USA Pro Challenge: Time for the Women to Shine

I won't be able to attend the inaugural USA Pro Challenge Women's Stage Race this weekend, but I'll be supporting the women virtually! Tomorrow's Stage 1 is a Time Trial in Breckenridge with the first rider leaving at 10:50am. The women have been making their way to Colorado all week and active on social media, but today they took center stage. The Press Conference was this afternoon and the Team Presentation took place after the Men's Stage 4 Podium.

There was a periscope for the Press Conference so I was able to watch Race Director Sean Petty and some of the top women discuss the stages, Colorado, and women's cycling. The women were very engaging and passionate. I only wish it was broadcast on Tour Tracker prior to the live men's coverage so a larger audience could get to know these awesome athletes. I was hoping Tour Tracker would stay live after the Men's Podium (congrats to BMC on their 3rd win and 4th day in yellow), but I had to rely on social media pictures and updates.

Thankfully Mary Topping was at both events and active on twitter @butterflywriter to keep all of us virtual fans updated. Mary left a corporate job to become a freelance writer, so she ranks high on my list for taking a risk to pursue a passion. She writes for many publications and has a great cycling blog called ProV√©loPassion. Please check her out and thank her for supporting women's cycling.

From the left, the women at the Press Conference included:

Joanne Kiesanowski (Team Tibco-SVB) : Jo is from New Zealand and ridden in 3 Olympic Games. I had the please to get to know her at a Tour of Utah party a few weeks ago and she's great!

Robin Farina (BMW p/b Happy Tooth Dental) : Robin is a hoot and over the past year, I've been able to get to know her at several cycling events and through the WCA (Women's Cycling Association). You can always count on her positive energy and pushing the pace in a crit or road race.

Mara Abbott (Amy D. Foundation) : Mara has been waiting for a Women's USA Pro Challenge forever! She's a Coloradan through-and-through. She showed up a the press conference in a creative outfit of Colorado themed items. She's a decorated athlete, with some big stage wins on her resume. I can't imagine someone more motivated to win the inaugural USA Pro Challenge.

Kristin Armstrong (Twenty 16 p/b SHO-AIR) : Talk about a cycling resume. Kristin is a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and likely hunting for a 3rd. Kristin will be one of the top contenders in tomorrow's Time Trial. She gave a very passionate speech at the Press Conference about enjoying the moment, telling your story, and women's cycling. 

Alison Tetrick (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) : Like many of the women in the pro peloton, Alison is active on social media, a strong rider, and smart (as in B.S. Biochemistry). She came back from Europe to race in Colorado and support the inaugural edition.

Hannah Barnes (United Healthcare) : Hannah won the Tour of Utah Women's Edition a couple weeks ago, then stayed in Utah through the weekend to train and support the men's team. Then she moved on to Colorado to continue preparation. If anyone is acclimated to the high altitude other than Mara, it might just be Englishwoman Hannah.

Meredith Miller (Pepper Palace Pro Cycling p/b The Happy Tooth) : Meredith also lives in Colorado and has an impressive resume in road cycling and cyclocross. She'll have a large fan base and be used to the crazy outfits, climbs, and thin air.

These women are all on social media (FB, Instagram, Twitter) and some have websites. You can find them on my USA Pro Challenge twitter list. If you don't know their stories, I encourage you to check them out and their equally talented teammates. As Kristin said, the women's pro peloton has incredible stories to tell and to help grow the sport, we need to get the word out.

Team Presentation is such a great tradition and event. It highlights the beginning of the stage race and the team concept of cycling. The women are passionate about their sport, give fun interviews (in part thanks to Dave Towle), and are genuinely thankful for the opportunity to race in front of large supportive crowds.

I love this shot of DNA Cycling p/b K4. I know many of these Utah athletes and the smiles and strong legs say it all. This weekend is particularly exciting because Utah native Tayler Wiles is guest riding for the team. She rides for Velocio-SRAM and is rarely in the U.S., so it's a huge treat to have her racing at home and I can't wait to see how the race strategy plays out.

Mary Topping tweeted photos of many of the teams during Team Presentation, so follow her on twitter and take a look. The teams are also on my twitter list and posting many photos on their Facebook sites.

Stage 1 starts in 15hrs, I challenge you each to pick a rider and get to know her story and then cheer her on tomorrow and the rest of the weekend in Colorado.

- The women's roster for the race is here.
- Stage 1 Time Trial in Breckenridge details are here.
- It appears that we'll be able to watch the women live on Tour Tracker.
- Twitter #prochallenge has been a reliable source of content thanks to the teams, racers, and media in Colorado.