc.”

Collegiate cycling offers a development opportunity for the U23 group and all four of riders compete as members of collegiate squads at Fort Lewis College, the School of Mines, or the University of Colorado. However, the collegiate road racing season is short and concludes in May when local and national competition is just heating up.

From the racing perspective the team has already enjoyed success with three wins. That means podium and finish line photos featuring the COGA insignia in communities across the Front Range and beyond.

Even when they aren’t winning, the riders have proved able ambassadors for their title sponsor. Last weekend after the three-day Superior Morgul road race ended, Jung walked along the finish line, meeting people, handing out business-sized cards titled “Frack Facts,” and talking about the oil and gas industry’s support for cycling.

Anyone interested in joining the team at the Courage Classic can contact Taylor Jung for more information.

Morgul-Bismark wins recall early racing days for Mickey and Burleigh

Abby Mickey (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) and Michael Burleigh (GS CIAO) won from the pro-1-2 fields after breaking away late at Colorado’s Morgul-Bismark road race. The Morgul-Bismark took place on day three of the Superior Morgul event which opened with a time trial last Friday.

They each savored victories that transpired on the course where their competitive cycling days began.

Abbey Mickey wins the 2015 Morgul-Bismark road race after summitting "The Wall."

Abby Mickey wins the 2015 Morgul-Bismark road race after summiting “The Wall”

Mickey crossed the line with an extensive post-up sequence. It began with arms raised in a victory salute. Then she smoothed out and pointed to the “UHC” logo on her blue and white jersey. Finally, she extended her arms wide looking for all the world like she was embracing the entire scene: finish line truss, official’s trailer, and the spectators watching from behind orange fencing and up on the adjoining hill.

“It’s not a huge race, but it is one of the first races I ever did on the road,” Mickey said. “I love this course.

“And to take the win with such a big gap and by myself, it was really fun. And even better to go one-two [with teammate Coryn Rivera].” Mickey’s advantage measured three minutes.

During her first Morgul-Bismark outing she had competed as a Cat 4 rider. Now she’s twenty-four and in her second professional racing year.

Michael Burleigh moments before winning the 2015 Morgul-Bismark road race. GS CIAO's next race is Winston-Salem Michael Burleigh moments before winning the 2015 Morgul-Bismark road race. GS CIAO's next race is Winston-Salem Cycling Classic.

Michael Burleigh moments before winning the 2015 Morgul-Bismark road race. GS CIAO’s next race is Winston-Salem Cycling Classic.

Burleigh began his celebration with a peaceful expression near the crest of the final steep climb dubbed “The Wall;” the rise concludes the 13 mile loop the men circled six times. Then he punched one fist skyward over the line. He chose the hand on the same side as his heavily bandaged right leg which had been injured in a crash the day before.

“I love this course,” Burleigh said. “This is the first road race I ever did, as a Cat 5, and I was hooked. So this is incredible to win in the p-1-2’s here. It’s certainly the best result of my cycling career.”

Burleigh is thirty-two and started racing about four years ago. GS CIAO is one of the top amateur men’s cycling teams in America.

Reduced men's pack chases Michael Burleigh into the Flatirons

A reduced men’s pack chases Michael Burleigh into the Flatirons

With under two laps remaining Burleigh stepped up the pace to put pressure on the other teams in defense of teammate Josh Yeaton’s placement in the omnium competition. He soon realized he’d outdistanced the reduced peloton.

“I didn’t really imagine I would be able to hold that to the line,” he said. When his lead steadied at a minute and a half he changed his outlook.

“I started to let myself believe I might hold that and I did. It was quite a great redemption after yesterday, hitting the deck so hard and taking myself out of the GC and causing so many of my teammates to have to drop back to get me.”

The satisfaction these two athletes experienced stemmed from a significant span of progression, from newbie to queen and king of “The Wall,” a storied hill made famous by the Coors Classic.

Of course progression takes more shapes than winning, and sometimes it shows in those you’ve influenced. Jennifer Sharp (Stages Cycling) coaches with retired pro racer Alison Powers at Alp Cycles Coaching. Mickey is one of their clients and Sharp motor-paces her. While cooling down after the race coach Sharp was ecstatic about the UnitedHealthcare rider’s victory.

Jennifer Sharp chicking a guy with one to go

Jennifer Sharp chicks a guy on “The Wall” with one to go

Sharp also enjoyed her own effort while racing in the pro-1-2 field. Despite the fact that the hilly Morgul-Bismark course isn’t her favorite playground, midway through the race she decided to try to leave a cautious pack.

