Former US National Road Champion, Jessica Phillips, one of the promoters of the inaugural Aspen Women's Pro Race, is hoping to attract the top women to Colorado for an omnium event set to take place from August 22-24.
The three-stage event has already drawn interest from top women's teams and riders from across the nation, including two former world champions Kristin Armstrong (Peanut Butter & Co Twenty12) and Amber Neben (HTC-Highroad) along with six-time Olympic medalist Clara Hughes.
"One of my main messages is that in order to improve women's cycling, to create more sponsorships and to increase pay, we need to all do our part," Phillips told Cyclingnews. "I am asking that teams and riders do what they can to come to this event. It is looking good for some live Versus [television] coverage, there will be thousands of spectators for the crit and the courses and towns are amazing."
Phillips, who currently races for the local Ajax Tavern women's team, was involved with starting a non-profit organization benefiting women's athletic events. The organization decided to put together a three-day stage race for women after hearing about the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge, held only for professional men from August 22-26 across 12 cities in Colorado. The women's race is funded through Ajax Tavern, UnitedHealthcare and several private donations.
"The [USA Pro Cycling Challenge] article emphasized how Colorado is a huge cycling state, and people are so athletic and love riding," Phillips said. "I didn't understand why that meant just hosting a men's race, so we decided to do it ourselves. At first we were going to have just a criterium in Aspen before the men finish, but after speaking with some of the top women's teams, and asking what would make it worth it for them to send a team, we created a three-day event."
"Our goal is to showcase women's cycling," she added. "We are not making a dime off this race, we just want women to have a chance to race, and we want the public to see how fast and tough women cyclist are."
The Aspen Women's Pro Race will kick off on August 22 with an uphill time trial along Maroon Bells. Stage two will take place on August 23 with a circuit race along the undulating terrain of Snowmass. On August 24, the race will conclude at the third and final stage, a criterium held in downtown Aspen. The Pro and Elite women's field will be racing for omnium points over the course of three days.
"The courses are challenging but probably not as tough as you might expect," Phillips said. "Like I said, we want to show off women's cycling, and we want aggressive racing. I feel that if the courses are too tough, then riders are conservative and it doesn't do well to show off women's cycling. The entire event is challenging because Aspen is at 8,000 ft. We decided to do an omnium so that riders aren't completely taken out of the event from the uphill time trial."