Three Metromint Cycling women donned their cycling uniforms for the first inaugural Tour of California Women's Criterium in Santa Rosa. A fourth woman was key to their involvement working behind the scenes to make help the others be successful. Elis Bradshaw (cat 2), Amanda Eaken (cat 1) and Jane Robertson (cat 1) represented Metromint Cycling in this historical race and Allison Krasnow (cat 3) was profusely thanked by each of them for helping them to prepare smoothly and stress-free.
This year is the first time that the Tour of California has included a women's race, and based on the energy, spectator turnout, sponsorship, and interest, it is bound to happen again next year. Elis saw this as "an opportunity to make history in a way that bike racing doesn't often allow. You often hear about the history/legacy of a race, but it isn't very often that you get to be a part of the first edition of such a large-scale race as the Tour of California." Being the first NRC race on the calendar (ahead of the traditional season NRC openers) brought out a field of big names in women's cycling. For Jane, the biggest difference between this race and other races that she has competed in, she said, "was the sheer quality and depth of the field. There were national champions, Olympians, etc." This was also by far the biggest field she had raced in with the largest number of cheering spectators with cowbells. Amanda concurred saying, "The race was surreal. Every time we passed the start/finish or the section of the course directly opposite the start/finish on the parallel straight away, the cowbells were clanging and the crowds were screaming so loud you could barely hear yourself think. I have never been in a race with such an energetic and supportive crowd. They even threatened to drown out the announcer, who I just barely made out to say, two-hundred and fifty dollar prime on the next lap."
For the team, this race provided some substantial publicity, especially when Amanda Eaken won the sprint for the first prime of the race (the cool $250 prize)! Elis noted, "We're hoping to send riders to several NRC races this year, so having the season opener be so near our homes and having our friends, family and teammates there to watch and cheer is a huge confidence booster!" There were many members of the 'blue dots' out cheering for their teammates on the course.
It wasn't only the team members who were happy to see the women's race. As Elis rode from the parking area to the start, three fans on bikes came up next to her and asked about her race. They all surrounded her and said they were her first three "groupies" and promised to cheer her on. "I gave them all three of our names and I'm pretty sure I heard them hollering during the race," commented Elis. Creating a high-profile women's race helps to send a positive message to women and girls to get out and try the sport.
Allison helped the trio out when they found that parking for local teams was a good 10-minute bike ride from the start line, while the big pro teams (the ones who have soigneurs to get their numbers and register for them and all that) had VIP parking up along the course. The parking lot had a smattering of local teams who had to fend for themselves and many of them did not get in a decent warm-up because it took so long to get their numbers from the right-before-race-time sign-in process. "With Ali's great help all three of us got in a good, long, stress-free warm-up, got pinned and made it to the course in time to take a warm-up lap," remarked a thankful Elis. Great teamwork!