An elite peloton of women cyclists are just weeks away from passing through Santa Clarita for the finish line of the 2019 Amgen Tour of California. Among the most excited to see the competition are the Santa Clarita Valley’s very own female cyclists, who say this type of representation is significant for a popular sport in the area.
The cycling race is a Tour de France-style cycling road race that challenges top professional teams to compete in a seven-day, seven-stage course that covers more than 750 miles of California’s roadways, highways and coastlines. Santa Clarita is set to host the start of the final stage in both the men’s and women’s races.
This year, the women’s course will run concurrently May 16-18, using many of the same routes as the men’s course and will go down in history as the longest female race in event history. Athletes will be seen climbing more than 20,800 feet across the 177-mile, three-stage road race course.
With an abundance of open space that offers more than 90 miles of trails, it’s no doubt that the Amgen Tour would once again bring cyclists to the SCV for an adrenaline-filled event, bringing out hundreds of Santa Claritans to watch first-hand. But it’s the women’s race finally reaching Southern California that has local female cyclists most excited about the competition, one they believe will be nothing short of intense as the men’s race.
“I think the women’s race can be more exciting than the men’s,” said Laurie Troy, a Castaic resident and endurance cyclist. “The women go. You get these sweet little smiles at the camera and then they put the pedal down and it’s all about business.
“It’s exciting to know that (the women) will be out there riding the same roads as the men, rather than them be given the same, silly little circuit around town, thinking they’re not good enough to be going out on the canyon roads and really hammering that out.”
While not interested in competing, Troy knows what it takes to tour and knows women are just as capable to hit the rough terrain. She started her journey with “centuries,” which are usually cycling club-sponsored events of 100 miles or more. But soon she found a passion for touring, leading her to finish her longest event of 545 miles from San Francisco to Pacific Palisades over the course of eight days for the Arthritis Foundation. The route was not as challenging as what Amgen Tour participants will face, she said, but the dedication to train your body and mind is the same.
“I loved it,” she said. “I just set a pace and didn’t worry too much about time. To prepare for long distances, I would ride with the Santa Clarita Valley Pedaling Posse and ride for about three weeks, doing about 30 to 60 miles each time and biking on my own. I also cross-trained, doing swimming and jogging.”
For Valencia cyclist Stacey Sullivan, it’s all about the timing — or rather improving on her personal record, or PR. She prefers racing in time trials, where, “It’s you against the clock, and it has to do a lot with aerodynamics.”
“I started riding because I knew we had nice bike rides,” said Sullivan, who first took on centuries when she became more serious about the sport. “A coach suggested I’d try time trials based on my power (meter) profile.”
Sullivan has won the Southern California Time Trial Championships for the past two years, held in Lake Los Angeles and has placed among the top five in other races held in San Diego and Piru. Come June, she will compete in time trial events at the 2019 National Senior Games in Albuquerque.
For Sullivan, it’s the “endless sense of challenge” that comes with competing against the clock and for Troy, it’s the constant battle with “endurance, courage and perseverance” with traveling long distances. Both require the strength they’re thrilled to see in the women set to pass through their hometown.
“Women have physiologically lower aerobic potential so it’s difficult to go out with many race-oriented peers because they’re almost all male and will almost all outperform you,” said Sullivan. “Often women’s races are shorter and significantly less challenging than the men’s races but women are just as capable. When we (women) get a stage here for the Amgen Tour, it’s just so significant to see women treated seriously.”
Nina Moskol, cyclist and chairwoman of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition SCV chapter agrees with Sullivan. “As a woman who came to adulthood as Title 9 began to really affect sports, I believe in the power of equality and parity,” she said. “It is imperative to show women who reach the podium just as men do.”
For more information about the tour locally, visit the Facebook page, Santa Clarita Tour of CA, and for more on the Amgen Tour, visit www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.