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Women Make Their Mark At 2015 USA Pro Cycling Challenge

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Scott Kingsley
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Courtesy of Team Colavita/Bianchi
Whitney Schultz racing at the Philly Cycling Classic, 2015

One of the largest and most challenging professional cycling events in the U.S. is underway in Colorado.

Though for the first time since it began in 2011, the 2015 USA Pro Cycling Challenge features something new to its history – a three-day international-level women’s stage race. That’s prompting a lot of excitement among male and female cycling fans alike.

"It’s definitely overdue," says professional cyclist Whitney Schultz, who rides for team Colavita/Bianchi. "At the same time I think it’s really important for women to be so grateful and to show up and do their best at these events that are offered to us. I think the motto for women should be 'Thank you, more please.' We definitely want to keep getting these longer stage races that are more comparable to the men's."

In 2013, noting the scarcity of opportunity for pro women cyclists, the Fort Collins resident helped organize a women’s criterion at the finishing area of the men’s race in Old Town. Schultz says friends who were putting on the men’s stage helped facilitate the race, and businesses stepped up to support it financially.

"We were able to have a criterion at the men’s finish, so there were tons of people watching, which was really great," Schultz recalls. "But it’s a lot better to have the Pro Challenge putting on this race instead of a racer having to do that as a really huge volunteer project, on top of racing and a job."

There are 12 women’s teams and 16 men’s teams competing in the 2015 USA Pro Challenge and Schultz says the 3-day women’s event promises lots of excitement. It begins Friday, Aug. 21, with a time trial in Breckenridge, where riders essentially race the clock rather than each other.

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Credit USA Pro Challenge
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USA Pro Challenge
Stage 2 of the women's race is 58 miles from Loveland to Fort Collins

Stage 2 is a demanding road race that begins in Loveland and finishes in Fort Collins.

"That’s where you’re with the whole group," Schultz says. "It has over 7,000 feet of climbing – which is a lot for a race."

Stage 3 wraps up the Pro Challenge Sunday – the same day as the men’s race – with a criterion in Golden.

The women’s race follows basically the same routes as the final three stages of the men’s - but observers will note it is notably shorter, not only in the number of days but also in the number of miles ridden. So would female cyclists welcome more women’s races that are the same as men’s, rather than shorter versions? At least for Schultz the answer is "yes."

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Credit Grace Hood / KUNC
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KUNC
Spectators in Colorado Springs wait for cyclists to finish the Prologue during the 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

"A lot of the resources are already there for putting on the men’s race, [so] adding a women's is, you know, only marginally extra in expenses," she says. "And quite frankly, I don’t think as many people care if they’re watching men or women – it’s still something that’s so unique to them, and so exciting."

As host of KUNC's Colorado Edition, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. And because life is best when it's a balance of work and play, I love finding stories that highlight culture, music, the outdoors, and anything that makes Colorado such a great place to live.
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