Exergy Tour - the new and highest ranked stage race for women in the United States this year - released its route yesterday. Just in its inaugural year, the race appears poised to make a big entrance with five stages offering a bit of everything. The race is centered around Boise, though its intention is to showcase all different aspects of Idaho. Heather Mill, the Marketing, Communications, and Events director for the race, says:
Idaho isn't just mountains, it isn't just downtown Boise, or lake and river front Canyon Country, or small farm communities, it is a mix of all of these and the people that call them home. We have been welcomed by all of these people and plan to show their communities to the world.
In that spirit, the route should showcase every type of rider, from time trial specialists to sprinters, climbers, and breakaway artists. Really, the route looks as good as it gets for five days of racing.
May 24: 3.2km (ITT), Boise
Who loves a race that starts with an out-and-back prologue? I do! Kirstin Armstrong and Ina Teutenberg are sure to do battle here in a short prologue. It's not an uphill TT, but with 25 meters of climbing in only 3.2km, it sounds like there's a wee rise or two that could be where the winning difference is made.
What about the rest of the stages? Click through for more!
May 25: 120km, Nampa
The TT riders have their chances on the first day, but now it's time for the sprinters and breakaway artists to duel. GC oriented teams will keep a tight leash on things though, as time gaps from the previous day's prologue will be small indeed. This stage has three stout climbs gaining about 200m each, two of which have Queen of the Mountain points on offer. The last climb, which looks to be the easiest, comes with about 25km to go. From the top, it's 20km of gradual downhill to the line. Me? My money is on a bunch sprint, but I bet the break almost sticks this one.
May 26: 17km (ITT), Kuna
Man, these mechanics don't get much of a break do they? Time to get the TT rigs polished up and ready for service again. There is another out-and back TT for today that I suspect really favors Evelyn Stevens. It has a climb in it, but it's soooooo gradual - my calculations put it at 1.8% for about 3km. Really, that's a false flat, if that, for these women. This should be where gaps really start opening up in the GC, though expect the leaders to be within 30 seconds of each other still. Tight racing, yay!
May 27: 93km, Crouch - Idaho City
Climbs! For real, this time! This is a short stage, but that just means it will be raced that much faster. And the ladies, they get a touch of altitude this time with the two major mountain passes both summiting over 6,000 feet (1.830 meters for you Euro folks). The first climb is the hardest by far, 11km at around 5%. The second comes after a short descent and is approximately 7km at 4%. Afterwards,it's time to plunge about 27km to the finish in Idaho city.
These aren't crazy gradients or lengths, but on such a short stage they will be more than enough to open up the GC racing. Personally? I'd expect a select group of 4-5 to come over the top of the final climb together and then get joined by another 5-10 riders on the run into the finish. Some of the riders high up the GC will drop out, but not too many. Which sets us up for a cracker of a final stage..
May 28: 75km, Boise
Circuit race time! And I like to think the organizers made quite a nice little circuit for the ladies to race on. They encounter the first QOM climb after a mere 10km and the profile looks to have virtually no flat ground between then and the flat final 5km. Most of the climbs are in the 4-10km range and there are nine distinct lumps on the profile, though only two hold QOM points. Really, why so few? Encourage some David Moncoutie like jersey winning escapades, organizers!
The peleton will depart Boise for three laps of a circuit with two substantial climbs per lap, then go over two final climbs on the run back into the city. This is where the race can explode if one of the GC contenders is on a good day and has a strong team. With such a short race, aggression will be the name of the game. If it's not, I'll be surprised. Especially since the last climb is a short 2km kicker that summits 5-6km from the line. YEAH!
The Exergy organizers have certainly made this a route which has stages for every type of rider. A short TT, long TT, sprint stage, and two very different climbing stages. The race is balanced to keep racing tight between the pure TT specialists, the climbers, and those who can do both pretty well. If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on Evelyn Stevens taking her first big GC win, though fighting Amber Neben to get it is going to be tough, tough, tough. But most of all? I just can't wait to watch!
The Exergy Tour website has lots of information, including the best farmers markets to hit while waiting for the stage finishes. Food! These people, they thought of everything. But, that's enough chatter. Go check out their site, it's as well planned as the route.