By Jessica McWhirt
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. 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.