Major players in the local cycling scene recently came together to create a new composite team designed to aid area Category 1/2 women cyclists in Pro races. The Chicago Women’s Elite Cycling team, made up of five of the top women in Chicagoland, represents a first-of-its-kind group that aims to give team members the opportunity to be more competitive in regional and national events.
CWEC brings together Sarah Szefi (PSIMET Racing), Daphne Karagianis (Chicago Cuttin Crew), Jannette Rho (Les Petites Victoires), Ellen Ryan (xXx Racing) and Kelli Richter (PSIMET Racing) on one team in order to help all five women achieve more in races. Danielle Arman (Tenspeed Hero) will be a guest rider for the 2015 season.
“When you go into these big, big races, even though you’re a great racer it’s hard to push into the top spots because they’re dominated by whole teams of riders,” Francine Haas, head of development for CWEC, says. “The one person that goes out there and tries to compete: it’s really challenging. If you go out there as a solid team with everyone having assigned duties, you can bridge that gap to the next level.”
The idea for a team came about late last fall when Cathy Frampton, co-founder and president of CWEC, heard that Karagianis wanted to create a composite Chicago team to compete in 2015. Throughout the remainder of 2014, Frampton and her team worked to identify area Category 1 and 2 racers that would make a good fit for the team while simultaneously developing a system that would allow the cyclists to concentrate on their sport while others, including Frampton, Haas and Leah Sanda, concentrate on logistics.
“We wanted to make sure the racers were able to focus on their training,” Frampton says. “We said we would take the burden of helping to put infrastructure in place so racers could focus on racing.”
While CWEC will compete at races with reputations for providing strong professional competition, such as the Glencoe Grand Prix, the Tour of Montana, the Intelligentsia Prairie State Cycling Series and the Gateway Cup, the women that make up the team will still compete on a local level with their current teams.
“I’m hoping that it drives even more of that aggressive competitiveness locally,” Frampton says. “I feel like we’ve got a great group of women that can and will race as a team and set aside the fact that at the local level they’re competing against each other.”
CWEC leadership also hopes that having a local composite elite team in place will provide cyclists currently competing in Category 3 or 4 with motivation to continue working hard.
“Why don’t we work on building something that people have a goal to shoot for?” Haas says. “Maybe Category 3 or 4 riders will think, •How do I get to be on that team in a few years?’ so we always continue to attract new riders and continue to grow this.”
The concept of a composite team like CWEC is, as far as leadership has found, a totally new idea in the world of cycling.
“We’ve talked with folks nationally—the Women’s Cycling Association, Network for Advancing Athletes, some officials from USA Cycling—•Have you seen this anywhere else?’ and they have not,” Frampton says. “When we are successful in making CWE a sustainable organization that becomes this safety net for women racers [in case other professional team pursuits do not work out], we’ll have a new model that might be the model for other major metropolitan areas to grow women’s cycling across the country.”
In addition to the racing team. CWEC also intends to partner with local races to put on development clinics to help riders build their skills.
“We’ll coordinate with the promoters of various spring races and put on clinics to kind of cut through some of the fears that racers have and educate them as to what they should be expecting, how do you corner, different handling skills and all kinds of different things so that racers are ready and it’s a little less scary,” Haas says. “When people go into a race with a little more confidence and knowledge, maybe they’ll stick around a little longer. We want to set the stage for them to get what they need and continue on in the sport.”
To learn more about the team, its members, competitive calendar and more, visit www.chicagowomenselite.com.