Women’s Empowerment: A race recap of the Colorado Classic

Chloé Dygert-Owen (Sho-Air Twenty20) proved that taking chances is worth it and women’s empowerment through cycling can become an actuality.

I’ve typed this woman’s name so often the past five days, it’s ingrained in my memory. This post isn’t just about this amazing 7x World Champion, World Record Holder 3K Individual Pursuit, and Olympic Silver medalist 22-year-old who swept the Colorado Classic stages as part of her training for Worlds at the end of September. Yeah, this was a training race for her but also a way to prove to USA Cycling she deserves a spot on the US National Team for UCI Worlds Championship. 

As far as I can tell, this wasn’t a target race for her, which makes it that more astonishing that she went ahead and won, not just all four stages of the Colorado Classic, but swept the Best Young Rider, Sprinter, and Queen of the Mountain Jerseys. Usually, there’s a different winner for each Jersey each day. 

I’ll be damned if she doesn’t make the USA Team for Worlds. 

But this is more than Dygert’s sweep. This is about women’s empowerment through cycling.

I remember seeing comments mocking a women’s-only race, that “when women are as fast as men then they can have their own race.” Usually, from internet trolls with nothing better to do as they sit at the computer and lurk on the internet.

Obviously, the RPM Events Group wouldn’t have done this if they didn’t think they’d at least break even. Companies wouldn’t have pledged hundreds of thousands of sponsorship dollars if they didn’t think this would be a good marketing platform. Professional cycling is not just these women’s hobby, but a job and a business. It’s going to be treated as such. 

My hope though is that it shines a giant spotlight on the power of women. That it shows the importance of cycling and makes it a feasible sporting event. Rapha recently posted their Roadmap detailing the ways to fix professional cycling. The fact that the majority of the women who lined up at The Colorado Classic have second jobs to survive is enough to prove to race organizers, sponsors, companies, teams, the media, etc. that we need to change how cycling is consumed, produced, raced, and supported.

It was thrilling to watch women I look up to (Lindsay Goldman/Hagens Berman-Supermint, Anna Dorovskikh/Amy D. Foundation, Tiffany Cromwell/Canyon-SRAM, the Fearless Femme Team, etc) line up in my home state for this inaugural event. I felt the energy.

My favorite team, Hagens Berman | Supermint is folding at the end of the year and it’s not without Lindsay Goldman and the team doing everything (and more) their sponsor asked for. Fearless Femme has a very small budget yet somehow they make it work and they fight to the end of a race despite their lack of monetary resources. 

I always go back and forth between aiming for a “professional contract” with a nationally-recognized team or sticking with it as a hobby, knowing either way, I’ll be working to make ends meet. Watching Anna (Amy D. Foundation) fly past me every lap and cheering for her at the top of my lungs gave me FOMO. I so wished I was out there riding in that peloton. To be like Rachel Langdon (Fearless Femme) who continually attacked off the front of the peloton. To be a SHEro or role model to women and girls on the sidewalk, watching the peloton zoom by. To be an active part of women’s empowerment in the peloton. Or, hell, getting my ass whooped by Chloé as she drops the field not once, but four times.

In case you missed my race reports for 303Endurance’s coverage of the Colorado Classic, here: 

Stage One: Steamboat Springs, Colorado – 8/22/2019

With 96 racers representing countries from around the world, world champs, Zwift Academy winners, and Olympians, we saw an exciting Stage 1 in Steamboat Springs today.

The course provided sprinters, climbers, and all-rounders opportunities to attack, to show their grit, and to have some fun.

A number of teams attacked but it wasn’t until Emily Newsom (TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank) attacked with 40 miles to go that that had us sitting at the edge of our seats waiting to see what would happen. Rachel Langdon (Fearless Femme) soon caught up to Newsom and the two worked together until Newsom attacked for the sprint. Going too hot too soon, Langdon barreled past Newsom for the Sprint.

Ariadna Gutierrez (Swapit Agolico) made a valiant effort for the QOM. But it was Newsom that passed Langdon for the QOM, almost making it look easy as she rolled over the line by herself. Eventually, the three were swallowed by the peloton right before the gravel section.

