Aspen’s Abby Mickey third in Tour of the Gila bike race | AspenTimes.com

Aspen’s Abby Mickey third in Tour of the Gila bike race

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
Aspen professional cyclist Abby Mickey hits a climb during the Tour of the Gila in southwestern New Mexico last week. Mickey pedaled onto the podium as a first-year pro racer for the Twenty16 team. The Aspen High School graduate finished third overall in the New Mexico stage race.
Courtesy photo |

One year ago, Aspen’s Abby Mickey was looking for a ride.

The Aspen High School graduate and all-around prep athlete had just wrapped up her career as a collegiate cyclist at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

After racing for the CU Buffs in the USA Cycling Collegiate National Road Racing Championships, Mickey came home to Aspen and stated her case to a number of women’s professional cycling teams.

A connection with Aspen cycling enthusiast Pam Alexander led to an introduction to women’s cycling team owner Nicola Cranmer, who has worked with top women cyclists for years. Cranmer had been in Aspen visiting Alexander and other cycling friends.

Introductions led to discussions, which led to more discussions, which led to the first pro cycling contract for Abby Mickey.

The Aspen native took over from there, riding for Cranmer’s Twenty16 women’s pro team.

Abby, in only her third multi-stage professional race, pedaled her way onto the podium at the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico ~ competing against a field of the top female cyclists in the United States.

The former Aspen all-around ski racer finished third in the prestigious Tour of the Gila in Silver City, one of the major stage races in North America.

“It was a surprise to me because I’ve never done the Gila before,” Mickey said in an interview with The Aspen Times. “But I’m really pleased with the race.”

The five-stage race that includes two road races, a time trial and a criterium is held the same week as the USA Collegiate Nationals, where Mickey has raced for the last four years.

But this year, riding with the full support of her Twenty16 team, Mickey shifted into the pro ranks.

When she opened the Tour of the Gila with a strong climbing finish and a third-place finish in the first road race, the team threw its collective support behind its lead rider ~ the rookie from Aspen.

“We had an incredible team. They worked so hard for me. I couldn’t be more grateful to my teammates, the support staff, everyone,” Mickey said after protecting her third-place position through a challenging time trial and an even more demanding criterium.

Mickey finished strong with another third place in the final road race and her first podium finish in a pro stage race.

“I couldn’t have done this without Nicola and the belief she showed in me,” Mickey said of the Twenty16 team owner, who has groomed Olympic and world champions. “I was hoping I could pull through for her and the team.”

She said the Tour of the Gila matched up with her strengths.

“It was very much a climber’s race,” Mickey said of the Gila, which was won by American climber supreme Mara Abbott of Boulder and the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team.

Abbott won the overall title at the Tour of the Gila for the fourth time this year, leading from start to finish.

The cycling phenom, who rebounded from an eating disorder, twice has won Europe’s top stage race for women.

Abbott also is a four-time winner of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic road race from Durango to Silverton, a race Mickey won last year to polish her cycling resume.

But Mickey said she felt the pressure of competing at the top level during the final road race of the Gila. Mickey was attempting to hold her position on the podium.

“I’m a first-year pro, and I’ve got Carmen Small breathing down my neck,” Mickey said of longtime pro racer Small, the Durango native who has raced in Europe extensively in the last decade.

Small, who has retired from international racing but maintains a domestic schedule, chased Mickey through the last stage.

But Mickey held off Small to secure her third-place podium finish in New Mexico.

Small, riding for DNA cycling, finished fourth overall with former Olympian Lauren Stephens fifth.

Flavia Oliveira of FC/Zngine finished in second overall, behind Abbott and just in front of Mickey.

The Aspen pro cyclist credited teammate Kaitie Antonneau for her help during the stage race, particularly during the final road race.

“She was my life-saver the whole way,” Mickey said after Antonneau retrieved bottles and food from the support car to keep Mickey out among the leaders.

Antonneau also is a former collegiate road racer and collegiate national champion from cycling powerhouse Marian University in Indianapolis. She had raced against Mickey until the two were united as teammates this year.

“I am so tickled for Abby,” team owner Cranmer said in an interview with The Aspen Times. “We didn’t know what she was capable of … and neither did she.”

Cranmer said she became aware of Mickey at the USA Cycling development camp last year and from her win in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic.

“And Pam Alexander, as you know, is a very big fan of Abby,” Cranmer said, happy that her Twenty16 team was able to sign a promising young cyclist like Mickey.

Her team includes a few experienced riders and a number of developing cyclists.

“We had a big reshuffling of the roster this year,” Cranmer said. “We ended up with a lot of development riders. “

And the cyclists worked together from the start, the team owner said.

“We have a special model with junior riders working with elite riders,” Cranmer said. “We enjoy it.”

She said the process of building a new team is a challenge, but a welcome one.

“We’re very privileged to do something like this,” said Cranmer, who will be in Aspen again this summer for training sessions.

The Twenty16 pro women’s team now will gear up for the U.S. Pro Nationals in Chatanooga, Tenn., on May 25-27, where Aspen cyclist Abby Mickey will race against the best of the best.

dstrode@aspentimes.com


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