Wiinter Park bicycle racer rides with world’s elite | SkyHiNews.com

Wiinter Park bicycle racer rides with world’s elite

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After training and racing with the U.S. National Cycling Team this spring in Europe, Winter Park’s skier-turned-bicycle racer Alison Powers returned stateside to pick up a couple top-place finishes in one of this nation’s premier bicycling series.

In early June, Powers earned a third and a fourth place in two of the three races of the 2008 Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling in Pennsylvania. The series featured several of the world’s elite women bicycle racers.

During the Triple Crown, Powers was racing as a member of Team Colavita/Sutter Home presented by Cooking Light, a women’s professional cycling team based in Madison, Wis., that she joined in 2007.

Powers scored her first top-place finish in the Triple Crown’s opening event at Allentown, Penn., on June 3. The Lehigh Valley Classic was an 85-mile, 12-lap circuit race through the downtown streets of Allentown.

In the sprint to the finish, Powers crossed the line in third place, right behind defending Triple Crown champion Ina-Yoko Teutenberg of the German High Road team who won first place. Second place went to Laura Van Gilder of Cheerwine Cycling.

Finishing in fifth place in the Lehigh Valley Classic was Tina Pic, Powers’ teammate on the Colavita/Sutter Home presented by Cooking Light. She is the team’s perennial star and one of the top women cyclists on the national and international scene.

Powers picked up her next strong finish in the Triple Crown’s second race on June 5. She finished fourth in the Commerce Bank Reading Classic Women’s Criterium, a 25-mile race that traced a 1.8-mile circuit through downtown Reading, Penn.

Powers was part of a five-rider group that broke away from the field about halfway through the Reading race. On the last lap with 200 meters to go, Teutenberg made a final sprint to the finish with Team Tibco’s Joanne Kiesanowski finishing second and Cheerwine’s Laura Van Gilder placing third. Powers was right on their tails, finishing fourth in 1:01:23.

With two days of hard cycling already behind them, the racers still had to face the Commerce Bank Liberty Classic, Triple Crown’s third and final leg held in downtown Philadelphia on June 8.

Sunday’s race was a 57.6-mile event consisting of four 14.4-mile laps through the streets of Pennsylvania’s largest city. It was considered the toughest race because it included four steep climbs up the grueling Manayunk Wall with grades of more than 17 percent.

And just to make it even harder, the temperatures for race day had climbed to about 90 degrees.

The combination of exhaustion, steep climbs and heat took their toll. Teutenberg, who had won the first two rounds of the Triple Crown, could not maintain the final pace, slipping to third place in the Philadelphia Liberty Classic. Winning first place was her fellow German High Road rider Chantal Beltman with a time of 2:28:52, six seconds ahead of Brooke Miller of Team Tibco.

The Colavita/Sutter Home team’s Tina Pic held on to take sixth place in the grueling final race. Powers crossed the finish line in 34th place with a time of 2:29:29.

Her top performances in two of the Triple Crown’s three races came on the heels of Powers’ outstanding results in her final European races in May before returning to the United States.

Racing as a member of the U.S. National Cycling Team, she posted two top finishes in France’s 2008 Tour de l’Aude Cycliste Feminin, a nine-day stage race from May 16-25. One of the grand tours of women’s cycle racing, attracting many of the top women riders in the world, including several Olympic and World Champions.

In the opening sprint race of the Tour de l’Aude on May 16, Powers sped to a third-place finish in the 3.9-kilometer prologue. Then four days later on May 20, she earned a second place in the tour’s fourth stage during a grueling 101-mile mountain race near the Spanish border.

Powers was selected to train and race with the U.S. National Team in Europe this spring after she was nominated last January for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Cycling Long Team. Her selection by U.S. Cycling was described as a “discretionary nomination” for the women’s Olympic road cycling team.

The Olympic team nomination was based upon Powers’ 2007 season results. Last year was her first one as a professional cyclist racing at the international level.

Powers finished the 2007 racing season ranked 103rd in the world. Some of her top results included winning a gold medal in the Pan American Championships’ time trial in Venezuela, taking third place in the Memorial Davide Fardelli Time Trial in Italy and an overall seventh-place finish at Le Grand Tour du Montreal.

Powers’ rise to an Olympic nomination after only one year as a professional cyclist is even more remarkable after it is realized just began competing in bicycle racing only two years ago. As she grew up in Grand County, all of her athletic ambitions were centered on alpine ski racing.

Beginning as a teenager, Powers trained and raced with the Winter Park Competition Center’s ski team. Selected by the U.S. Ski Team in 1997, she launched herself into a ski racing career after graduating Middle Park High in 1998.

A ski racing accident in 2001 injured her knee, but Powers continued with the U.S. Ski Team until she finally called it quits in 2004. Believing her competitive days were over, Powers moved to Vermont to become a ski coach and began biking for exercise and recreation.

On a whim during the spring of 2005, she entered her first cycling road race in Vermont as a novice, but to her surprise discovered she had a real talent for the sport. She was soon winning races and advancing up the racing categories.

Moving back to Colorado at the end of that summer to become a ski coach in Steamboat Springs, Powers continued to improve her results and joined a Boulder-based cycling team. With the team’s sponsorship, she broke into the CAT 1 division, which is the elite level of women’s bicycle racing and ended the 2006 racing season ranked fifth in the nation.

Thanks to those results, Powers signed a professional contract with Colavita/Sutter Home presented by Cooking Light late that year.

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