The peloton crumbled to pieces. From the lead group, Chloé Dygert-Owen (Sho-Air Twenty20) attacked and led a solo effort over the final QOM on the route. With a solid gap, Dygert-Owen powered solo to the end.

Coming into the last turn, it was Whitney Allison (Hagens Bergman | Supermint) at the front with an open road and 2nd place finish, followed by Brodie Chapman (TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank) for 3rd.

Stage Two: Avon, Colorado – 8/23/2019

Holy fireworks, Batman! 

Leigh Ann Ganzar (Hagens Berman/Supermint) was first to attack, quickly stringing out the field, on Stage 2 of the Colorado Classic in Avon, Colorado. With 50.3 miles, 2 intermediate sprints and 1 QOM up a doozy of a climb, it was anyone’s guess who’d take the win.

As soon as Ganzar was reeled back, Lindsay Goldman (Hagens Berman/Supermint) put the hurt on, making sure no one was too comfortable. Then we saw Heather Fischer (DNA Pro Cycling) launch off the front of the peloton, quickly gaining a :15 gap on the main bunch. Ana Hernandez (Durango-Specialized-IED) wasn’t going to let her get away as she quickly bridged the gap to catch up to Fisher.

No one seemed to be able to make a stage-winning move as the peloton continually brought back riders.

With a crowd-funded $10,000 prime lap, the sprint winner won 50% of that cash purse and the other 50% was donated to the Chris Anthony Youth Initiative Project. At first, it looked like Allison Beveridge (Rally-UHC) was leading out Emma White (Rally-UHC) for the sprint, but Jennifer Valente (Sho-Air Twenty20) pulled around them and shot to the line for the intermediate sprint.

Another attack led by Heather Fischer (DNA Pro Cycling), Lindsay Goldman (Hagens Berman/Supermint), and Erica Clevenger (Sho-Air Twenty20) looked promising. The trio held a 1:00 gap until they were finally reeled back in by the peloton. As the gradient increased, riders dropped like flies, giving way to Omer Shapira (Canyon-SRAM), Brodie Chapman (TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank), and Chloe Dygert-Owen (Sho-Air Twenty20).

The road continued to zigzag back and forth as Dygert-Owen passed Shapira and Chapman, making it look like they weren’t pedaling up a 13% grade. Chapman (TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank) squeaked out the QOM win, but the stage-winning move was made by Dygert-Owen (Sho-Air Twenty20) when she annihilated the descent, hitting 60 mph, no less. She created a significant gap between her and Chapman and just like yesterday, she crossed the finish solo.

In a post-race interview, Dygert-Owen said, “I’m definitely not a climber.” Well, Chloe, it’s safe to say that when you drop the entire peloton up a giant climb, you’re probably a climber. 

Stage Three: Golden, Colorado – 8/24/2019

Chloé Dygert-Owen (Sho-Air Twenty20) pulls it off a third time in a row as she raced solo for her win.

The morning started off tamer than expected, with Hagens Berman / Supermint on the front. Enough riders became antsy as we saw Rachel Langdon (Fearless Femme) take the first attack quickly followed by Katie Hall (US National Team). As soon as they were reeled in, Flavia Oliveira (Fearless Femme) shot off the front followed by her teammate, Rachel Langdon (FFM).

As attacks lulled, a number of riders faced flats and mechanicals. Fearless Femme attempted to control the pace before the Sprint, but it was Canyon-Sram’s Tanja Erath who won the Bonus Cash sprint.

Rachel Langdon (FFM) attacks again, followed by Maria Jose Vargas and Andrea Ramirez of Swapit Agolico. They extend their gap to :20 before they’re reeled back in by the hungry peloton. It’s not long until Silvia Valsecchi (BePink) and Rebecca Wiasak (Fearless Femme) attack off the front and create a :45 gap.

Wiasak and Valsecchi held the longest breakaway in this race until Chloé Dygert-Owen (Sho-Air Twenty20) attacked on the QOM (Queen of the Mountain) climb on Washington St. As we’ve seen over the course of this stage race, Dygert-Owen absolutely has the power and wherewithal to drop the hammer and send it.

