Chicago Women's Elite
Women category 1/2 racers have come together to form a new sustainable, cycling development program aimed at enabling Chicagoland category P1/2 racers to compete effectively as a composite team in PRO races. Directed by Alison Powers, the team is set up for huge growth and development. To ensure continual growth of the program, development efforts will support the needs of local riders with aspirations of racing at the P/1/2 level.
With only a handful of professional women’s cycling teams throughout the greater Midwest and competition across ridership and sponsorship continuing to tighten, Chicago Women’s Elite Cycling (CWEC) was founded in January 2015 with three primary goals: 1) to create a unique opportunity for elite female cyclists to come together and form a collaborative team unlike any other, 2) focus on the development of long-term rider talent and team cooperation more than just race results, and 3) sustainably grow and manage a non-profit organization with the support of a wide network of athletes, coaches, financial supporters, and advisors
Daphne Karagianis, the CWEC co-founder, explains, “The local women’s racing scene in Chicago is dynamic and exciting. To maintain this energy and continue to grow the quantity and quality of racers, CWEC riders will compete on their local Chicago teams, mentoring their teammates, and encouraging other local racers to excel. CWEC will also partner with race teams and promoters to co-host development clinics and training opportunities. For nationally recognized races, CWEC riders will join forces in representing Chicago, and compete as a team, which will be more effective than racing individually. CWEC will invest in a team director to provide guidance and direction to advance the team dynamic and performance.”
Chicago is under-represented in the pay-out positions in P/1/2 races nationally. The number of P/1/2 racers from Chicago ranks amongst the lowest of the major U.S. cities. Attempts to consolidate elite Chicago racers onto a “super team” were both short-lived and drained the vibrancy from the local racing scene. With a vision to become a sustainable organization for the benefit of all Chicagoland women racers that aspire to compete at the PRO level, CWEC will remain a composite team structure that is not reliant on any particular sponsor.
"If CWEC existed when I started racing, I would have been so excited and motivated by having a real goal of rising to that level. It's so great that Chicago women now have a way to go further in racing than previously possible." said Annie Byrne of BFF Bikes. CWEC aims to provide racers with the tools they need for success, and keep riders inspired and committed. This little difference in the Chicagoland area can make a big difference in cycling programs nationwide.
CWEC has established relationships with other organizations that are similarly focused on improving women’s racing, such asWomen’s Cycling Association (WCA). Robin Farina, WCA CEO says, “CWEC is a unique organization which could be the solution for building the women’s racing scene in the major cycling cities of the U.S. Unlike California, most states or regions do not have enough elite racers to compete locally and develop skills and performance to compete nationally. The WCA looks forward to working with the CWEC to build a support program for elite women racers in Chicago and beyond.”
In its inaugural season, the team participated in 24 races; captured 6 professional podium finishes; hosted 7 rider clinics with 145 participants; and began to foster an unparalleled community of cyclists, sponsors, and friends throughout the Chicagoland area. Through CWEC’s combined efforts, the team has begun to deepen and grow women’s cycling across the city with elite racing opportunities, development clinics, mentorship programs, public discussion forums, and more.
Notable 2015 race finishes for CWEC included 3rd in the USA Crit Series Glencoe Grand Prix, 3rd Overall Category 2 Top Amateur Competition at Tour of America’s Dairyland, 1st in 2015 Midwest Road Race Championship, and Intelligentsia Cup p/b SRAM Series Leader Day 3. CWEC also received its 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation, which allows for greater independence with a diverse roster of supporters. Unlike professional cycling teams that rely solely on the support of one or two sponsors, CWEC’s multi-year financial success is solidified through various corporate sponsors, individual donors, and community grants.
2015 was a memorable year for CWEC, but co-founder and team captain Daphne Karagianis notes, “We’re truly just getting started. 2016 is poised to be even more exciting with national race opportunities and a robust schedule of rider clinics and informational workshops for cyclists of all skill levels.”
