Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies sends eight members of the top-ranked women’s squad to Boise today for the inaugural Exergy Tour.
The five-day stage race is the only UCI 2.1 women’s race in North America this year and will see America’s top ranked Optum p/b KBS women’s team compete against a world-class field featuring Olympic gold medalists, Olympic hopefuls, and world champions.
“The team has proven itself all year on the US circuit with great results in a lot of races, so we are excited to step up and see how we can compete on an international stage,” said Performance Director Rachel Heal.
The race kicks off with a blistering two mile prologue in downtown Boise, which will be a small taste of the challenge awaiting the peloton over the next four days. The women will cover a total of 192 miles and face over 10,000 feet of climbing, the toughest being the stage three ascent of Beaver Creek Summit and Mores Creek Summit. The stage will be a likely determining factor for the Queen of the Mountains jersey as well as the overall winner.
“Stage three, the queen stage is likely to prove very selective for the overall race, but with stage 4 being another tough one, I’m expecting the race to go all the way to the wire,” said Heal.
The competition features a who’s who of the best athletes in the world. Among the competition is Giorgia Bronzini of team Diadora-Pasta Zara, a world champion in 2010 and 2011, and Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong of team Exergy-TWENTY12.
Despite the fierce competition, the Optum p/b KBS team has proven itself time and time again throughout the team’s inaugural season, and comes into the race with a great deal of momentum generated from Jade Wilcoxson’s third place finish in the women’s TT event at the recent Amgen Tour of California, not to mention Sebastian Salas’ phenomenal victory in the men’s King of the Mountain’s competition.
“With the example set by the men at California, expect to see the Optum women gunning for a jersey or two in Idaho,” said Heal. “In a lot of ways, this race is the equivalent of the Tour of California for our season here in North America, so everyone is extremely motivated.”
Also on the minds of Olympic hopefuls Janel Holcomb, Carmen Small, Joëlle Numainville, and Leah Kirchmann is the interesting fact that the race will be the last chance to obtain Olympic qualification points as the four fight for spots on Team USA and Team Canada, a very real possibility in the buildup to the 2012 summer games in London.
Exergy Tour Roster
Thursday, May 24th
Start: Boise, Idaho
82 feet climbing
Finish: Boise, Idaho
Friday, May 25th
Start: Nampa, Idaho
1800 feet climbing
Finish: Nampa Recreation Center
Saturday, May 26th
Start: Kuna, Idaho
256 feet climbing
Finish: Downtown Kuna
Sunday, May 27th
Start: Crouch, Idaho
4520 feet climbing
Finish: Idaho City
Monday, May 28th
Start: Boise, Idaho
3700 feet climbing
Finish: Hyde Park