As soon as she hit the summit, Dyert-Owen (T20) put a :10 gap between her and the peloton and no one wanted to chase her down. The Olympic medalist solo’d for seven miles as everyone behind her stared her down.

With 1 mile to go, Dyert-Owen (T20) had a :15 gap. Looking over her shoulder, waiting for any attacks, she raced across the finish line alone for the third time in a row!

Sweeping the Competition Jerseys again, Chloé Dygert-Owen (Sho-Air Twenty20) held on to the Gates Corporation General Classification, Colorado Tourism Office QOM, FirstBank Sprint Leader, and VF Corporation Best Young Rider jerseys.

Rachel Langdon (Fearless Femme) deservedly won the VF Corporation Badass Rider Jersey for her numerous attacks and fearlessness.

Ayesha McGowan (ALP Cycles Racing) won the Audi Most Inspirational Rider Jersey, another racer who totally deserves that recognition.

Stage Four: Denver, Colorado – 8/25/2019

Not sure what was hotter: the roads, the crowds, or the racers. It was a balmy 96° F as racers lined up in Denver, Colorado to start the final stage of the Colorado Classic. With a 1:36 lead over Brodie Chapman (TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank), Chloé Dygert-Owen (Sho-Air Twenty20) could have easily sat in the peloton and waited to sprint it out at the finish.

But would that be the Dygert-Owen we’ve been watching the previous three stages? Absolutely not. She waited until the time was right. In the first intermediate sprint, Dygert-Owen could have gone for it. Instead, we saw Emily Newsom (TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank) punch it to the line winning over Flavia Oliveira (Fearless Femme) and Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon/SRAM).

The attacking lulled for a few minutes until the bonus cash lap was in contention. Ariadna Gutierrez (Swapit/Agolico) attacked and quickly created a :10 gap but as fast as she shot off the front, she was pulled back in by the group. It was none other than Jennifer Valente (Sho-Air Twenty20) who won the last-checked $8,000 bonus cash sprint. Tanja Erath (Canyon/SRAM) and Chloé Dygert-Owen were right on her wheel, but weren’t quick enough.

The cash sprint inspired some racers and eight riders launched off from the peloton, absolutely shredding the group to pieces. Several groups formed as racers clawed their way back to a wheel.

Janelle Cole (Lux/Flexential) admirably fired her own attack, trying with all her might to take a stage win. But the seven-time world champion and Olympic silver medalist wasn’t going to let her get away. The two dropped the peloton, as is Dygert-Owen’s MO. The duo took turns pulling until Dygert-Owen shot ahead of Cole.

Dygert-Owen solo’d to her victory, yet again. She took home sweeping wins and won The FirstBank Sprint Leader, Colorado Tourism Office Queen of the Mountain, and the VF Corporation Best Young Rider in all four stages.

With several attacks throughout the race, Flavia Oliveira (Fearless Femme) earned the VF Corporation Most Badass Rider jersey and the Audi Most Inspirational Rider jersey deservedly went to 52-year-old Edwige Pitel (Cogeas Mettler Look).

The Colorado Classic proved if you build it, they will come. That women’s empowerment through cycling is real. Women came from all over the world to race in the Colorado Classic. We saw riders who showed that representation matters. Ayesha McGowan inspired others as she works toward her goal of becoming the first African-American professional road cyclist. We saw Hagens Berman/Supermint leave their hearts on the road as they wrap up their last season as a team. We were able to witness a 52-year-old professional cyclist show us that age doesn’t matter.

Every rider who had the courage to show up and race their hearts out sent a message to aspiring athletes all over the world: take risks, be brave, and never give up.

I wanted to see what the teams had to say about the Colorado Classic after a day or two to reflect and if they felt the sense of women’s empowerment: 

Fearless Femme:

It wasn’t long after last year’s @coloradoclassicpro that our team director knew that we could compete at a higher level and had so much more potential to showcase! With that comes the pressure of scouting key role riders who would be assertive and #fearless👊

We are a small-budget team born from a modest bike shop in #newjersey and what we lack in resources, we make up for in grit, determination, and fearlessness! Before each stage, we scurried to make up bottles, set up under some shade, and then sat on the curb to discuss our team strategy. Yes the altitude was horrendous, yes the climbs were extremely painful, and yes the competition was world-class, but we wouldn’t have had it any other way!

