Women’s peloton embraces shorter circuits in Colorado

VeloNews spoke with multiple riders from the women's peloton after the finish of stage 1 in Colorado Springs, and the consensus was overwhelmingly positive.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (VN) – The new Colorado Classic stage race bills itself as the future of American cycling with stages that start and finish in the same location and festival vibes at each venue. The race features circuit races, where riders do multiple loops around the host city instead of the point-to-point courses of traditional road races. The looped courses provide opportunities for fans to see racers go whizzing by while shorter stages make for more dynamic racing.

VeloNews spoke with multiple riders from the women’s peloton after the finish of stage 1 in Colorado Springs, and the consensus was overwhelmingly positive. Riders felt that the circuit format—while shorter than they are accustomed to—provided a challenging course and easy viewing for spectators.

“I thought it was great,” Emma White of Rally Cycling said of Thursday’s race. “The [shorter distance] made it more intense. Sometimes with longer stages, people are racing really conservatively and taking their time. Today it really made it aggressive because people knew there weren’t as many opportunities.”

With just 38 miles of racing, the women’s Stage 1 started fast and only got faster. The day included two undulating laps through the Garden of the Gods, a picturesque outcropping of red sandstone rocks on the outskirts of Colorado Springs, and three short flat circuits through the city. It was a dynamic day despite its short duration.

“I love that the race can be a sprint finish but that it also has some more challenging features in it as well,” said Heather Fischer (Tibco), who finished fourth on the day. “It really strings out the group for the final circuit.”

Not all riders were convinced of the shorter circuit format, however. UnitedHealthcare’s Katie Hall would have liked a longer, more traditional stage. Hall, 30, said she fares better on courses that are longer. “It’s very strange to race a road race for only 90 minutes,” she said. “It would have been really fun to have five laps out there.”

Abby Mickey agrees with Hall that the race needed more laps of the main circuit. “That would have really blown the field apart and it would have been more selective,” Mickey said. The Colavita rider pointed out that the women’s peloton will spend more time driving to the two stages (one in Colorado Springs and the other in Breckenridge) than they will actually spend racing.

Despite the short stages – a common critique of most women’s races – the peloton seemed mostly encouraged by the circuit style of racing and what it added for spectators. “I like the circuit idea,” said Allison Powers, team director of Alp Cycling and a multi-time national champion herself. “We need more spectators so the more the spectators can see the racers the better.”

There was no livestream of video coverage of the women’s race. Only sporadic Twitter updates kept fans informed of the race action on Thursday. Ruth Winder of UHC hopes these circuit races will help draw more fans to women’s cycling. “It’s really exciting to watch and it’s a new dynamic and exciting to race,” she said. “We’re trying to grow [women’s cycling] and make people more interested and want to watch it and get TV coverage.”

Mickey agrees with Winder and sees the long-term potential for circuit racing in the U.S. “It’s easier to watch, it’s more fun to watch, it’s more fun to keep up with than point-to-point races,” she said. “As far as the future of cycling, I think we’re going in the right direction.”