The Felt-powered TWENYT16 Ridebiker women’s pro cycling team has been having a stellar season thus far, racking up wins left and right and showing a dominant performance at the Redlands Bicycle Classic. The squad took the victory in the Team GC category, while captain Kristin Armstrong secured the overall win in the Individual GC. Felt Bicycles caught up with the team’s general manager, Nicola Cranmer, to talk about the win and the team’s upcoming races, including the Tour of the Gila, which starts this week.
FELT: Tell us about the team’s performance at the Redlands Classic.
NICOLA: The Redlands Classic was Kristin’s first race this season with the complete team, as many of the riders had been racing in Europe. So it was great for her to have a full team around her for support. Redlands was one of her big goals going into this season. She had won individual stages at Redlands in the past, but she never won the overall, so she had always wanted to win it and that really gave her great motivation. The team rode exceptionally well, even though most of them had come back from Europe the day before racing began and were fighting some serious jet lag. Kristin had a great time trial on Stage 3, which is one of her main focuses going into the rest of this season and, in particular, the time trial at the Rio Olympics. She wants to nail every time trial possible in preparation. And it was a really special final stage with Leah Thomas taking her first pro road calendar win and Kristin staying in yellow and the team winning the team GC.
FELT: The team is starting the Tour of the Gila this week. How significant is this race for the team?
NICOLA: Gila is really a game-changer when it comes to most athletes’ fitness levels for the season. As far as American racing is concerned, Gila is one of the most challenging and longest-running stage races. And it’s not an easy race. All kinds of conditions get thrown at you. It could be incredibly hot one year, and on other years I’ve seen people literally blown off their bikes due to windy conditions. And there’s always a possibility of snow and rain, too. You never know what Gila will have in store for you and you have to be prepared for all kinds of conditions. Tour of the Gila has always been a part of Kristin Armstrong’s preparations for later seasons goals like the national championships and the Olympics on certain years.
FELT: What are the team’s goals going into Tour of the Gila?
NICOLA: We’re racing for the general classification win, and we tend to really focus on just one goal. Wednesday’s first stage was going great for the team, but then a lot of crashes happened. There were a lot of anxious people in the peloton. Stage 1 at Gila, for the women’s field anyway, is typically fairly safe. It typically just ends up being a race to the bottom of the climb and then seeing who can get to the top of the climb the fastest. Mara Abbott is the best climber in the world, and unsurprisingly she put some time into the field on Stage 1 this year. But our captain Kristin Armstrong rode solid to a third-place finish. And since she’s one of the best time trialists in the world, she will be super motivated going into Friday’s individual time trial and will hopefully move up the GC standings.
FELT: The team suffered some bad luck on Stage 1 of Tour of the Gila, too, correct?
NICOLA: Unfortunately, we had three riders involved in crashes. Alison Jackson will continue on for Thursday’s Stage 2. And even though she has an unbelievable amount of road rash, she’s tough and she’ll put in the work. Allie Dragoo was involved in a crash and hit her head, so we’ve been consulting with the team doctor to see if she’ll be able to carry on for the rest of the event. We have very strong policies when it comes to concussion protocol and head injuries, and we understand the ramifications very well. It’s not worth it to risk anyone’s health in any situation. Jess Cerra was involved in a crash on Stage 1, too, and she’s got some broken bones. She was taken to the hospital in Silver City, New Mexico, but she’s in great spirits—her priorities were all about how the team performed at the end of the stage!
FELT: What’s next for the team after Tour of the Gila?
NICOLA: Our sights will be set on the Amgen Tour of California. After Tour of the Gila wraps up, we’ll go to Folsom, California, and have a team time trial camp. Originally, for the Tour of California we were going to be racing our Felt DA time trial bikes. But the event changed the rules for this year that will have us racing our Felt F1 and ZW road bikes instead. So we want the riders to spend some time together honing their team time trial on different equipment. We’ll also have to change up our roster for the Tour of California now that Jess Cerra won’t be able to race. We will have [Junior World Champion] Chloe Dygert back with the team for the event, who will be joined by Leah Thomas, Kristin Armstrong and Alison Jackson. The rest of the roster has yet to be finalized, though.
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