“Then I had this gap and was like, ‘OK, they’re not worried about me. I’m just going to go.’ So I went.”

Mickey bridged up to her and flew away on a hill. Sharp powered on and with one lap to go she still held a gap to the pack. But she’d run out of water and ended up in nineteenth place.

“That’s all right,” Sharp said. “This is definitely not my cup of tea, but to have that kind of redemption on a day when you don’t think you have it, it’s success.”

For full results from Superior Morgul visit the Without Limits Productions website.

Gallery (more to come)

 

Amy D. Foundation boosts women’s road racing, starting with Tour of the Gila

This year’s Tour of the Gila starts next week. It’s going to be a humdinger.

Amy Dombroski races the 2012 edition of the Tour of the Gila. (photo credit: Lyne Lamoureux)

Amy Dombroski races the 2012 edition of the Tour of the Gila (photo credit: Lyne Lamoureux)

Golden, Colorado – April 24, 2015 – A composite team wearing Amy D. Foundation kits will start the 2015 Tour of the Gila, allowing more women to participate in the event that activated Amy Dombroski’s road racing career. Four-time overall Gila winner Mara Abbott (Wiggle Honda) headlines the six-woman squad at the American stage race based in Silver City, New Mexico. The event runs from April 29th to May 3rd.

“This is an opportunity to open up new doors in terms of the impact the Amy D. Foundation can have on women’s cycling,” says Dan Dombroski.

Dan Dombroski launched the philanthropic organization with Nicole Novembre in memory of his sister, professional cyclist Amy Dombroski, after she died in an October, 2013 accident at age twenty-six. In its first year the foundation supported young women cyclocross riders.

With the Gila composite team, the foundation takes a giant step toward its vision of fostering the progression of developing female riders across multiple cycling disciplines.

“To put together this sort of program in our second year of existence is really exciting,” says Dan Dombroski. “That’s much sooner than we initially thought the organization would be able to get into road cycling in a comprehensive way.”

Mara Abbott leads the women's pro-1-2 field at the 2014 Superior Morgul criterium

Mara Abbott leads the women’s pro-1-2 field at the 2014 Superior Morgul criterium

For Abbott, who recently won Redlands Bicycle Classic on a composite team, racing in an Amy D. Foundation kit is personally meaningful.

“Amy was a good friend of mine and inspired me in my cycling career with the attitude and determination she brought to her racing. I often wished to emulate Amy in my moments of struggle. Amy was a special person to me, and the work that Dan [Dombroski] and Nicole [Novembre] have done in the name of her legacy is also awe-inspiring,” Abbott notes.

“To be able to represent the spirit of such a wonderful person and ride for an organization that brings opportunity to others in a genuine way is an incredible honor.”

2014 Colorado state road championships elite women's podium (l-r) Annie Toth 2nd, Gwen Inglis 1st, Heather McWilliams third

2014 Colorado state road championships elite women’s podium (l-r) Annie Toth 2nd, Gwen Inglis 1st, Heather McWilliams third

Abbott will lead a talented group of veteran and developing riders. The roster includes Americans Kathryn Donovan (Colavita/Bianchi), Amanda Miller (Pepper Palace p/b The Happy Tooth), Julie Emmerman (Rally Sport) and Annie Toth (Groove Subaru-Excel Sports) together with Norwegian Janicke Gunvaldsen (Hitec Products). Donovan raced alongside Amy Dombroski in the 2012 edition of the Gila.

Growing opportunities for women
With a composite team the Amy D. Foundation brings six women to the start line that might not otherwise race the Gila because they don’t belong to a team entering the race. This year’s team requirement is due to first-time UCI designation for the women’s competition. In previous years a rider could register individually.

“The Gila has always been sensitive to the fact that going UCI would leave some individual riders out,” says Michael Engleman, a women’s cycling advocate who builds composite teams through Mission Sports Group. “Many races make efforts to find athletes guest rides, but as far as I know the Gila may be the only UCI women’s race that has formed a composite team so women don’t get left out.” Engleman is managing the Amy D. Foundation team at the Gila.

“Until there’s more women’s teams and teams with budgets to hire more riders and attend more races,” notes Engleman, “the only way for many athletes to advance is composite teams, and guest riding.” Composite teams have launched the careers of many highly successful women in the sport, such as Abbott and Amy Dombroski.

