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Colorado Women’s Cycling Project p/b Spark. Hard-working amateurs meet the big time.

August 22, 2015
Fan support for Kimberley Johnson on Moonstone Road in Breckenridge

Fan support for Kimberley Johnson on Moonstone Road in Breckenridge

The USA Pro Challenge supplies women’s cycling with multiple firsts. There’s the race itself, a new three-day event on the North American calendar shaped in the form of a time trial, road race, and criterium.

The second original element matters enormously to women who race across Colorado roads in all kinds of weather. It’s a composite team of six riders who live in the state, named Colorado Women’s Cycling Project p/b Spark.

“Spark seeks to provide women the opportunity to race at a high level,” explained co-founder Kimberley Johnson, “and Colorado Women’s Cycling Project aims to get more women involved in the sport and invest in the community.”

The team may be the only all-Colorado women’s composite group assembled until now for a national-level competition. Sabrina David, Gwen Inglis, Kimberley Johnson, Kristen “KP” Legan, Jen Sharp, and Meg Hendricks started the race on Friday with the time trial in Breckenridge.

Saturday’s road race travels from Loveland to Fort Collins. The final overall winner will be feted after the criterium in Golden on tomorrow.

Johnson and co-founder Robert Carroll – the man behind Spark – present a squad that’s familiar to many due to the success of its members on the local Colorado racing scene.

“Although we want to be realistic when setting goals (going up against such strong squads as United Healthcare and Optum) we have a few strong sprinters, some good climbers, and some great support riders as well,” wrote Johnson by email.

All six women are accomplished athletes. The tall Inglis is the current state masters criterium champion and frequent criterium winner. Johnson is also handy at a criterium and has competed in higher level events such as the Cascade Cycling Classic. Legan, a former triathlete, has won road races, time trials, and hill climbs. David finds multiple podiums annually. Jen Sharp counts numerous wins on the road this year and is a current track masters national champion and coach. So far this season, Hendricks won an individual and team time trial.

“We are a smaller, low-budget composite team, and admittedly don’t have the firepower or prestige of many of the other pro teams who will be there, but I don’t think that means we have to be complacent and settle for pack finishes,” Johnson noted. “We are all incredibly driven, hard-working individuals, and we may surprise ourselves and others with what we can accomplish!”

The co-founders couldn’t image a race in Colorado without providing an opportunity for the elite amateur women who race and train there and so petitioned the USA Pro Challenge to add their squad. From there it was all-hands on deck. According to Carroll, everything came together in just two months after the invitation to join the race.

Multi-time national champion and retired racer Alison Powers serves as race director / coach.

Longmont’s Becky Furuta, a competitive cyclist who had worked before with Carroll on building a team for the North Star Grand Prix, which in the end was cancelled for the women, supported the effort with sponsor acquisition. Among other sponsors is Real Athlete Diets out of Boulder. The chef service is supplying three days of gourmet meals with items such as chimichurri chicken with mango, roasted chilled peach soup with goat cheese, and chia and flax seed waffles. Pactimo keeps the ladies in kits.

Johnson hopes the effort to make the team a reality for the USA Pro Challenge will carry over into future opportunities.

“Spark was developed as a platform for supporting women’s cycling, and I know Robert [Caroll] has huge passion for growing women’s racing,” Johnson wrote. “Whether that means continued composite teams for individual races or an elite team that focuses on NRC/NCC races, I know many of us would love to see some of this momentum extend beyond the USA Pro Challenge.”

For more on the Colorado Women’s Cycling Project p/b Spark, see this Denver Post story.

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