Female racers take center stage in Snowmass | AspenTimes.com

Female racers take center stage in Snowmass

Jon MaletzThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

Racer begin their first lap of the Aspen Snowmass Women's Pro Stage Race circuit course in Snowmass on Tuesday morning. (Patrick Ghidossi/The Aspen Times)

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – Consider it a lesson learned the hard way.Such was the prevailing sentiment for Kristin Armstrong-Savola – and likely the entire field – after Monday’s 7.7-mile time trial in the Aspen Snowmass Women’s Pro Stage Race. By her own admission, the pro cyclist, who lives and trains at 3,000 feet above sea level in Boise, Idaho, underestimated the effects of change in altitude. Consequently, she was gasping for air as she pedaled to the finish near the Maroon Bells.”I’m OK at 5,000 or 6,000 feet, but when you get to 8,000 it’s a different story. A much different story,” the 2008 Olympic individual time trial gold medalist quipped. “I’m lucky I was second. I’m quite happy with that.”It was a learning experience. I looked at it and said, ‘Gosh, I’ve seen how hard this was, but I now know how to gauge my effort for [Tuesday].’ … When make your move, you really have to make it count or you’ll be in a world of hurt. You definitely only have a few matches to burn.”Armstrong-Savola made that move count Tuesday. After the eighth of 10 3.5-mile laps in the circuit race, which started and ended at Two Creeks at the Snowmass ski area, she and fellow competitor Janel Holcomb dropped the field. Slowly but surely, Armstrong-Savola seized control and cruised to the finish in 1 hour, 35 minutes, 58 seconds – 40 seconds clear of Holcomb. Three riders – Kristin McGrath, Anne Samplonious and Andrea Dvorak – shared third, and were 2:37 off the winning pace. Aspen riders Anne Gonzales and Jessica Phillips, the stage race’s primary organizer, finished 25th and 26th, respectively, while Abigail Mickey crossed the line in 32nd. “I think what happens [at this altitude] is that when you’re in the peloton, the riders tend to attack a little more in slow motion. I knew I only had a couple attacks in me, so when people did go I just followed,” Armstrong-Savola said. “I finally did get away from [Holcomb] and soloed in for the win.”I feel good right now. … I feel like I’m on the upswing and things are going well.”Armstrong-Savola is competing in just her second race since June, when she and other riders were involved in a major crash at the Nature Valley Grand Prix in Minneapolis. While she suffered no broken bones in the collision, she did miss nationals the following week.Now, she’s waiting to hear if she will be invited to the world championships, which take place in Copenhagen, Denmark, at the end of September. Such an appointment will be a major step toward helping her secure a spot on the U.S. team and, ultimately, a third Olympic berth for next summer’s London Games.”Nothing I’ve done in my career is like getting on that podium and winning that gold medal,” Armstrong-Savola said. “I can’t imagine anything better than going back with my 2-year-old son and doing the same. It’s inspiring, it’s what motivates me.”First, she has unfinished business to tend to in downtown Aspen.By virtue of Tuesday’s victory, Armstrong-Savola overtook Peanut Butter & Co. teammate Kristin McGrath, Monday’s winner, for first place in the omnium standings. Holcomb is second and McGrath is third in a prestigious field that includes seven-time Olympian Jeannie Longo of France.Armstrong-Savola will look to wrap up a victory Wednesday, when the stage race concludes with a one-hour criterium on the streets of Aspen, which coincides with the finish of the Queen Stage of the men’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge.”Tomorrow is going to be a hard race – there’s going to be a lot of energy,” she said. “It’s a real chance to showcase women’s cycling. We don’t have that opportunity very often, so we’re all looking forward to it.”Added Phillips, who is 12th in the overall standings: “We have a top field here and there has been some really good, really hard racing. I think the teams and the girls are overly impressed with Aspen. … Tomorrow is going to be fun.”jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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