Winter Park cyclist holds her own in French stage race |

Winter Park cyclist holds her own in French stage race

Riding with the U.S. National Cycling Team, Winter Park’s Alison Powers earned top results in World Cup races in France last week.

The skier-turned-competitive-cyclist, along with her American teammates, raced in the 2008 Tour de l’Aude Cycliste Feminin in south-central France from May 16 to 25.

A nine-day stage race, the Tour de l’Aude is 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 demonstrated her sprinting abilities by taking a third-place finish in the 3.9-kilometer prologue held at Gruissan.

The prologue’s winner was Australian champion Katie Mactier who finished a second faster, followed by Dutch time trial champion and World scratch race champion Ellen Van Dijk of the Netherlands National Team.

Powers’ next major success in the Tour de l’Aude came in its grueling mountain race near the Spanish border on May 20. She took second place in the 101-kilometer race at Osseja, which was the tour’s fourth stage.

Former two-time world champion Susanne Ljungskog of Sweden won the Osseja race by over two minutes after powering away from the pack in the final kilometers. In the final sprint to the finish, Powers battled to the front of the pack to finish ahead of Sweden’s Emma Johansson who finished about nine seconds behind her.

In the final results for the 2008 Tour de l’Aude, Powers finished in 31st place out of the 84 women cyclists.

Two Americans finished ahead of her ” Amber Neben of the U.S. National Team placed eighth; Christine Thorburn, racing for the Webcor Builders Cycling Team, placed 16th.

Other Americans finishing the race series were U.S. National Team’s Amber Rais in 44th place, Christina Ruitter in 57th and Katherine Carroll in 73rd. America’s Anke Wichmann of Team High Road Women placed 72nd.

Powers has been training and racing with the U.S. National Team which has touring Europe this spring. She was selected to join the team’s tour this spring after she was nominated in January for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Cycling Long Team.

Powers’ selection by U.S. Cycling was described as a “discretionary nomination” for the women’s Olympic road cycling team. The official selection for the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing, China will take place later this summer.

Last year was Powers’ first 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, a women’s professional cycling team based in Madison, Wis.

After competing in Europe this spring, Powers is returning to the United States this week where she will be rejoining her Colavita/Sutter Home teammates for races in Pennsylvania.

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