Two female Juniors punched their ticket to compete in the 2008 UCI Junior Road World Championships in Capetown, South Africa, July 12-20, by winning the domestic qualifier, the Red River Gorge in Stanton, Ky. A pair of veterans from last year's World Championship squad, Sinead Miller (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Jerika Hutchinson (Mount Shasta, Calif.) will be representing the U.S.
women again in 2008 after earning automatic nominations. Miller, won the road race at the Red River Gorge and Hutchinson, who also won the time trial contest, received an automatic nomination as the reigning Junior World Time Trial bronze medalist.
Junior women to race in Europe as preparation for Worlds & beyond
By: Kathie Reid
High school graduation brings many changes for young people and often the promise of new and exciting opportunities. There aren’t too many graduates, though, who can look forward to racing their bikes on two new continents prior to enrolling in their first semester of college. But that is exactly what Jerika Hutchinson (Mount Shasta, Calif.) and Sinead Miller (Pittsburgh, Pa.), both 18 years-old, will do this summer: They will race with the U.S. Women’s National Team in Europe in early July and go from there to South Africa to compete at the Junior Road World Championships in Cape Town.
Benjamin Sharp, Junior Endurance Program Manager, came up with the idea to send some promising female juniors to race in Europe last year after comparing the racing at U.S. Nationals and the World Championships.
“The racing that we do in the U.S. is a lot different than what they experience internationally,” he explained. Though American juniors have recently made their mark at Worlds – at last year’s Junior Worlds in Mexico, Taylor Phinney earned gold in the men’s time trial, while Hutchinson earned bronze in the women’s time trial and Miller came in 17th – he recognized that it is typically quite a jump to go from national to international competition. He thought it would be a good idea to try to “bolster their experience and hopefully their fitness by giving them some more opportunities to do some international races” prior to Worlds this year. He spoke with Jim Miller, USA Cycling’s Director of Endurance Programs and the man who directs the women’s National Team based in Lucca, and found a few UCI races in Italy and the Czech Republic where junior women would be allowed to race. UCI rules allow for second year juniors or juniors who are racing age 18 to race in many UCI races. USA Cycling is looking to take advantage of that and offer the girls a little more experience. Miller agreed that bringing Jerika and Sinead to Europe to race and train with the women’s National Team will be good preparation for Worlds.
“The roads are smaller and positioning is more important in European races,” explained Miller. “It’s kind of a big part of the education they miss in America. The roads are so big, and it’s so easy to move around if you want to that you don’t really have to learn that skill. Then they go to Worlds and they get on roads that are the size of bike paths. All of a sudden, they can’t find the front of the race if they were given a million dollars.”
Miller is also looking beyond Worlds and toward long-term goals for these young women who he believes have great potential as senior racers. He views this opportunity for Jerika, current Junior National Time Trial Champion, and Sinead, former Junior National BMX Champion and current Junior National Criterium Champion, as similar to the one just given 15-year-old Coryn Rivera (Tustin, Calif.). Miller arranged for Rivera to race with World Champion and Olympian, Kristin Armstrong (Boise, Idaho) at the Nature Valley Grand Prix, which Armstrong won for the third straight year.
“We’re trying to expose the younger girls to the opportunity to work with more elite women and see what the level is – how to act professional, what’s expected, and what goes into their preparation,” he said. In Europe, Hutchinson and Sinead Miller will train and race with National Team members Katharine Carroll (Sausalito, Calif.), Carmen McNellis (Durango, Calif.), Chrissy Ruiter (Bend, Ore.) and Alison Powers (Boulder, Colo.), and both are thrilled at being given this opportunity.
“I was really, really excited about it …I think it’s a great opportunity to go over and ride and just learn a lot from the road racing over in Europe,” said Hutchinson. Neither she nor Sinead have ever been to Europe, and both believe they will learn a lot not only from Europe’s more aggressive races, but from the U.S. women who will mentor them.
“I look forward to racing with all the great women over there,” Sinead Miller said, “and really learning from … how they ride over there … I hope it’s like a wake-up call to get me to train more because I have heard that everyone over there is a lot stronger … Hopefully, I can learn better race tactics by getting help from the U.S. pro women cyclists already over there, too.”
With their high school graduations just weeks behind them, both Jerika and Sinead are clearly looking toward bright futures. Hutchinson is on Team Tibco’s development squad and intends to continue racing for them when she begins classes at College of the Siskiyous just 10 miles from her parents’ home in the fall. Sinead Miller is the only woman on a club team in her hometown of Pittsburgh, UPMC Cycling Performance, and is currently faced with choosing between attending the University of Pennsylvania or Marion College in Indiana. She is intent on becoming a chemical engineer, and though Marian College does not offer an engineering degree, they have offered her a substantial cycling scholarship, so she is considering an undergraduate chemistry degree there with the goal of engineering in graduate school. If their respective professors ask them what they did over their summer vacation, they’ll likely be surprised by the answer.