Typically these squads exist for a single competition. The Amy D. Foundation intends to replicate the format developed for the Gila at future events to assist more women and add stability to the composite team model.

According to Engleman, the idea for the Amy D. Foundation composite team originated from the angel sponsor who rescued the race with financial support in March after a title sponsor withdrew funding. The Gila race organization also raised money with crowd funding; the Amy D. Foundation and another organization will each receive ten percent of the proceeds.

Erica Zaveta with Dan Dombroski and Nicole Novembre (l - r). Erica raced cyclocross with the Amy D. Foundation's support for the 2014/15 season.

Erica Zaveta with Dan Dombroski & Nicole Novembre and child (l – r). Erica raced cyclocross with the Amy D. Foundation’s support for the 2014/15 season.

“An incredible community has helped the Gila continue and is also supporting the Amy D. Foundation and giving opportunities to new riders,” says Dan Dombroski. “That’s an amazing result and shows how the cycling community can help create a robust future for women in the sport.”

For the foundation, the Tour of the Gila is an ideal place to start its road racing initiative.

“A month or two after Amy first decided to start racing her bike, we went to the Tour of the Gila together,” Dan Dombroski recalls. At that time in 2006 Amy Dombroski was 18 years-old and a category 4 rider at her first of five outings at the Silver City challenge.

“We went there with one other friend, packed in a small car, and slept in tents. It was the first big race she ever did and her first stage race. So it’s very meaningful that we should start with the Gila.”

Amy Dombroski near mile 29 of 40 miles at the 2013 Grand Juntion Off-Road

Amy Dombroski near mile 29 of 40 miles at the 2013 Grand Juntion Off-Road

Grajales and Conklin conquer dirt, dodge brush fire to win 2015 Boulder-Roubaix

Cesar Grajales shows Boulder-Roubaix's effects after his win

Cesar Grajales shows Boulder-Roubaix’s effects after his win

[updated April 17, 2015]

Cesar Grajales, now racing for the bike manufacturer Team Stradalli Cycles, won the men’s pro-1-2 Boulder-Roubaix 2015 edition by escaping from a small break-away that formed during the third of four laps. A break-away proved decisive in the women’s pro-1-2 race as well. That victory went to Lucy Conklin (Rally Sport) who sprinted away from the lead group of four near the end of the final lap around the 18.7 mile circuit with alternating pavement and dirt surfaces.

Lucy Conklin won Boulder-Roubaix with a 12 second cushion

Lucy Conklin won Boulder-Roubaix with a 12 second cushion

Boulder-Roubaix lacked the cobbles that personify its namesake, the Paris-Roubaix one-day classic, but it dished out its own modicum of suffering.

Over fifty percent of the loop consisted of hard-pack dirt roads. Transitions from pavement to dirt and corners peppered with loose gravel unseated riders. By the end of the afternoon, multiple sets of knees and elbows had etched blood into the course’s northeast Boulder rural byways, and uneven surfaces left riders testing their flat-fixing skills or bumping along on deflated tubular tires.

Additionally, some fields clocked more miles than they had bargained for at their blue-sky starts.

Cool heads and tactics after a neutralized women’s race

The pro-1-2 women completed about 62 instead of 56 miles due to a mid-race diversion from the original route.

Officials reportedly made the change for one lap due to a brush fire in irrigation ditches along the course.

“The first lap we definitely rode [past] the fire but we thought it was a controlled burn so we weren’t really concerned about it,” Kristen Legan (Evol Racing) explained after the race. “And then the second lap they came up on the moto and said we would probably be diverted.”

As part of the diversion officials neutralized the race not long after a chase group had reigned in a solo rider off the front and a subsequent attack resulted in a four-woman break containing Conklin, Legan and her teammate Kate Powlison, and Gwen Inglis (Stages Racing). At the officials’ direction, the foursome stopped to await the field behind them.

When asked about the diversion experience, Conklin said, “It was a little bit frustrating…A part of me was a little worried because my heart rate was coming down, the adrenaline was wearing off. And then I just realized that that was happening to all of us. So I thought, ‘Don’t sweat it.’”

The field’s offer to send the break up the road after neutralization sorted out the situation as well. “Then we [break riders] could just say ‘OK, all that work wasn’t for nothing and all four of us are going through the same thing right now, so just don’t stress yourself out’ – because that will just fatigue you more than anything,” Conklin later said.

