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Track to triumph at Tour of Utah Women’s Edition

August 17, 2014
Inaugural Tour of Utah Women's Edition podium (l-r) Mandy Heintz 2nd, Coryn Rivera 1st, Meredith Miller 3rd

Inaugural Tour of Utah Women’s Edition podium (l-r) Mandy Heintz 2nd, Coryn Rivera 1st, Meredith Miller 3rd

The story is timeless. It’s about payback for hard efforts that fall short through no fault of our own. But mostly, it’s about the things we do for love. Both took center stage at the first Tour of Utah Women’s Edition p/b Play Hard Give Back on August 6th.

Over sixty motivated women took the track at Miller Motorsports Park for 75 minutes of sweeping turns linked by straightaways while the men raced Stage 3 of the seven-day Utah tour.

Women's peloton in the vast Miller Motorsports Park

Women’s peloton in the vast Miller Motorsports Park

Racing around and around on a mostly flat, wind-swept expanse of track set in chalky-white earth might seem less appealing than tracing historic Pony Express byways and the edge of Utah Lake like the men. But Alison Powers (UnitedHealthcare) didn’t see it that way.

“It’s so fun! I’m really excited….It’s two miles of jwu, jwu (the sound Powers makes while simulating flowing S-shapes with her arms, fingers twined together),” she said in Cedar City two days earlier. “It’s still flat but lots of corners so it will be fun.”

And even less boring for the multi-national champion who, as was planned two days prior at the Cedar City Grand Prix, would take the last pull to lead-out teammate Coryn Rivera for the win.

In Cedar City a damaged wheel ended Rivera’s race early. With her teammate missing in action in the last lap of the criterium, Powers took charge and claimed victory.

Two days later at the Tour of Utah Women’s Edition race Powers and her UnitedHealthcare teammates chased down a solo rider, Anne Perry (DNA Cycling p/b K4), and delivered Rivera to the line. The young woman’s win at the motorsports park radiated redemption after the Cedar City mishap. “It’s good to actually deliver for my team and do well, have a nice result,” she said.

Meredith Miller: I was like, OK, I’m going to be the representative for the team today and do the best I can and was lucky to pull it off for the last podium spot.

Meredith Miller: “I was like, OK, I’m going to be the representative for the team today and do the best I can and was lucky to pull it off for the last podium spot.”

To her right on the finish line Mandy Heintz (Guru Cycles p/b Haute Wheels Racing) from Houston, Texas got second. Her result was hard-fought even before the race had begun. Heintz, 33 years-old, started the Guru team this year and has raced in the pro women’s peloton for just that amount of time.

“Words can’t describe the feeling,” Heintz said about her team’s result. “It’s been such a long year, a very rewarding year. A lot of hard work. A lot of sacrifice. That’s what people don’t understand, is how much sacrifice goes into, not only racing at a pro level, but all of us have a life and some things in our life get put on the back burner from jobs to families, everything.

“It’s a lot of bittersweet feelings. It’s good. My girls sacrificed themselves, their jobs, their families, their spouses, their partners, to be here, and I couldn’t have done it without them.” Five women with an average age of about 35 race for the team. Laura Van Gilder guest rode for the team in Utah, finishing fourth after Pepper Palace’s Meredith Miller in third. Guru is a bike manufacturer out of Montreal, Canada and supplies the women with custom-fit to-a-person road and time trial bikes.

For Heintz personally, assembling the team and preparing to race at a high level has come with a cost to relationships, she said. She has decided to reduce time at work as a physical therapist to concentrate on improving herself as a competitive cyclist.

Her podium result just behind the best young rider at La Course by Le Tour de France came as a shock but also a confirmation of the team’s collective efforts over the past months.

“In our first year, our first race was Redlands,” she said. “We were happy to be there. And now we’re not just happy to be here; we belong here.”

Breanne Nalder off the front

Breanne Nalder off the front

Any woman trying to establish a breakaway at the motorsports park faced an especially difficult task. According to Mike Newbury, a coach/soigneur working for the Vanderkitten team, staying away on the flat course in the wind required “big power” against a field containing women who were all racing at the same level.

Breanne Nalder (DNA Cycling p/b K4) from Salt Lake City found that energy and for it won the most aggressive rider prize. When asked about the power she expended to separate from the group, Nalder acknowledged the effort as significant.

“But I loved it, every moment of it,” she continued. “That’s why I love to bike race: you put yourself in the hurt locker and hope that it pulls through for the team.”

Coryn Rivera wins Tour of Utah Women's Edition. "[Winning] is special because we’re here for the first women’s edition race."

Coryn Rivera wins Tour of Utah Women’s Edition. “[Winning] is special because we’re here for the first women’s edition race.”

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