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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, California (VN) — Coryn Rivera was a 17-year-old junior in 2010 when a women’s race was hastily held for the first time in conjunction the men’s Amgen Tour of California. Despite riding with junior gearing, Rivera sprinted to the criterium win in downtown Sacramento.
Six years later, Rivera’s career is on the rise, and she’s now well-entrenched in the pro peloton. Women’s racing has also advanced, albeit on a slightly slower trajectory.
Its latest advancement in the United States starts Thursday when the women’s four-day Tour of California begins as part of the inaugural UCI Women’s WorldTour. It’s the first of two U.S. races on the new international circuit.
“It’s funny to think it was six years, and I was on junior gears,” said Rivera, who won the Joe Martin Stage Race on April 24, her first career UCI-rated stage race victory. “I was there with a couple of teammates. But junior gears or not, I always line up on the start line to do my best, and I naturally have a strong sprint. Lauren Tamayo was my lead-out girl and she still is.”
Rivera and Tamayo will be part of a stellar field. Kristin Armstrong (Twenty16 – RideBiker), a two-time Olympic time trial gold medalist and two-time TT world champion, Evelyn Stevens (Boels – Dolmans), the world hour record-holder, and teammate Megan Guarnier, the reigning national road champion, are among top entrants.
Mara Abbott (Wiggle – High5), who claimed the Tour of the Gila on May 8, and Marrianne Vos (Rabo – Liv) of the Netherlands, a three-time world road champion, are also participating.
“It takes time for change to happen, and I’m proud that the race in my home state was able to grow the women’s event and is now a UCI Women’s WorldTour stage race,” said Rivera. “I think that shows belief in women’s racing in the U.S., and it is growing steadily.
“I hope that one day the women’s Tour of California can be as long as the men’s race and travel throughout the entire state and one day become one of the most prestigious women’s stage races in the world, attracting the Europeans to cross the pond, like the American’s usually do, and have world-class competition, in a beautiful state, and win a respectable amount of prize money, as do the men.”
Eighteen six-rider teams are scheduled to begin the event with a 72.7-mile road race around Lake Tahoe. The initial stage will begin with a neutral start on the Pioneer Trail about 4km from the Heavenly Ski Lodge, the stage finish. The route shadows stage 1 of the three-day women’s event last year, won by Katie Hall, the third-year UnitedHealthcare rider.
“It’s almost the same as last year,” said Hall. “The approach to the finish line is slightly different. But it’s a course I like.”
The four women’s stage finishes will correspond to stages 5, 6, 7, and 8 of the men’s race but with a different start in stage 5 and an odd twist in stage 6. While the men will contest stage 6 on a near repeat of the opening-day time trial of the 2014 race in Folsom, the women will compete in an infrequently held team time trial. The out-and-back 12.6-mile TTT will be held because of time limitations. The men’s ITT and an amateur time trial will consume most of the day.
“The race is really interesting,” said Hall. “We don’t have team time trials very often, so that obviously will affect who has the GC, so you have to have a team that can then time trial. I don’t think this group of girls has been together since training camp. We haven’t been practicing yet, but we will in the next couple of days.”
The women will also contest the TTT on road bikes, a race condition that helps defray the cost of traveling with additional equipment, particularly for the international squads.
Following the TTT, the women’s 69-mile stage 3 road race will begin and end in Santa Rosa. The concluding stage 4 will be a 43.5-mile circuit race, with riders negotiating 20 laps of a 2.2-mile circuit in downtown Sacramento.
“I love vacationing in Lake Tahoe, but it won’t be a vacation this time,” said Krista Doebel-Hickok, the Cylance rider who will be competing in the event for the first time. “The climbing looks great, but every day looks hard. A 90-minute criterium is hardly a day off on the bike.”
Trixi Worrack (Canyon – SRAM), the former German national road champion who won the 2015 overall with a final-stage time bonus last year, is not competing this year. She’s recovering from a crash in March in which he lost her left kidney.