Friday, July 5, 2013

American cyclist returns to the top (but it's not much of a top)

You probably didn't hear, but an American won on July 4th and has moved into the lead in the world's most prestigious stage race.  

No, the 36 riders who finished ahead of Andrew Talansky in yesterday's stage were not disqualified.

And no, Joe D. didn't finally get that stage win in Austria--and even if he did, Austria is hardly the most prestigious stage race running.

The winner was Mara Abbott, who rode away from the field at the Giro Rosa, the next closest finisher at 1:44 back, on the Monte Beigua peak finish in Liguria, Italy.  In so doing, she claimed the stage and moved into the overall lead.

The eight stages of the Giro Rosa (formerly, the Giro Donne), the world's most prestigious women's race, run from June 30th through July 7th. The race was first run in 1988, usually 9-10 stages, although financial issues led this year to reduce the stages to eight, with each stage passing through one of Italy's eight regions.

Abbott's win was hardly a shock; she is the only American to have won the Giro (in 2010).  Its jagged stages suit her abilities, with yesterday's finishing climbing too difficult even for the great cyclist ever, Marianne Vos, who had, until then, worn the leader's jersey.

If you haven't heard of Vos, multiple world and Olympic champion on the track, in cyclocross, and on the road, let this video be a sort of introduction.

Giro Rosa 2013 - Stage 2 Teaser - How to Ride like a Boss! from Andre Morton Pictures on Vimeo.

Abbot's win yesterday marks a triumphant return, of sorts, for her to the peleton.  Following her historic Giro Donne triumph in 2010, Abbott returned in the kind of shape that bordered on dangerous.  As in, she was skeletal, struggling with an eating disorder.  She finished a disappointing 11th in that race, and dropped out of bike racing.

She turned to yoga, to trail running, where a foot injury led her to finally stop training--and to begin to understand her demons had little to do with cycling.

She found a place in cycling, and returned to form by--unusually for cyclists--gaining the weight she'd dropped in 2011.

The insane part about Mara's story is that as America's best bike stage racer she makes her living as a yoga instructor.  In other words, showing a dozen suburbanites how to tie together downward dog and warrior one pays better than winning the most prestigious bike race in the world.

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