Whitney Allison, a woman determined to change the face of women’s cycling, a fighter for equal pay, and a disciplined athlete, took 2nd on Stage 1, 12th on Stage 2, and maintaining 10th GC with support from the Hagens Berman Supermint Pro Cycling Team crew at the Colorado Classic in 2019. Taking second wasn’t easy, and it came after an almost devastating crash where Allison was hit by a driver with an Airstream just a year earlier on a training ride preparing for the Colorado Classic In 2018. With an incredibly long journey, Whitney stood proud on the podium, a lifetime goal and everything she worked so diligently throughout her career.
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“I had a great stage one in steamboat it had multiple different climbs, and the thing everybody was worried about was this last climb called The Corkscrew, and then a quick turn onto a gravel road with a gravel climb and a steep gravel descent,” Whitney tells the story with fury and passion. “It’s pretty atypical in professional road racing to have gravel like that. So I just kept things pinned over the top of the Corkscrew. The valley before the gravel was super windy so I just kept everybody in the gutter. I turned onto the gravel first. Whenever the pace would drop, I would make sure that I pushed the pace, knowing that a lot of people would struggle with the altitude, and just making everybody vulnerable.”
Whitney Allison stands on top of Bingham Hill. Photo by Dewey Chapman.
What was her strategy? “It’s kind of like a rolling descent back into the finish with a small false flat climb, and then a quick right left to the finish. I had pre-ridden the course and decided that the best course of action as an individual rider would be to jump early before the final couple of turns. I put a lot of faith in that idea and let whatever else would happen, happen,” Allison says. “Chloe Dygert, who ended up winning all four stages, had ridden away solo on the dirt. And so I didn’t do anything about that. I kept with my plan and finished second.” Dygert would go on to win women’s Worlds in the time trial and get 4th in the road race a few weeks later.
Whitney is no stranger to the Colorado Classic and the US Pro Challenge that came before. The US Pro Challenge started in 2011 and was a men’s only ride with a massive prize purse and extreme challenges. Professional cyclist Whitney Allison found it troublesome that women were not allowed to ride in the Challenge. Allison designed the Fort Follies Grand Prix in 2013 through a crowdfunding campaign and a great deal of community support. For the first time in the five-year history of the race, the USA Pro Challenge offered a women’s crit at the finish line of Stage 6 of the men’s race. By 2015 Women were allowed their own course.
As the Pro Challenge dissolved, it re-emerged as The Colorado Classic in 2017. By December 2018, the Classic announced to be a women-only race from 2019 forward. The Classic is the only standalone women’s stage race in the Western Hemisphere included in the official UCI calendar. The 2019 edition was part of the USA Cycling‘s Pro Road Tour, and the women’s purse was $75,000, $5,000 more than the purse for the final men’s Classic in 2018.
A Cycling Alliance survey determined, “50 percent of women in the sport still earn only $11,800 or less per year, 17 percent get no salary at all, and a little more than half work second jobs to make ends meet.” Whitney says, “You see the men getting paid anywhere from like five to ten times with the women make.” Bicycle Magazine writes, “Women in Pro Cycling Make Poverty Wages.”
“I admire what the Colorado Classic is doing trying to prove that women in sport are relevant,” Allison says. “People like women’s racing if they have access to it. Colorado Classic was unique in that you’re not comparing the women to the men; you’re just enjoying them independently. So you get to see these women are entertaining. It was cool to be a part of the first edition which was sponsored by VF Corporation.”
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Whitney did accomplish a big goal despite her major catastrophe, but the next phase of her life might not look anything it has in the past. “A big part of being on a road team is a lot of times you are giving up your own personal result for the team goal, ” Allison says. “I think it will be a really good challenge for me to have to reframe a lot of my thinking as a racer and to think about the end result for myself 100 percent of the time.” What that looks like, we will have to wait and see. Whitney wants to explore more of the gravel side of things. She and her husband Zack hosted the Foco Fondo with long-time friend Jake Arnold and will continue. The couple is launching a new endeavor, Bike Sports: bike fits, cycling camps and facilitating bike adventures for people.
So full circle, the Grand Prix Whitney worked so hard on allowing women to ride in the US Pro Challenge when it returned years later. The US Pro Challenge became the Colorado Classic where Whitney was able to see her dreams into a reality. Despite a life-altering crash last year with a driver, Whitney is still fighting for change in every sense of the word.