Season Preview: USA Cycling’s Pro Road Tour (Part 1)
USA Cycling’s Professional Road Tour (PRT) kicks off this weekend in Alabama at the Sunny King Criterium followed a few days later by the Joe Martin Stage Race in Arkansas. Over the next five months, some of the world’s best male and female cyclists will be battling for supremacy across criteriums, stage races, and time trials. Today’s post will preview what A Cyclist In A Strange Land is expecting from the women of the PRT this season.
Women’s Pro Road Tour
Make It or Break It Season
The 2018 season might be a make it or break it year for the women’s peloton. With some of North America’s biggest names in men’s cycling moving up to the Pro Continental ranks, there will be a reduced number of big-name male cyclists at many PRT races. Meanwhile, the talent at the sharp end of the women’s PRT has some of the best riders in the world, probably second only to the UCI Women’s World Tour. It’s time that they capitalize on it. For the last several years, the cycling media have been talking about the need for more reporting on women’s cycling; now’s the perfect time to act! The cycling media needs to tell these racers’ stories and the racers need to help promote themselves by giving fans a look into their stories and personalities on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and podcasts.
The 2018 Rally Cycling team should be a team to fear. They’ve already started racking up wins, general classification (GC) podiums, and jerseys in non-PRT races this year. With so many great riders on the roster, it’s hard to say what to expect on the eve of the PRT opener. Kirsti Lay spent some time in the A2 Wind Tunnel recently which hints at GC aspirations. Meanwhile Abby Mickey continues her upward trajectory and Emma White will likely be on a tear once she’s recovered from her championship-winning cyclocross season. And, considering Sara Poidevin’s utter domination of last year’s Colorado Classic (Sara won the overall, sprint, queen of the mountain, and best young rider classifications), I can only expect more good things from her in 2018. My biggest question is, with so many top-shelf riders, will Rally focus on the individual results and the PRT team championship at the expense of the PRT rider championship?
Erica Allar (Rally Cycling)
When the National Criterium Calendar (NCC) folded into what is now the Pro Road Tour, it wasn’t clear how multi-time NCC Champion Erica Allar would fit into the new era for USA Cycling. Thankfully, Erica’s performance and enthusiasm doesn’t seem to have suffered in the PRT, many big wins followed including the 2017 US Criterium National Championship! Look for Erica to be gunning for a second-consecutive win at Criterium National Championship and wins at other major criterium this year. Hopefully she’ll also be in the mix for the sprinter classification in several PRT stage races too.
Sara Bergen (Rally Cycling)
After starting her season with a second overall at both the Chico Stage Race and Valley of the Sun Stage Race (neither are PRT races), Sara Bergen is starting to look like a future GC rider. Only time will tell if Sara is peeking too early in the season or if she is on form to challenge for the PRT crown. To be a legitimate dark horse contender, Sara will need to focus on steady performance gains and continuing her string of good results. Her first overall of the season should come with time.
Allie Dragoo (Sho-Air Twenty20)
Last summer, Allie Dragoo returned to her roots when she ended her tenure at Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling to re-join Sho-Air Twenty20. With strong legs from racing in Europe with Cervelo Bigla, Allie won the GC at the Cascade Cycling Classic. She started her 2018 campaign without any diminished strength winning the time trial and the GC at the Chico Stage Race last month. Allie should be considered a favorite at any stage race with a time trial and may even have a chance at winning the PRT overall.
UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team
Has the UnitedHealthcare team become a victim of their own success? In the last two years, they’ve lost Coryn Rivera, Tayler Wiles, and Ruth Winder to the UCI World Tour. Cheers for those riders, but where does that leave the team for the 2018 season? Certainly, Katie Hall and Leah Thomas will be strong leaders, but who else? Hopefully we’ll see a more regular resurgence of UnitedHealthcare’s veteran riders, like Lauren Hall, in 2018.
Katie Hall (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team)
The past few seasons have been superb for this svelte climber who is one of the best in the PRT peloton. Assuming Katie doesn’t get distracted by races in Europe (and who could blame her if she did?), she’ll be the top favorite for winning the PRT rider championship. Look for big performances at the Tour of the Gila and Redlands Bicycle Classic. Outside of the PRT, you can also expect some striking rides during women’s races at the Tour of California and Colorado Classic.
Peta Mullens (Hagens Berman Supermint)
Look for this Australian sprinter to take a lengthy summer holiday in the US again this year. Peta will no doubt spoil some American and Canadian sprinters’ good times at criteriums and omniums this season. Always a popular and exciting winner. If Peta is as strong as she was last year, she’ll quickly rack up the wins.
Women’s PRT Schedule
April 7..................Sunny King Criterium (Anniston, AL)
April 12-15...........Joe Martin Stage Race (Fayetteville, AR)
April 18-22...........Tour of the Gila Stage Race (Silver City, NM)
April 29................Dana Point Grand Prix Criterium (Dana Point, CA)
May 3-6................Redlands Bicycle Classic Stage Race (Redlands, CA)
May 19.................Rochester Twilight Criterium (Rochester, NY)
May 26.................Winston-Salem Classic Criterium (Winston-Salem, NC)
May 28.................Winston-Salem Classic Road Race (Winston-Salem, NC)
June 2...................Glencoe Grand Prix Criterium (Glencoe, IL)
June 8-10.............Saint Francis Tulsa Tough Omnium (Tulsa, OK)
June 9-10.............Armed Forces Cycling Classic Omnium (Arlington, VA)
June 13-17...........North Star Grand Prix Stage Race (Minnesota)
July 13..................Chrono Kristin Armstrong Time Trial (Boise, ID)
July 14..................ASWB Twilight Criterium (Boise, ID)
July 14..................Detroit Cycling Championships Criterium (Detroit, MI)
Aug. 31-Sept. 3...The Gateway Cup Omnium (St. Louis, MO)
September 9.......Thompson Criterium of Doylestown (Doylestown, PA)