And so the four break members sped away after a period of neutralized riding and re-established the gap they previously held.

The Evol Racing riders later indicated they took the delay in stride as well. “The officials did a good job of keeping everyone as informed as they could…It didn’t hurt our race, I don’t think,” Powlison said. “But we had to ride a little bit extra. The legs will feel that.”

Only several of the ten categories on course were required to follow the detour, and the re-distributed fields resulted in confusion at the finish.

However, when another rider crossed the finish line ahead of her, Conklin knew the woman had somehow not taken the diversion and couldn’t lay claim to the victory. The Rally Sport rider celebrated with a fist-pump under the finishing truss. Powlison came in second with Legan next in third.

Conklin had looked forward to the event more than any race thus far in the road season; she enjoys racing on the dirt and called Boulder-Roubaix her kind of course. She also felt especially good about her result because she raced without teammates in a pack that included some handy sprinters among well-represented teams like Evol and Stages.

“For me,” she said, “it was a really tough race.” While trying to stay away with the break, she imagined the possible scenarios that could play out in the race, including how she could best respond to maximize her chances for success.

“And so I really tried to race conservatively and then when I put in efforts tried to make them more attacks than just pulling people,” Conklin later said. “And it worked out for me today so I was happy about that. They were great girls to race against so it was exciting.

“But it hurt. It hurt a lot.”

Grajales pulls himself into winning break

In the men’s race Grajales set himself up for a shot at the win by bridging across alone to a small break with two laps of the dry circuit remaining.

“From the beginning I was feeling good. Then the right break-away was gone and I thought, ‘Oh my God, there is the race,’” the Colombian said before the podium ceremonies. “So I had to go across solo. I went for it. It was like a hard TT, but I made it.”

Like Conklin, Grajales believed the race suited him. “I like this kind of race because it is like pure power. There’s not really a rest.

“It feels really good to win again, to be on the podium again. It’s motivation for the rest of the year,” he said. “It’s not an easy race. We had a lot of good guys, a big field. So it feels good.”

Taylor Warren (Colorado Collective) beat Camilo Zambrano (Sonic Boom Racing p/b Lucky Pie) in a sprint for second.

For full results from every category at Boulder-Roubaix, including collegiate races, see RaceRite.com.

Collegiate men's A podium legs circle the "pavé" Boulder-Roubaix prize

Collegiate men’s A podium legs circle the “pavé” Boulder-Roubaix prize

Gallery (more to come)

Life lessons from Lookout Mountain hill climb

Greg Daniel saved something for the end on Lookout Mountain

Greg Daniel saved something for the end on Lookout Mountain

Lessons from racing a bike almost always apply to life in general.

That’s why junior cycling helps kids build more than healthy practices and fitness. They learn how to bounce back from setbacks and disappointment. They learn the value of hard work and commitment. They learn how to work with others to create success.

Adults also benefit from cycling’s life wisdom. Saturday’s 4.5-mile Lookout Mountain hill climb offered lots of it, but a couple of lessons in particular stand out.

The experienced starters knew going too hard too early depletes precious energy reserves and can leave a rider crawling to the finish line, especially when the road there tilts uphill. So they paced themselves. They saved something for the middle and something for a final push at the end.

They knew it’s a good idea to keep the big picture in mind, and sometimes you have to slow down to speed up.

Lookout Mountain hill climb gallery

Alpha Bicycle Company – Vista Subaru junior team enhances talent pool as it enters seventh year

The Alpha Bicycle Company - Vista Subaru Team hopes to spray lots of bubbly during the 2015/16 'cross season. Here Lauren Zoerner sprays carbonated cider at the 2014 state champs.

The Alpha Bicycle Company – Vista Subaru Team hopes to spray lots of bubbly during the 2015/16 ‘cross season. Here Lauren Zoerner celebrates her 2014 Colorado championship in the 11 to 12 category with sparkling cider.

Adam Rachubinski and Aaron Zoerner started their new venture with four families and ten kids in a Denver suburb. Six years later the Alpha Bicycle Company – Vista Subaru junior cycling squad achieved international recognition during the 2014/15 season with rider Gage Hecht’s success in Europe. That’s a testament to Hecht’s talent, but also to the many hours the two founders and others have put into building the ‘cross-focused team which supports riders aged seven to eighteen.

