For the first time in five years, an Arizona women’s team will compete in a Pro Road Tour stage race.
Canyon Elite Women’s Racing will take their talents all the way to Fayetteville, Ark. Thursday to Sunday to battle the best teams in the country at the Joe Martin Stage Race.
“This is definitely our biggest race as a team so far,” team director and member Reiley Pankratz said. “We are looking at it as a huge opportunity to race with some of the best women’s teams and learn by competing at this higher level.”
Pankratz, who began racing as member of the Arizona State University cycling team, decided she wanted to form a team of Cat 1 and 2 Arizona riders exactly a year ago, and over the summer and fall off season, it came to fruition.
It’s the state’s first women’s elite team since around 2011 when Missing Link Coaching Systems/Specialized Elite Women’s Racing and TriSports sent riders off to the Pro Road Tour, which was then called the National Racing Calendar.
Force of power
By recruiting some of the strongest riders in the state, Canyon Elite has been force of power in local Arizona races this season with wins at nearly every local race they attend.
Kimberly Lucie, the team’s top rider, Pankratz and Lindsey Ryder – all original Canyon Elite members – will compete at Joe Martin, along with a crew of four Arizona-based guest riders – Irena Ossola, Mel Beale, Kat Salthouse and Maureen McAuliffe.
Ossola is the most seasoned rider of the crew with a pro contract riding for Sas Macogep Acquisio propulsée par Mazda from Quebec, Canada. Salthouse, Beale, Lucie and Ryder all have past and/or recent experience at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, though guest riding for different teams.
“This will be helpful because they know what to expect and can help set expectations for the rest of the team,” Pankratz said. “Nothing can substitute the experience of actually racing so it will be advantageous to have some teammates who can give us some better insight. We can learn a lot from them.”
They also have the coaching support of experienced pro riders in Phoenix’s Anna Sanders (Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling) and Erica Zaveta (Team Maxxis Shimano Cyclocross).
Sanders said Canyon Elite is a talented group of riders and that Joe Martin will be a great way for them to break into the Pro Road Tour.
“The courses will suit their strengths, especially the circuit race on Saturday since it has several punchy climbs,” Sanders said.
Pankratz said although the team plans to get more experience, they will reassess standings after the time trial on Thursday and support a rider who may be in a general classification position.
“We are looking at it as a learning experience but aren’t going into the race feeling like we can’t compete with some of the other big players racing, so we will still be strategic with our team tactics,” she said.
Lucie, who competed at Redlands earlier this month as a guest rider for Jakroo, said she believes Joe Martin will fit her strengths better with its rolling terrain without mountain finishes.
“Redlands is a hell of a race so I think having survived that is a boost of confidence for sure, and having gotten out those first big stage race jitters is nice, so I’m feeling pretty good about this weekend,” she said. “Obviously my immediate goal is get to the crit and then wiggle my into the [UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling] blue train.”
More info: Joe Martin Stage Race