2015 Team Roster
The 2015 Road Team Roster has been finalized and includes Chicago Cuttin’ Crew’s Daphne Karagianis and Jannette Rho, PSIMET Racing's Kelli Richter and Sarah Szefi, and XxX’s Ellen Ryan. USAC licensed racers interested in participating on the CWEC team can view the 2015 Rider Selection Criteria and submit a request. The team is accepting guest riders for the 2015 season.
"CWEC 2015" From left to right:
Danielle Arman, Tenspeed Hero (Rider)
Cathy Frampton, PSIMET Racing (Co-Founder and President)
Ellen Ryan, xXx Racing (Rider)
Daphne Karagianis, Chicago Cuttin Crew (Co-Founder, 2015 Team Captain, Rider)
Kelli Richter, PSIMET Racing (Rider)
Sarah Szefi, PSIMET Racing (Rider)
Jannette Rho, Chicago Cuttin Crew (Rider)
Leah Sanda, PSIMET Racing (Team Manager)
Francine Haas, Pact-DISH Network (Head of Development)
The team will kick off its 2016 season by participating in the invite-only Joe Martin Stage Race (UCI) in Fayetteville, Arkansas. CWEC will make history as the first Chicago-based women’s team to participate in a UCI race. This April race will be a critical opportunity for CWEC riders to compete alongside well-known pros while having greater exposure to top recruiters and sponsors. If CWEC didn’t exist, elite Chicagoland individual riders could not participate on this national invitation-only stage.
The summer of 2016 also brings anticipation, as CWEC will host the Women’s Midwest Road Race Championships in their home city. The race will be held in August and is still in planning. CWEC will compete in dozens of races across the country in 2016, from Missouri to Vermont to Minnesota. The team will also host rider clinics and development workshops on important topics such as Planning Your Racing Season, Course Reconnaissance, Skills and Handling, Vision and Group Riding, and more. These workshops are open to the public and offer participants the chance to learn from seasoned professionals and to connect with peers and community partners. To learn more about CWEC’s 2016 race schedule, workshop series, or to suggest a future event or rider for the team, visit www.chicagowomenselite.com/
CWEC is dedicated to remaining close to its roots, even as it grows and thrives. Chicago has a vibrant and competitive local women's bike racing scene. CWEC wants to continue to improve that local scene by providing Chicagoland women elite racers the opportunity to race on a national, competitive platform, in order to advance their skills and bring back their experiences to share with the community. The organization will never be just a team of motivated athletes; its success depends on an interconnected family of volunteers, mentors, friends, and donors made up of women, men, local businesses and entrepreneurs, like-minded nonprofits, community organizations, and more.
CWEC greatly welcomes your contributions of time, van, guest room, and financial support. All financial and in-kind donations are tax deductible. Your support will help build a stronger, dedicated community of positive and empowered female athletes. Let's inspire the next generation of female cyclists Learn more at www.chicagowomenselite.com/support.
CWEC has established partnerships with local Chicago businesses, Tenspeed Hero and PSIMET Wheels. Owner and co-founder of Tenspeed Hero, Luke Batten, says "We are excited to be supporting the team, and most importantly CWEC, helping to create a long term platform that seeks to support women's cycling for years to come." Rob Curtis, PSIMET owner and founder, has a passion for road racing and believes strongly that women’s racing deserves better support. In 2014, PSIMET Racing made a significant financial investment to sponsor a composite team that competed at the Joe Martin NRC Stage Race in Fayetteville, Arkansas. CWEC is proud to have Tenspeed Hero and PSIMET as sponsors and welcomes additional sponsors that have a passion to see women excel in this sport, not just locally, but nationally.
The 2015 foremost initiatives on which CWEC is focused include developing the organizational structure, building reciprocal relationships within the Chicago race community, obtaining funds, identifying a team director to work with the racers to develop their talents as a team, creating the development program to enhance rider skills, not only of the CWEC riders, but also those within the Chicago community that have aspirations of joining the CWEC team, and competing effectively in selected races.