2011 Women’s Prestige Cycling Series kicks off at Redlands Bicycle Classic

The Women's Prestige Cycling Series kicks off Thursday with the Redlands Bicycle Classic in California.

2011 WPCS logoThe Women’s Prestige Cycling Series kicks off Thursday with the Redlands Bicycle Classic in California.

Redlands, which runs through Sunday, is the first of four stage races in the series, which is beginning its eighth season as the only national-level competition produced by women, for women.

The other events are the SRAM Tour of the Gila in New Mexico (April 27-May 1); the Nature Valley Grand Prix in Minnesota (June 15-19); and the Bend Memorial Clinic Cascade Cycling Classic (July 19-24) in Oregon.

All four races are part of USA Cycling’s National Racing Calendar (NRC).

The series has its roots in a discussion at the 2003 Women’s Cycling Summit Conference, held at the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Giana Roberge, co-founder of the series and director of this year’s Peanut Butter & Co. Twenty12 squad, said the idea was “to create a focused series that women’s teams could build their seasons around,”

“The National Racing Calendar just had too many events and had became a competition about who had the biggest travel budget,” she said. “We wanted a series all women’s teams could equally take ownership of while leveling the playing field.”

Lisa Hunt, manager and sport director of Team TIBCO-To The Top, said the women’s series “does a great deal to enhance the sport, and get it out a bit from the shadow of the men’s side of the sport.”

“I think you can see that effect in the improvement in quality of the racing here in the U.S.,” she said. “Just look at the recent success of U.S. women on the road in some of the biggest races internationally and you can see how the WPCS has contributed to that growth in talent, and in the talent pool.”

The series includes four separate competitions: top overall individual; best young rider; best sprinter; and top team. Special jerseys, provided by custom clothing manufacturer Champion System, will identify the leaders in the first three classifications.

Defending series champions are Mara Abbott (top individual and best young rider) and Peanut Butter & Co. Twenty12 (best team). The late Carla Swart won the best-sprinter competition last year.