Aspen’s Mickey in Women’s Pro Challenge
The Aspen Times
Pro cyclist Abby Mickey of Aspen will be in the historic field for the Women’s USA Pro Challenge next week.
Mickey, a second-year pro racing with the powerhouse UnitedHeathcare Pro Cycling team, will take the starting line in Breckenridge one week from today — on Friday, Aug. 20, for the first of three stages for the pro women.
“The most exciting part for me is that even before I started cycling, I started watching the (USA) Pro Challenge,” Mickey said in an interview with The Aspen Times. “For me, a big race in my home state. It’s a dream come true.”
Mickey’s UnitedHealthcare team will join 11 other women’s teams for the first official Women’s USA Pro Challenge stage race.
The first two years of the USA Pro Challenge men’s race, women’s criteriums were held in downtown Aspen as singular events.
This year will mark the first year the women’s races will be staged by the USA Pro Challenge organizers using the same roads as the men’s race.
After the opening individual time trial in Breckenridge on Aug. 21, the pro women will tackle a challenging road race from Loveland to Fort Collins with climbs and windy sections on Saturday, Aug. 22.
The final stage of the Women’s USA Pro Challenge will be a circuit race in downtown Golden on Sunday, Aug. 23, the same day the men’s Pro Challenge finishes in downtown Denver.
“It’s going to be a really hard race,” said Mickey, an Aspen High School graduate and former ski racer. “A lot of the girls are from Colorado. Several teams have one, two girls from Colorado, and they are really going to push (the pace) here.”
Mickey, who turned to cycling at the University of Colorado, said she had a chance to pre-ride the road section from Loveland to Fort Collins earlier this week, a stage where her climbing skills will be used to help teammate Katie Hall during the race.
“It is really deceiving,” Mickey said. “That canyon is windy, windy. There can be a huge headwind. I think that will blow the race up. After that, you hit the climb.”
She said the climb on that stage is steep in places.
Plus, she said, it’s deceptive in that when it appears the climb is over, there are still more stair steps to climb.
“Katie Hall is an incredible climber,” Mickey said of her veteran teammate. “That stage will be fun for us.”
Hall and Hannah Barnes, another veteran, lead the UnitedHealthcare women’s team, a squad that signed Mickey in the offseason after her rookie year.
“The team is incredible,” said Mickey, who also rode on a powerhouse collegiate team. “We have so many heavy hitters on this team. We have world-class sprinters, climbers, a well-rounded team.”
She said the team meshed very well this year with friendships blossoming off the bikes.
“We all work really well together; we’re all friends,” Mickey said. “We know each other so well, it’s second nature riding together, riding around each other.”
The team has posted consistent results across the racing calendar with an eye on the upcoming Women’s USA Pro Challenge.
“We all love to see each other succeed,” Mickey said, adding that the field for the women’s stage race in Colorado will be off the charts. Top international cyclists and the best Americans, including many based in Colorado, will race.
“Mara Abbott will be there; she’s incredible,” Mickey said of the Boulder women’s cycling dynamo, considered one of the world’s most versatile riders. Abbott is a two-time winner of the Giro Rosa, Europe’s biggest stage race for women. She’s also a winner of the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico and the Redlands Classic in California.
A former college national champion cyclist at Whitman College, Abbott also is a five-time winner of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic Road Race from Durango to Silverton, capturing her fifth crown earlier this year.
Mickey, after her decorated racing career with the CU Buffaloes, won the Iron Horse road race in 2013, using it as a launch pad for her professional road racing career.
Abbott will ride for the Amy D. Foundation team.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong and her Twenty16 team will be in the field with Armstrong as the early time-trial favorite.
Andrea Dvorak, recent winner of the Cascade Classic in Oregon, also rides with Twenty16 along with time-trial rider Allie Dragoo.
The Optum/Kelly Benefit Strategies team and Team Tibco-SVB, long established squads, will race along with the Colorado Women’s Cycling Project, a squad of Colorado-based riders.
The opportunity to race on Colorado roads in front of Colorado crowds in an event like the Women’s USA Pro Challenge is not lost on the pro women cyclists, Mickey said.
“We’re already dreaming about it,” she said.
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