“We had the idea to fill in the gap for a junior program in the south area of town after the ACA Mudskipper program was cut,” explains Rachubinski, who is the team’s director. [the ACA is the precursor to the current Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado – ed.]

“It really succeeded because the families all got super involved and took the time with the kids. The program has now grown to over thirty-five kids with a fleet of bikes and a ton of equipment.”

In recent years the average age of team members has leaned to the younger side of junior competition. “Our biggest age range is nine to twelve girls, followed probably by twelve to fourteen boys,” notes Rachubinski.

Last season the team increased the maturity of its roster by adding multiple-time cyclocross national champion Hecht. In his first year in the 17 to 18 category he nearly captured a medal at the 2015 world championships in Tabor in the junior race and finished fourth. His results spurred the team’s sponsors to support more riders.

Gage Hecht leads the Netherlands' Max Gulickx after the stairs in the fourth lap at 2015 world championships. Eli Iserbyt chases right behind them.

Gage Hecht battled with Max Gulickx (Netherlands) for third place at 2015 world championships

“The people at Vista Auto Group and Subaru have believed in our vision for the team since we launched it six years ago and they want to work with us to continue to grow the sport and help young racers reach their potential,” Rachubinski says. “After all of Gage Hecht’s success, we sat down and wanted to help more athletes. Vista Subaru was immediately on board, no hesitation. Those are the kind of partners that help a program be successful and viable long term.”

While retaining Hecht for the upcoming season, the team has expanded its talent pool in the older junior and U23 categories, positioning itself for more opportunities to shine in international races like the new Pan American cyclocross championships and world championships. Additionally, riders like Ashley Zoerner and Allison Moorhead, who have worn the team’s green and black kit for several years, have aged into the 17 to 18 category.

Ashley Zoerner on her way to another state cyclocross championship in 2014

Ashley Zoerner on her way to another state cyclocross championship in 2014

Ashley Zoerner’s resume includes a national championship and several state titles. She as well as Moorhead have been frequent winners in women’s cat 3 races and competitors in senior elite fields.

Evan Clouse charges the stairs at 2015 cyclocross nationals

Evan Clouse charges the stairs at 2015 cyclocross nationals

The new recruits are brother-sister duo Evan and Katie Clouse from Park City, Utah. Evan Clouse will be a first year in the 17 to 18 category this fall. He has collected UCI junior and cat 3 wins. At 2015 national championships he finished second after a mechanical took him out of the fight for gold.

Katie Clouse speeds off the line at 2015 cyclocross nationals in the rain

Katie Clouse speeds off the line at 2015 cyclocross nationals in the rain

Katie Clouse will be a first year in the 15 to 16 cohort. She often stands on Colorado ‘cross podiums alongside professional riders and has earned three national titles. Cycling Utah named her 2014 cyclist of the year.

Brannan Fix finished 15th

Brannan Fix at 2015 cyclocross worlds

A new U23 rider, Brannan Fix, also joins the youthful armada. Fix competed in the junior ‘cross world’s race at Tabor as well; he finished fifteenth out of seventy-plus starters. Fix and Hecht both live in Colorado.

This cadre of junior and U23 elite cyclists will likely steal the show at next season’s American ‘cross races. Traveling to the UCI junior races will entail planning, transporting equipment over hundreds of miles, and more. But Rachubinski won’t labor over it all alone.

Co-founder Aaron Zoerner contributes to the team’s well-being in multiple ways, including working in the pit during races where he stands for hours in all kinds of weather. In Colorado, that can and does mean snow, wind, and sub-freezing temperatures. He’s Ashley’s dad and father of another female racer on the team.

“It’s a lot of work to get all that gear to the races and get it set up, torn down and maintained,” Rachubinski notes. “I definitely have a lot of support people who help get things done for the team. A handful of parents have stepped up huge in terms of logistics and planning. The guys at the shop fill in a lot during the season and make the effort to keep the kids’ stuff running top notch.”

Rachubinski owns Alpha Bicycle Company, a bike shop in Centennial, Colorado where the team is based. Running a business takes dedication beyond nine to five work hours. So what compels him to take on three dozen kids, their parents, and caring for a raft of equipment?

“I just have a drive to grow the sport in a healthy manner. I’ve seen too many kids get burnt out or not be able to realize their potential due to the associated costs,” he says. “Those are two things that should never happen in a healthy cycling community like we have in Colorado.”

Allison Moorhead, junior in elite race

Allison Moorhead in a 2014 Colorado elite ‘cross race

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