Women’s cycling shifts gears in Aspen
The Aspen Times
Women’s cycling in Aspen is shifting into the big chain ring.
That means momentum. Big-time momentum.
A pair of traveling professional cyclists, racing on the summer criterium circuit across the United States, are living and training in Aspen right now.
They’re riding local roads and pedaling with the cyclists from the Aspen Cycling Club in an arrangement worked out by Aspen cycling liaison Pam Alexander.
“Our team director mapped out our schedule. He had always planned for us to be here (in Aspen) for two weeks to train,” said Erica Allar, a cycling pro from Tucson, Ariz. She explained that as touring criterium racers, she and her Care4Cycling women’s team have extensive travel requirements while racing on weekends.
That doesn’t leave sufficient time for training to support a season’s worth of races, she said.
“He wanted us here to train. To get more red blood cell production at altitude,” said Allar, who also is known as the reigning Queen of the Criterium.
Allar was named the U.S. women’s criterium racer of the year last year by VeloNews.
“We wanted to get some fitness back and prepare for the next block of racing,” Allar said, adding that Car4Cycling team director James Carney is based out of the Aspen area during the summer.
“I love coming to Aspen. I’ve been here various times,” said Allar, who raced in the women’s pro criterium in Aspen, held in conjunction with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
“The riding itself is high altitude, which is good for us. And it is really safe,” she said, adding that the team director is comfortable with his cyclists riding to Ashcroft, to the Maroon Bells, to Woody Creek, etc. “He knows we’ll be safe with traffic here.”
Jessi Prinner, Allar’s Care4Cycling teammate, joined her in Aspen for their training session.
Both Allar and Prinner are scheduled to ride today in the weekly Aspen Cycling Club race, the annual Basalt-Norrie Road Race on the Frying Pan Road.
The racing will begin at 6 p.m. today on Frying Pan Road outside Basalt.
“Erica and I have been traveling all over the United States together,” said Prinner, who is from the Chicago area. “We decided this would be a good two-week block to get training and to get altitude training, so we can be ready to take on the rest of our summer.”
Prinner said it is difficult to maintain an appropriate fitness level when racing a criterium schedule.
“You can really lose fitness,” said Prinner, who also is a student at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, where she is majoring in finance with a minor in cycling.
Prinner already is a national champion collegiate crit racer with more college racing seasons ahead.
“We got to ride up to the Bells, to Ashcroft. It’s beautiful. Then, I went … on a hike with Pam. That was incredible,” said Prinner, adding that the cyclists are on a schedule of three days of riding, one day off.
“It motivates you to train in a place that is really beautiful,” said Prinner, recalling innumerable training rides through the endless corn fields of northern Illinois near her home.
A serious cyclist since she was a youngster, Prinner has raced in the USA Cycling junior nationals every year since she was 12.
And, she’s been on the podium at nationals every year since she was 12.
Her first national title came at age 17 in the individual time trial.
Twice she’s raced at junior worlds — 2009 in Moscow and 2010 in Italy.
After high school, Prinner looked at colleges with cycling programs just like Allar had done earlier. Allar went to Penn State where she won a national collegiate cycling championship in 2007.
“I decided to pick a college with a cycling team, with scholarships,” Prinner said. “I liked the school (Midwestern State). That was the deciding factor.”
Prinner also has raced in Europe as a member of the U.S. national team.
“It works out perfectly to train here,” she said. “I enjoy every minute riding out here.”
She’s scheduled to race professionally through the summer.
Then, she’ll head back to college for more racing. Contracted pro cyclists are allowed to compete in USA Cycling’s collegiate division.
“The people have been wonderful,” Allar said. “We’ll be back.”
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