DENVER — The inaugural Women’s USA Pro Challenge route was announced Thursday along with the slate of participating teams and riders, including Kristin Armstrong, the two-time Olympic time trial gold medalist. The course will include an individual time trial in Breckenridge on the same technical, difficult course as the men will ride. The second stage will feature a challenging road race, and the final stage will be a circuit race to showcase the sprinters.
“Our fans and professional riders have passionately supported a women’s race to be part of the Pro Challenge since the race’s inception,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO of the USA Pro Challenge. “We’re thrilled to finally share the details for the 2015 event and give special thanks to our host cities for their tremendous support and who have agreed to take on the additional leadership roles to make this possible. We also want to thank our partners for the women’s race which include: Smashburger, Lexus, and Sierra Nevada. We know these top female competitors will inspire a new generation of athletes.”
The pros taking to the roads of the Women’s USA Pro Challenge will be faced with a little bit of everything.
“The goal in developing the route for this first Women’s USA Pro Challenge was to create a challenging and diverse course using the incredible terrain that Colorado offers,” said Sean Petty, race director for the Women’s USA Pro Challenge. “The great folks in Breckenridge, Fort Collins, and Golden really embraced our philosophy, and I’m proud we are offering something for every type of rider during the three days of racing. We wanted to honor the legacy of women’s stage racing in Colorado as it’s the first time since 1988 that some of the best men and women in the world will be sharing courses at a major, international stage race in our beautiful state.”
The Women’s USA Pro Challenge will host a competitive field of cyclists headlined by Twenty16-Sho-Air’s Armstrong, who came out of retirement for a second time with her sights set on winning another gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“Having the women’s peloton become part of the 2015 USA Pro Challenge is an amazing platform for our sport,” said Armstrong. “Women’s cycling is truly moving in the right direction and we’re grateful for the opportunity. I am excited to make this event part of my preparation for the world championships in Richmond, Virginia in September.”
Many of the local Colorado female riders have been waiting a long time for a race to come back to their doorstep. One of those riders is Boulder resident Mara Abbott (Wiggle-Honda) a vocal advocate for women’s racing in her home state.
“I’m really excited about the details on our courses,” said Abbott. “All of the communities have bent over backwards to be able to put on a good show for the first year of this race, and I’m so honored that they are showing how much they care about women’s cycling and giving us this opportunity. August can’t come soon enough.”
Some of the teams confirmed to race in the inaugural Women’s USA Pro Challenge include:
Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies
BMW-Happy Tooth Dental
Pepper Palace Pro Cycling-The Happy Tooth
Colorado Women’s Cycling Project-Spark
The complete team announcement will take place in early August.
Stage 1, Breckenridge individual time trial, August 21
Women’s racing at the USA Pro Challenge kicks off on the same 2015 time trial course as the men. The 8.5-mile TT starts out flat then it’s on to the steep grades of Moonstone Road for a test of climbing skills. Finally, the race could be won or lost on the technical Boreas Pass descent.
Stage 2, Loveland to Ft. Collins, August 22
A gentle roll-out through Loveland will let the women settle in before this day of racing heads uphill, climbing for nearly 20 miles on Buckhorn Canyon. But if the climbers want to win this day, they will need to hold off a charging field as the stage descends the 18 miles back to Fort Collins. Can the climbers hold off the sprinters or will Fort Collins be treated to a field sprint?
Stage 3, Golden circuit, August 23
The women have tested their time trial legs and their climbing legs; now it’s time to test their elbows in some technical circuit racing, served up in Golden. With hills, sharp corners, and plenty of time bonuses up for grabs on this tight 1.5-mile circuit, the overall winner will have to prove their worthiness for one more day.