Kowalski's Markets Collegiate All-Stars at Nature Valley
For the past five years, six of the top female collegiate cyclists have come together to form the Collegiate All-Stars Cycling Team to compete at the Nature Valley Grand Prix, an elite stage race in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The team is selected based on the individual omnium results at USA Cycling Collegiate Road Nationals, and the riders are given the unique opportunity to compete at the top level of their sport, receiving full support the entire week. It’s their chance to live the pro life, and possibly earn a spot on a real professional team, as 10 veterans of the team have already done.
This year, the team consisted of: Elle Anderson (Dartmouth College), Kimberley Turner (Seattle Pacific University), Robin Bauer (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Missy Erickson (Fort Lewis College), Holly Mathews (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and Laura Ralston (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). For both Anderson and Turner, this was their second time on the squad, while the rest were all rookies. And under the guidance of Team Manager John Barron, they landed Anderson in 27th place overall, and second in the top amateur competition.
Despite having competed against one another at collegiate nationals just a few weeks prior, the team gelled extremely well. “We had great team cohesion and we had great support,” Erickson said. “It felt natural to be racing with the girls I had been competing against. We talked about how nationals played out, and what happened during the races, and our favorite things about each course. We compared our teams and shared stories about things we did as collegiate teams. But, in the end, we came together like a ‘normal’ team would.”
“They all recognize that the Kowalski's Markets Collegiate All-Stars is a rare opportunity,” Barron added, “and with that, they were all very receptive to the guidance that I gave them. I have a lot of experience managing the All-Stars Team as well as professional trade teams at the Nature Valley Grand Prix. By giving them the right information that they can put into action, we act, look, and feel like a seasoned team.”
The team worked together so well, in fact, that all six women remained in the action going into the fourth stage, something that had not happened before. Unfortunately, the crash-marred Uptown Minneapolis Criterium, which was eventually nullified, took out Bauer and Ralston in a 39-rider pile-up.
“With one lap to go in the Uptown Criterium on Friday night,” Barron said, “we were poised to do just that, but an unfortunate crash took down a big part of the lead group, resulting in [Robin Bauer and Laura Ralston] sustaining injuries - these riders were forced to DNS on the penultimate stage.”
Fortunately the rest of the team soldiered on to contest the following day’s Menomonie Road Race, which Erickson cites as her proudest moment of the week.
“During the Menomonie road race, I was suffering from the start,” Erickson said. “Before the feed, I had fallen back in the race, in the caravan, and had to use the cars to get back on to the field. It was fun using the cars, but it was hard. It took me a while to get back to the field, and about five miles later, I had popped again. I got bottles from the car as they came by, drafted off our car for as long as I could, and then was left on my own. The part of this I consider to be my most successful accomplishment was when the sweep van came through and asked if I wanted to get in the van. I saw other riders inside and, for a second, I thought about what would happen. And I told him no. I had about 35 miles left on my own at that point, and as he drove away and said, ‘Good luck,” I ventured on. I finished the race, within the time cut, and was able to continue on. But that race taught me a lot of things I would never experience in collegiate cycling.”
The level of racing, Erickson said, was definitely harder than what she and her teammates encountered on the collegiate circuit.“With the combination of Olympic, world, and national champions in the field, the pace was constantly high and team-tactically run,” she said. “I have never raced at this high of a level in my entire life, and it was a shock coming from collegiate nationals into this high caliber of racing.”
Barron, though, was duly impressed by how the girls performed on such a demanding stage.
“I am most proud that each of the women was able to get excellent position at various points in each of the stages,” he said. “This showed great poise, focus, and gritty determination. One of the most challenging aspects of racing in the pro peloton is getting into a favorable position in the group - the highest GC riders don't want them there!”
“ The collegiate cycling program at USA Cycling,” he continued, “has proven to me, for the last five years, that collegiate women racers are a force to be reckoned with in the pro peloton. News and race results from Kowalski's Market's Collegiate All-Stars alumnae bear this out. I get a warm feeling when I read about the huge successes they're achieving as professionals in some of the biggest races in the United States, and indeed the world.”
For future athletes aspiring to be one of the next group of girls to enjoy this incredible opportunity, Barron advises only that, “They need to be willing to listen, learn, and take seriously the things that their support staff shares with them. If they are not good students at this event, they run the risk of failing dramatically on the bike. With the support of their director, mechanic, soigneur, photographer, and massage therapist, they have all the tools they need (along with their legs) to succeed.”
And in the words of Erickson: “Keep your goals small…. Go as hard and race as smart as you can every day - you never know what can happen.”
Kowalski’s Markets Collegiate All-Stars Cycling Team Final GC:
Elle Anderson – 27th
Holly Matthews – 46th
Kimberly Turner – 53rd
Missy Erickson – 54th
This Article Published June 28, 2011 For more information contact: