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Colorado Classic expands women's pro cycling race

April 26, 2018 Updated: April 27, 2018 at 7:17 am
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Brianna Walle of TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank leads a group of riders around the corner of Tejon Street and Colorado Avenue in downtown Colorado Springs Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, during the women's race of Stage 1 of the Colorado Classic in Colorado Springs. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Colorado boasts a long and storied history with women's professional cycling. And organizers of the Colorado Classic plan to add another chapter this summer.

The second edition of the event will include four days of racing by some of the top female riders in the world, race officials announced Thursday. That's twice the number of days raced in 2017 and the most in a women's Colorado professional road event since the final year of the venerable Coors Classic in 1988.

The stage race is scheduled for Aug. 16-19, with two days in Vail and two days in Denver. Only this time the women will share top billing with their male counterparts for the duration of the event.

Canadian Sara Poidevin won the inaugural race last year that consisted of a stage in Colorado Springs and a stage in Breckenridge, but the women did not compete the final two days in Denver.

"It's great to hear that the women will be racing the same number of days as the men and on the same courses in Vail and Denver," said University of Colorado at Colorado Springs student and Olympic silver medalist Jennifer Valente, who won the opening stage in 2017.

While the women often take a backseat to the men in pro cycling events these days, that hasn't always been the case. In 1975, the Red Zinger Bicycle Classic launched in Colorado with a men's race and women's race. Four years later, the event changed ownership and title sponsorship. But one thing didn't change: the presence of female cyclists.

So not only did the Coors Classic feature male legends of the sport such as five-time Tour de France champion Bernard Hinault and three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond, it also shone the spotlight on female stars such as Jeannie Longo and Olympic gold medalist Connie Carpenter-Phinney.

"That race put women's cycling on the map, and not only in the United States," Carpenter told The Gazette in 2012. "It set a standard that didn't exist before that in the world. Right from the start in 1975, there was a women's race at the same time as the men's race.

"There was always a very substantial women's component."

Now, three decades after the final year of the Coors Classic, there will be again.

Stage 1 will be a circuit race in Vail, followed a day later by an individual time trial up Vail Pass. The final two stages will be a criterium and circuit race in Denver. Officials also plan to expand video coverage of the women's race.

"I'm very proud of the steps the Colorado Classic has made in continuing to develop and showcase women's cycling," said Monument resident Sean Petty, the women's race director. "We will continue to strive to bring equity to the women's race as well as provide world-class courses and crowds."

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