Each of the Femmes executed selflessly for each other and for the plan, and the end result were primes, sprint points, #badass jerseys, and podiums. But what may have been more rewarding was that we gained confidence, aggressiveness, and determination with each stage.

The Colorado classic created a breakthrough for the state of women’s cycling, for the state of Colorado, and for validating why each of our riders compete and train. Our team director would tell you that this event wasn’t about “likes” or new “followers”, but more about receiving real love from our fans, making new friends in person, connecting with our teammates and volunteers, while maintaining the core values of our parent foundation #pureenergyvelo: #advocate | #mentor| #inspire | #befearless 

I would like to personally thank our fans, our sponsors, the event coordinators and their staff. Most importantly, the Hamilton family, who make this event special every year because of your love and generosity to our fearless family. ❤

——————

Hagens Berman Supermint:

That’s a wrap. Last stage race EVER for the team in the books. Thank you @coloradoclassicprofor putting on a stellar event. We laughed, we cried, we laid down some series watts and consumed all of the @honeystinger gels and chews.

Stage 4 was seriously fast. We stayed safe and marked moves. @willy_lilliamsgrabbed another top ten and @whit.allison secures 10th overall after solid riding from @lizacoach@jesscerra @laganzar and @thedirtfield to ensure that happened.

For some of us that’s our last race together. 😭 For the rest of us we’ve got one more shot to have some fun and race our bikes hard.

We are all so grateful to our sponsors and @thedirtfield and @jonocoulter for making this team a reality over the last four years.

💚💙💚💙💚

Supermint forever BABY!

————

Janelle Cole/LUX – Flexential:

What a way to end the season. Congrats and thanks to @chloedygert for an inspirational performance all week, and to team @luxcycling and @truthandintegrity for pulling out all the stops to make this possible. 🥈

🚴‍♀️

It’s been a rough season, but one that I wouldn’t change for anything. Thanks are in order first (always) to my mom and dad, to my team @fast_chance_cycling, @maxim_sportsnutrition, @simmonsranaracing and to @homestretchfdn: the experiential learning and growth I was able to pursue this year wouldn’t have been possible without you all. 🚴‍♀️

I’m not sure what’s next for me: the @coloradoclassicpro was a wonderful women’s racing showcase. Yet, the salaried/professional women’s cycling job market remains quite bleak right now. I look forward to finding a balance that allows me to still enjoy bikes— while also paying the medical bills that stacked up this season 😬 🤭

Here’s to a hell of a year, to a bittersweet end to the season, and to the exhilarating terror of stepping forward into the unknown 🥂🍻

———–

Chloé Dygert-Owen:

What a week for @teamtwenty20 I love this team/staff and these girls more then you know. So thankful for everything they’ve done and still do ❤️❤️❤️ thank you @coloradoclassicpro for putting on such a wonderful event, we will be back! Steamboat, Avon, Golden and Denver you guys did not disappoint! Thank you for the love!

———–

Rally-UHC:

It was a really tough week so to overcome that and prove to myself I had something left was important.” – Emma White following her podium finish in Colorado. 

This is about women’s empowerment beyond cycling. It seems to have come full circle: women gained emancipation through the power of the bike. They gained more freedom with the ability to go places on their own. And we desperately need a movement that gives women the platform to be empowered. 

Yesterday, was Women’s Equality Day (August 26th) to celebrate the 19th amendment that gave white women the right to vote. Women of color had to wait until 1965 with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to vote and some until 1975. I actually saw more people posting about their dogs for “National Dog Day” than celebrating women’s (continual fight for) equality. 

Another reason why we need organizations like The Colorado Classic, people, teams, and leaders to promote women’s empowerment.

Nearly 100 years later and we still are fighting for equal pay, representation, and the right to choose what to do with our bodies. Hopefully, this has ignited a genuine movement in the cycling sphere. 

Cover Photo by: Ryan Muncy Photography

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