From the costumes on Moonstone Road to the packed crowds on Washington Street, happiness and excitement filled the air through the three days of women’s racing over the weekend from Breckenridge to Golden in Colorado.
Kristin Armstrong (Twenty-Sho-Air) soaked up the energy from the fans in downtown Golden after the conclusion of the inaugural Women’s USA Pro Challenge, shining in bright yellow as overall winner.
“I think that people always ask why I continue to comeback, and it’s moments like these, this is why I comeback,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong is not slouching around in her second comeback — she has goals of another world championship and Olympic gold medal. Despite the high expectations, she is doing more than racing her bike, she is helping grow the sport both among her fellow riders and the public. As one of the most recognizable names on the women’s side, her voice is heard, and she is making it known that women’s cycling is the next big thing.
Among the riders
Women’s racing has grown exponentially the last couple of years in terms of popularity, and Armstrong didn’t hide her emotions when it came to how she felt about racing in Colorado.
“This is historical, and I am so happy and proud to be part of this moment and anything that I can do to help grow this sport.”
Despite the draw of the Women’s USA Pro Challenge, it did not offer any UCI points. This didn’t deter Armstrong however, “It has to start somewhere, and UCI classification isn’t necessarily the end all be all. I know UCI wants to have every race be under their umbrella and points, but I think we need to start somewhere and it takes a lot more funding to have a UCI race. I’d much rather have the excitement and them spending more dollars getting this initial race started, then this to be half the quality and have them spend the money to get UCI [status].”
While Armstrong is a voice of women’s cycling, her presence in the peloton raises the level of racing among her competitors and teammates.
“Kristen has such a rich history and so much experience, and it’s just an honor to race with her here,” Andrea Dvorak, Armstrong’s Twenty16-Sho-Air teammate said. “She’s a world champion, Olympic medalist — kind of been around the block. It is nice to have someone of her caliber coming and racing with us.”
Among the fans
Armstrong’s peloton presence is appreciated by fans. Massive crowds supported the women’s race this weekend, and the influx of spectators was partially due to her. On occasion, there may be a lack of fans for women’s racing, but with Armstrong back racing, the crowds were out in force.
“Because it’s nothing more painful than being on this isolated, windy, open road with nobody there,” the two-time Olympic gold medalist said. “And today the pain went away because of these people. The crowds were phenomenal.”
Armstrong is enjoying her comeback and the support that she and her fellow competitors are receiving is making it that much more enjoyable and worthwhile.
“I had moments like being in London. I had moments like being in Beijing, where those are the highlights of my life,” Armstrong said.
“I am here to hopefully make the team in Rio. I have Richmond in a month, but if things don’t work out, I am so happy to be part of U.S. Pro Challenge because this alone, this race, I have to say, has made my comeback worth it.”
As things wound down in Golden, Armstrong hinted that her second comeback may not be as short-lived as her first. She could be here to stay for a little while.
“In two years and five years, I want to be part of this team, so thank you,” she said.