A composite women’s team representing the Amy D. Foundation kicked off the Tour of the Gila with a stage victory on Wednesday as Mara Abbott attacked in the closing miles of the 73.1-mile stage to win ahead of Abby Mickey (UnitedHealthcare), who joined Abbott in the late move.
“I’m really proud of the team today,” said team director Meredith Miller. “These six women have never ridden together before, but they each fulfilled their roles to help Mara take the stage win. We are all proud and honored to be here riding in honor of Amy D. That is a powerful piece of each rider’s motivation at the Tour of the Gila.”
Although Abbott is often seen wearing the orange and black of the Wiggle-Honda team, the four-time Gila champ joined the Amy D. Foundation for the Silver City, New Mexico race, which in fact was one of the events that kicked off Amy Dombroski’s road racing career
Founded in memory of Dombroski, a professional cyclocross racer who died in Belgium after being struck by a car on a training ride in 2013, the Amy D. Foundation organized the team to help more women participate in the race. Dan Dombroski launched the philanthropic organization with his wife, Nicole Novembre, in memory of his sister.
“This is an opportunity to open up new doors in terms of the impact the Amy D. Foundation can have on women’s cycling,” said Dan Dombroski.
With the Gila composite team, the foundation aims to further its vision of fostering the progression of developing female riders across multiple cycling disciplines.
The Amy D. Foundation brought six women to the start that might not otherwise race the Gila because they don’t belong to a team entered in the race. This is the event’s first year as a UCI women’s race, which means riders must race as part of a team.
“To put together this sort of program in our second year of existence is really exciting,” Dombroski continued. “That’s much sooner than we initially thought the organization would be able to get into road cycling in a comprehensive way.”
For Abbott, who recently won Redlands Bicycle Classic on a different 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 said on Tuesday.
“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.”
Alongside Abbott, the roster includes Americans Kathryn Donovan (Colavita-Bianchi), Amanda Miller (Pepper Palace-The Happy Tooth), Julie Emmerman (Rally Sport), and Annie Toth (Groove Subaru-Excel Sports), as well as Norwegian Janicke Gunvaldsen (Hitec Products). Donovan raced alongside Amy Dombroski in the 2012 edition of the Gila.
Composite teams have launched the careers of many successful women in the sport, such as Abbott and Dombroski. Typically, these squads exist for a single event. The Amy D. Foundation plans to replicate the format employed at the Gila for future events to assist more women and add stability to the composite team model.
“Until there’s more women’s teams and teams with budgets to hire more riders and attend more races,” said team manager Michael Engleman, “the only way for many athletes to advance is composite teams and guest riding.”
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 crowdfunding; the Amy D. Foundation and another organization will each receive 10 percent of the proceeds.
“An incredible community has helped the Gila continue and is also supporting the Amy D. Foundation and giving opportunities to new riders,” said 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 said. 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 event.
“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.”