The UCI Women’s WorldTour is slowly but surely beginning to fledge into a recognised and well respected event as the female peloton is finally receiving the recognition it deserves amongst the cycling community.
The talent within the pro-peloton at the moment is bursting to the brim; with established riders such as Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolmans), Anna Van Der Breggen (Boels-Dolman), and Marianne Vos (WM3 Pro Cycling). And then with younger and exciting riders such as Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling) and Hannah Barnes (Canyon SRAM) pushing through, the future is looking extremely bright for the sport.
But, one nation that has and is still producing some super talent is our friends across the pond, the USA. And just like in the male peloton where a number of top American riders ply their trade, so to can be said of the women’s peloton.
Riders like Megan Gaurnier (Boels-Dolmans) and Alexis Ryan (Canyon SRAM) are currently lighting up the women’s scene. Gaurnier and Ryan might be familiar to the mainstream fans of the sport, but one rider who has often flown under the radar is UnitedHealthcare’s Katie Hall, and the Californian based rider spoke to me over Skype to discuss all things women’s cycling and more.
Hall’s ultimate aim is to challenge for a GC
Too many women cycling fans here in the UK, Hall might not have come up in conversations, so just what type of rider is Hall?
Hall said that she is a bit of an all-rounder, who has a good TT and on her day can climb with the best. If you look into the 30-year-old’s palmares you will see the gradual progression over the years into a rider that is challenging for overall victories in stage races. And for someone who didn’t own a bike between the ages of 7 and 22 her results are impressive.
In 2015 she was 4th overall at her own race the Amgen Tour of California, taking victory in the first stage en-route to her 4th overall. In that same year she also took the Mountain’s jersey at the Tour de Femenino de San Luis.
The next year, Hall then claimed the overall victory at the Tour de Femenino de San Luis, but her big result was her overall mountain classification win at the Women’s Tour of Britain.
The longer stage races are certainly what make Hall tick: “I like longer races, they help my strengths better, I love dynamic stage races and I’m especially excited for the Giro Rosa this year,” said Hall.
The ultimate goal for Hall is to become a more consistent GC rider in the same vein as her compatriot Gaurnier.
“I would like to become a more consistent GC rider, I feel like I’ve learned a lot, sometimes I get all my ducks in a line; I’ve got a good TT, I’m good with positioning, I’m good on the hills, but sometimes one piece or another is missing, but my goal is to have everything together to contest a GC,” said California based Hall.
The Spring Classics have just concluded with the newly stated Ardennes week capping off what has been another successful Classics campaign for the women peloton, and for American fans Coryn Rivera produced a stunning ride to win the Tour of Flanders against some big hitters – so there’s been some success.
It’s hard to specialise in both types of racing, very rarely you see a rider taking wins in the one-day races and then in the stage races, except if you’re Peter Sagan. For Hall, the Spring Classics are not really for her: “Last year was my first year racing the Spring classics, I didn’t race them this year, it’s just not my style of racing,” said Hall.
The future for Hall is stage racing, but how did the love affair with bike racing come about?
Hall’s path to professional bike racing unlike many others
For many riders the route into the sport is through talent spotting or having years of experience behind you within the amateur scene – but that was not the case for Hall.
“I didn’t own a bike between the ages of like 7 until I was 22, so I did a lot other sports but didn’t ride bikes at all, until my last year at University,” said Hall.
Her journey started at the collegiate level racing for her University team at California-Berkeley and then for an amateur California team called Metromint Cycling.
The collegiate level was a steep learning curve: “I had strength when I showed up, but I had no idea what I was doing and I really learned a lot there, I had a couple of really good mentors in that team, and just loved it as a place to learn a little bit about racing bikes,” said the 30-year-old.
Doing well in races like the Cascade Cycling Classic and the North Star race in 2013, you might have expected some of the American teams to reach out to her, but instead Hall went to them.
“After those races I just applied to all the teams, like you apply for a job. I wrote a resume, a cover letter and just sent it to all the directors and then UnitedHealthcare called me back so it worked out pretty well for me,” said Hall.
The future is bright for American women’s cycling
I wanted to know more about women’s racing in America, after all some big names have come out of the country in recent years.
Guarnier is currently the standard bearer of the sport for American fans, winning the UCI WorldTour overall amongst other honours such as the Giro Rosa last year. She has firmly cemented her place as one of the greatest American riders.
Mara Abbott and Kristin Armstrong have been other big names before her, and with new talent coming from that side of the pond, it’s an exciting time for fans.
Hall said: “I also think there is a ton of talent in the women’s side professionally in America, we’re a pretty big country and as more people get excited about racing, even races in Europe I just see a whole bunch of Americans at the top spots right now.”
But for Hall there is always room to improve the system to make sure more riders come through in the coming years.
“I wish there were more programs in America that could help kids into cycling. It’s not a standard sport for children to participate in, and I think a little bit more development for entry level programs and kids programs will help,” said Hall.
Featured image credit – Getty Images / Harry How