I just finished 5 days of full time volunteer duty at The ExergyTour and am even more hooked on women’s cycling than ever. Terry and I have followed men’s cycling for years with trips to the Tour de France, Tour of California, USA Pro Challenge, and hours of watching live internet coverage. We would follow women’s cycling whenever possible but without media exposure, we weren't as knowledgeable.
That all changed last August at the Tour of Utah thanks to a little luck and 2 amazing people. We purchased VIP dinner tickets for the Tour of Utah Team Presentation in Park City and were ecstatic to hang out with other cycling fans, drink Epic Beer, and have a few plates of Café Rio before the riders arrived. We grabbed dinner and figured a table near the beer stand was logical, so when we saw a couple seats at the first one, we asked to join. Little did I know that a simple “sure, sit down” would kick off a passion for women’s cycling and lead to my mini working vacation this last week at The Exergy Tour.
|Prologue Start House|
Quite quickly, we realized we were sitting with Exergy Development Group CEO James Carkulis and his guests which included Nicola Cranmer. Nicola was the GM of the Peanut Butter & Co Women's Cycling Team. Exergy was one of the Tour of Utah sponsors and also sponsoring the Team Presentation. My first interest was actually in the company as I was eager to learn more about wind energy and James didn’t disappoint. I also found out he is a Montana native and we knew some people and places in common. Once we covered off men’s cycling and wind, we moved onto women’s cycling. I assumed that the women weren’t getting all the perks the men got, but as I listened to James and Nicola, I realized that they have to do a lot on their own to pursue a sport they love. Due to low pay, short contracts, and minimal media coverage, most are college graduates and work full-time jobs to make by. They usually stay with sponsor families during races and sometimes have to buy their own food for training camps. The list goes on, but for a group of amazing athletes that are racing in an Olympic level sport, they deserve better. Having played a “ball” sport in college, I was well taken care of with scholarships, campus jobs, gear, and food. All of it fell within NAIA guidelines and I took it for granted. I had no idea that these ladies were sacrificing so much. Most of the women cyclists are also former college athletes usually ending up in cycling after a knee injury, so they witness the disparity first hand. For me, it hit a nerve and I went home with a newfound interest to learn more and support women’s cycling however possible.
|Stage 1 QOM - Amazing Views of the Snake River|
I started following several cyclists and teams on twitter and facebook, added Podium Café and Podium Insight to my favorites, and kept on eye on Exergy. I had a feeling that James and Nicola had something in the works during our dinner conversation but wasn’t sure to what extent. Not long after, there was an official announcement of the forming of the Exergy Twenty12 Team with Nicola as the GM. This was immediately followed by The Exergy Tour announcement coming to Boise, ID in May 2012. Not only was the Exergy Tour going to be 5 days, but have the largest women's purse at $100K and be the only UCI 2.1 race in North America which was important for points and Olympic selection. I couldn't wait to attend.
|Stage 2 Time Trial Podium - Specialized Lululemon Sweep|
Over the past few months, I’ve also started watching Tour Chats on Sunday night which includes internet interviews and almost always includes a female rider. The more I read the rider’s blogs and talk to others interested in women’s cycling, the more impressed I am with the peloton in general. Most of the women are graduating with Masters and PhDs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and other fields, working full-time, raising families, and doing their own self-promotion. Some are even organizing their own women’s races, like Jessica Phillips with the Aspen Women’s Pro Challenge.
|Stage 3 Start - Exergy Twenty12 arrives to Team Parking|
When the volunteer link opened on The Exergy Tour it was the very least I could do to take some vacation and sign up for the week. I didn’t care what I did, as long as I was supporting the race and making it a success. We watched a few stages of the HP Women’s Challenge back in 2001 and it is my hope that The Exergy Tour becomes the new and improved HP and stays around for years to come. I also hope that other States and men’s tours will see the success and host women’s races in the upcoming years.
Stayed tuned for more blogs on my experience as a Traveling Course Marshal (TCM). I finished the last stage just a few hours ago and still have adrenaline pumping due to the excitement. I had no idea what I was getting into, but the experience was unbelievable and just the 1st of many future volunteer adventures. In the meantime, join me in supporting these awesome athletes as they achieve their goals and help build a foundation for young females considering cycling as their sport. Save a few vacation days for 2013 and we’ll see you at the next Exergy Tour!
|Stage 4 Finish - Huge Crowds in Boise|
Overview - you just read it, hope you enjoyed!