Ski racer turned cycling coach Alison Powers back in Beaver Creek for Colorado Classic
AVON – Before Alison Powers became the first American cyclist to hold three separate national championships at the same time, she was a professional ski racer.
Powers was on the U.S. Ski Team for seven years before switching to cycling in 2006.
“We had many pre-season ski race camps at Beaver Creek,” she said.
Now the coach of Colorado-based team ALP Cycles Racing, she’s excited to return to Beaver Creek for cycling action this weekend at the Colorado Classic. Beaver Creek’s main entrance will greet riders as they start the most intense climb of the four-stage race, up Village Road through Bachelor Gulch and onto Daybreak Ridge, hitting grades of 14 percent along the way.
Heading back down might be a bit like the Beaver Creek experience Powers remembers as a downhill ski racer.
“They can go way faster down the road on their bikes than cars can drive on it,” Powers said.
Rob Simon, with the Colorado Classic, said after the riders finish seven laps through the town of Avon on Friday, he expects the Beaver Creek section will be exciting for fans.
“We think it’s going to be a thrilling conclusion,” he said.
Skiing to cycling to coaching
Powers top result as a World Cup ski racer was an eighth-place finish in the St. Moritz, Switzerland, downhill in 2000. In 2003 she had a couple of top-30 finishes before a knee injury sidelined her in 2004.
She discovered cycling during rehab, and by 2006 she had earned a spot on the Rio Grande/Sports Garage and notched an individual stage win at the Tour de Gila. She took second overall in the Tour de Gila in 2009 and won the Joe Martin Stage Race in 2010.
By 2013, Powers was the national champion in criterium racing, a title she held for two years. In 2014 she also won nationals in the time trial and the road race, becoming the first American ever to simultaneously be national Ccmpion in all three disciplines of road cycling.
Powers then retired from competition and started the ALP Cycles Racing team, with a goal to grow the sport from a development level and from a teaching level.
“I would see a lot of Colorado-based teams come together and race, but none of the riders really understand bike racing as a team or how to train,” she said. “So we started providing coached team rides, coaches at races, teaching riders how to be better bike racers, how to be teammate, race tactics, how to train, all of that stuff that’s kind of missing at the lower levels of the sport.”
ALP Cycles will be the only Colorado-based team at the Colorado Classic, which will feature nearly 100 riders from five international and four top-20 UCI women’s elite teams as well as the top-four domestic teams in USA Cycling’s Pro Road Tour rankings. The field includes riders from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Colombia, Chile, Russia, Uzbekistan, New Zealand, Switzerland, France, Finland, Cyprus and several other countries.
The race earned a UCI 2.1 category designation, on par with the Tour de Taiwan and Tour of Slovakia. It’s the third-highest level of stage racing in the UCI categories, with UCI WT (Tour de France, Tour of California) being the top level of stage racing, and UCI 2.HC (Tour of Utah, Tour of Slovenia) being the second highest.
The Colorado Classic is one of only 13 women’s races in the world to earn a UCI 2.1 category, enabling riders to earn points for team and individual UCI rankings.
“My dream with (ALP Cycles) is to be a feeder team to the higher level,” Powers said. “We have yet to send anyone to a professional UCI team, but we’re here and we get to race in the professional UCI race.”
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.