In its second year, the Colorado Classic professional road race will feature many teams from across the world, and a few from our own backyard. The ladies of Palmares Racing have returned to race on home turf to represent our amazing state.
Team Captain Michelle Henry is beyond excited to be back at the Colorado Classic. “It’s an amazing opportunity for us to have the support of this local race, and not only are we brought back to race but also ALP Cycles Racing and Stages race teams are joining us in representing Colorado! We really embrace the opportunity to showcase the level of riding we have here in Colorado and look forward to the expanded stages this year!”
Among the team’s roster includes first-timer to the Colorado Classic. Hayley Lytle. “I remember the Pro Challenge going on and thinking that it was so cool but as a college runner and triathlete at the time, I never thought I would be out there racing myself. It is pretty surreal to now have the opportunity to race in the Colorado Classic.”
Check out the team’s line up for this weekend:
Jillian Bearden hails from Colorado Springs. Born and raised in the Centennial State, she’s an electrical engineer by day and wears many other hats to include competitive cyclist, mom to Anna and Conor, and wife to Sarah. As a kid, the only way to get around was to ride your bike, which is how she got into cycling. That naturally progressed over many years of riding to training, and then racing. For women interested getting into cycling, but unsure of where to begin, her advice is “find a local bike shop you like and ask if they do clinics on beginner level rides and 101 basic mechanical stuff to know how a bike works better. What ever you do, don’t get yourself discouraged. Life is amazing on two wheels so enjoy it!”
Caroline Mani, also a Colorado Springs resident, and has quite the resume as a professional cyclist. Originally from France and primarily a cyclocross racer, she is a three-time cyclocross French National champion (2010/2011/2016) and won the silver medal at the CX World Championship in 2016.
Michelle Henry, mom to Brooks and Burton, wife to Brett (also races for Palmares), grew up in Rochester (NY) and has called Denver home since 2007. When she’s not riding bikes, shes a registered dietitian for a pharmaceutical company that produces nutrition products. Her intro to cycling “because I wanted to ride faster to work to start, then they all said ‘you should do the Courage Classic’ and so I did…then everyone said ‘you should do the Saturday group ride’ and so I did.” Here is is 5 years later racing bikes with fast women! Her piece of advice for women new to cycling…”get out there and ride with people faster than you, you’ll learn a LOT and get faster in the process!”
Hayley Bates headed west to Colorado from Long Beach (CA) to study International Political Economy at Colorado College. When she’s not out on her bike, she funds her cycling endeavors by working in commercial real estate. She grew up with cycling in her family with both parents as avid cyclists. When her mom wanted to do a cycling tour of Italy, Hayley had to get on the bike and train if she wanted to go. There was no looking back for her since then!
Hayley Lytle, also from west of the Continental Divide (Huntington Beach, CA), now calls Denver home as an Account Manager with Delta Dental of Colorado. She was a competitive runner in college, spent most of her collegiate career injured, and started riding her bike for cross training. “I fell in love with how much more I could see on two wheels. I eventually ended up doing triathlon and then found myself in a bike race a few years later thanks to a lot of very encouraging cycling mentors.” Her advice to women looking to ride includes not worrying about the price of your bike or having pretty gear. “It wasn’t too long ago that I was a poor college student.” She knows first hand how there can be a financial barrier to this sport. “My first bike wasn’t the nicest but I fell in love with the sport on it.” She also recommends finding a club or team to ride with. No need to commit to racing right away, but many groups have open rides and are always happy to have new riders. “I would have never considered racing bikes without some of the wonderful female cyclists that went out of their way to ‘show me the ropes.'”
Charlotte Backus, Colorado native inside and out, she is a college student at Fort Lewis in Durango, double majoring in psychology and exercise science with side jobs as a spin instructor, fitness coach, and photographer to name a few. In the summers splits her time between her hometown of Larkspur and Park City (UT). As a lifelong athlete, she learned how to ride a bike at the wee age of three, but ventured off to swimming, running, and lacrosse. The older she got, the more her dad rode his bike in an effort to be more green and save gas. So at the age of 12, Charlotte started to ride again. She remembers stuffing her dad’s cleats with tissue paper so her feet would fit in. Group rides turned into yearly traditions of riding Elephant Rock, then completing century rides together. Here’s what Charlotte has to say to any women curious about cycling…”take whatever size step you want to take that could be either small or big but we don’t bite. The women in the cycling community are so inspirational and encouraging to each other. Of course racing is racing and usually what we say is ‘what happens in the race stays in the race’ because I’ve never had problems with any of the strong women as all they do is support me and there is a known level that we are all in this together. So I would just encourage any woman to just start wherever they are comfortable with and just stay in contact with others as much as possible as the encouragement I’ve gotten from these women have been amazing. Most importantly go ride your bike and don’t just ride it because you are forcing yourself to, ride it because you love to.”
Palmares Racing was founded in 2017 and the team is comprised of over 60 men and women who strive to strengthen the cycling community in Colorado through racing and supporting one another. Go to their website to learn more about the team and their mission.
Khem Suthiwan is a staff content editor/media correspondent with 303 Endurance Network and also races for Palmares Racing in road and cyclocross. She’s also triathlete, avid skier, SCUBA diver, and a Colorado resident since January 2001.