By Cynthia Lou.
North Star Grand Prix’s tradition of talent development and world class racing continues as racing starts June 15th, 2016. A proactive supporter of women’s racing, the North Star Grand Prix will once again welcome the women’s pro race.
The women’s race went on hiatus in 2015 due to low registration numbers. The North Star Grand Prix organization used the opportunity to listen to rider’s feedback and design a more tailored program to satisfy the racing objectives of riders from UCI and Domestic Elite women’s teams. .
North Star Grand Prix’s history of active support of women’s professional and elite amateur racing is highlighted by the many programs founded and supported by this organization.
The Collegiate All-Stars program and Pro Chase program offers collegiate and amateur riders, respectively, the chance to compete for spots on the teams via qualifications races held across the country. Athletes participating in both programs receive free race entry fees, a generous travel stipend, pre-race training camp with coaches and support team, host housing accommodations, and the opportunity to test their skills racing against Olympic and World Champion level pros.
Success stories of these talent development programs include:
– Kelly Catlin (Collegiate All-Stars), a World Champion who will represent USA at the 2016 Rio Olympics
– Jade Wilcoxon (Nature Valley Pro Chase), who went on to win the USPro Road Race
– Erica Allar (Collegiate All-Stars), who went on to win the National Criterium Calendar and USA Crits
– Brianna Walle (Nature Valley Pro Chase), who currently rides for UCI WPT team Team TIBCO-SVB, and lists her Top Amateur achievement in 2012 as her career breakout performance
– plus many more past participants who have gone on to receive professional race contracts
In addition to supporting amateur racers, the North Star Grand Prix organization has designed special recognition within the race and across the National Racing Calendar. The Carla Swart jersey is awarded to the racer recognized as best team player by vote from the women’s peloton. Previous years featured the Women’s Prestige Series, a multi-race series within the National Racing Calendar that featured four jersey competitions: an overall points jersey, a sprint jersey, a best young rider’s jersey, and a team competition.
The North Star Grand Prix organization understands the complexities of the ever changing face of cycling and sponsorship.
Support is provided for solo racers seeking a team – often solo riders are matched up to form composite teams. Team sizes in the women’s field are flexible, admitting individuals as well as teams up to eight riders, whereas then men’s field has a three-rider minimum and six-rider maximum.
At $145 per rider, entry fees are among the lowest for a USA Pro Road Tour stage race and dramatically lower than the men’s race entry fee ($215). This is in response to a survey of women racers, who requested a lower entry fee in order that they could race more frequently in a climate of stretched budgets and tense economy.
As North Star Grand Prix organizer David LaPorte has said, “Women’s racing is our top priority because it’s where we can make the biggest difference. We’re all about opening doors for women, not closing them. And we listen to the women. Most of what we’ve accomplished has been because we take good advice.”