AEG Sports, organizers of the Amgen Tour of California, will host 13 of the strongest female time trialists in the world at the inaugural California Women's International Time Trial Challenge on Friday, May 20 in Solvang, California.
The race is held in conjunction with stage 6 of the professional men's eight-day stage race at the Amgen Tour of California. The 24-kilometre time trial course has something for every type of rider including a predominantly uphill battle on the way out, followed by a pass over Ballard Canyon and descent back into the finish line.
Cyclingews spoke with several participants including time trial world champion Emma Pooley (Garmin-Cervelo) from Great Britain, former two-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong (Peanut Butter & Co Twenty 12) from the US, US time trial national champion Evie Stevens (HTC-Highroad) and track world champion Tara Whitten (Tibco-To the Top) from Canada.
The remaining riders include HTC-Highroad teammates Charlotte Becker, Amanda Miller, Amber Neben and Emilia Fahlin long with Heather Jackson, Janel Holcomb of Colavita Forno D'Asolo, Jessica Phillips, Alison Starnes of Peanut Butter & Co Twenty12 and Rhae Shaw.
Emma Pooley (Garmin-Cervelo)
"I think the time trial is great for women's racing," Pooley said. "It is really cool to have a race alongside the guys' race where people actually notice. Also, it looks like Andrew [Messick] has put on a classy event with a very strong field. There aren't that many riders but they are all very strong."
"Personally, I don't get that many opportunities to wear my jersey and I just really want to do a time trial," she said. "This is my first time in the US and it is important to show my sponsors Garmin and Cervelo to the women's market here."
"I'd like to win another world title this year but the course in Copenhagen, Denmark is flat and doesn't suit me," she said. "We don't get many chances to race against a quality field before that, so this is great. The Solvang course is nice and it has a bit of everything from steep climbs to lovely descent and windy sections."
Kristin Armstrong (Peanut Butter & Co Twenty12)
"I think this is a great opportunity for women because we are racing as part of the premier stage race for men," Armstrong said. "To showcase women's cycling on Versus is something that doesn't come around, in fact, in my nine years of racing it has never come around. It's a start. It's the year before the Olympic Games in London and a way to get the exposure for women's racing. The time trial is a good place to start."
"They have invited 13 women, and there are many world class women here and women who are young American hopefuls that we will see in the future to make the step up," she said. "I think its a nice event at AEG can start with and the women can show their professionalism, show that it is not that difficult to add the women's race alongside the men's race. I hope that we are able to show a good time in a professional manner to the AEG folks and all the partners here, and in time the race starts to grow."
"To have a head-to-head time trial falls in place with what I need," she said. "There are some of the best time trialists in the world here and so the pressure on me tomorrow is very great. It means a lot for everyone here to do well."
"I asked Levi Leipheimer if he had any tips for the Solvang time trial," she said. "It was very advantageous because I can go out and ride the course but until you race the course you don't know. He told me parts of the course and the way he rode them that helped him win it three times, I'm taking his advice. Also, Rory Sutherland gave me some tips and so I got two different perspectives."
Evie Stevens (HTC-Highroad)
"The Pan American Championships was my last time trial," Stevens said. "This is exciting. They just announced that the Route de France, one of the biggest women's stage races, was cancelled and so it is great that Amgen is having a women's event. It is really going to showcase women's cycling. I think we are going to watch this event and be impressed by the talent that is here. We would all love to have the Amgen Tour of California for women, along with the men, but this is a great start."
"Anytime you get the chance to race against some of the best time trialists in the world is great. Every time trial you do is good to help you figure out where you are, where your form is and how you're doing in the time trial. I would love to go to the world championships this year and I'm going to do everything I can to get there."
Tara Whitten (Tibco-To the Top)
"This is my first road event since track worlds," Whitten said. "I'm excited to race because its the first one since track worlds. It is always a bit of an unknown for the first race of the season but I feel really good and I like the course so I'm just excited to see what I can do."
"I pre-rode the course and it has a bit of everything," she said. "There are a lot of transitions and power sections where I think I will be very strong. It is hard for me to say how I will do but it is a good test to see where my fitness is and what my weaknesses are at this time in the season."
"I want to go to the time trial world championships this year," she said. "I think it is kind of appropriate that worlds is held in Denmark this year because Solvang kind of looks like Copenhagen. I'm focused on road worlds in the time trial."