Female racers want part of the spotlight
ASPEN – Pro bike racer Jessica Phillips of Aspen is thrilled that the world’s top male cyclists are getting lots of attention for their return to Colorado this month. She is trying to get some of the spotlight shining on the pro women as well.Phillips has helped organize a three-day stage race in Aspen for the top female U.S. and Canadian cyclists. They will race Aug. 22-24, overlapping with the day when the men blow through Aspen on what is being billed as the Queen Stage of the U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge.Phillips was the U.S. National Road champion in 2002 and the U.S. time trial champion in 2009. She knows how talented the female racers are, and she wants them to have the same regard as the men.”To say it’s an uphill challenge is an understatement,” Phillips said.The women’s races typically don’t draw the big crowds, the lucrative sponsorships or the community effort that the men’s races attract, she said. Phillips aims to change that, and she feels Aspen is the right place.The formal name of the women’s race is the Aspen Snowmass Women’s Pro Stage Race; UnitedHealthcare is the title sponsor.The women will race an individual time trial from Aspen Highlands to the Maroon Lake parking lot at 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 22.There will be a circuit race in Snowmass Village at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23. It will start and likely end at the base of the Two Creeks section of Snowmass Ski Area. The 3.8-mile course will take racers down Highline Road to the roundabout, then up Brush Creek Road to the fire station and back on Owl Creek Road past Two Creeks. Phillips rode the course Monday morning and reported that it is tough. Twelve laps are scheduled but that might be reconsidered, she said.The women will complete the trio of races with a criterium in downtown Aspen on Wednesday, Aug. 24. The 1.2-mile course finishes in front of the Pitkin County Courthouse and the race will end about one hour before the men will finish at the same location. The criterium starts at 11 a.m.The women’s races will be an “omnium” format, with points for each race and cumulative standings. That prevents giving an advantage to a time trial expert, Phillips said. If a racer were to gain a huge time advantage in the time trial, that might lessen the competition through the other two races. Phillips seeks tough competition throughout the stages to really showcase what the women can do.Team Ajax Inc., a nonprofit created to promote women’s sports, is coordinating the women’s stage race. The purse will be $9,000.Phillips said the women’s races will run on a shoestring budget of about $30,000: “We’ve had to raise every dollar for this race,” she said.They have nearly reached their fundraising goal. As a final fundraising tool, they are offering a special opportunity during the men’s Pro Cycling Challenge. A contributor will be able to ride in the HTC-Highroad director/mechanic car during the stage from Gunnison to Aspen. Two cars per team cruise the course to hand out water bottles and help with mechanical issues.The women’s race is also in desperate need of host homes. As an example of the difference between men’s and women’s events, the men don’t have to worry about paying for their hotel rooms, as the sponsoring towns provide them. That hasn’t happened for the women, so organizers are seeking host homes for the racers. Phillips expects somewhere between 40 and 50 top-tier women’s racers, plus their support staffs.Also, volunteers are needed for the event for duties such as directing traffic during the time trial on Maroon Creek Road and on the Snowmass Village roads during the circuit race.Anyone who wants to offer sleeping quarters, volunteer time or make a contribution and earn a place in the HTC team car can contact Phillips at email@example.com.Phillips will participate in the race on her hometown turf. She said another top Aspen racer, Annie Gonzales, hasn’t decided yet whether to enter the race.The women’s race has commitments from top riders including Kristin Armstrong of the Peanut Butter & Co. team and Evelyn Stevens of HTC-Highroad. Phillips said families with girls interested in bicycle racing shouldn’t be shy about attending the events and approaching the firstname.lastname@example.org
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