Professor’s Passion for Cycling Garners National Attention

Published: August 01, 2014 | Author: Olyvia Myer | Read Time: 3 minutes

Professor Nichole Wangsgard creates state's first women's cycling raceAfter today you’ll never use the phrase “like a girl” in a negative connotation because women from all over the nation are congregating in Cedar City, Utah for the inaugural Cedar City Grand Prix — Utah’s first premier cycling event for women on Monday, August 4, so watch out boys.

The creation of this event has come after years of persistence from many dedicated cyclists, including Nichole Wangsgard, Southern Utah University’s special education associate professor. An advocate for equality in cycling for many years, Wangsgard sees this event as a chance for women to show that biking “like a girl” is a compliment.

“In cycling, women’s power to weight ratios and power outputs are similar to men’s," Wangsgard explained. “When women race a hundred miles, they do a great job and their times only slightly vary from men’s. Women can do the same distances as the men.”

Over the past few years, Wangsgard has met with national race organizers pitching the creation of a woman’s race, but was met each with no.  

“We’ve been saying to promoters ‘give us a chance!’ We really think we could accomplish the same feats as men, we just need to be given the opportunity to try,” she said.

Earlier this year, in an exciting turn of events, the opportunity finally came when administrators with the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah — a professional six-day stage race that begins in Cedar City — agreed to a welcome the debut of a women’s race.

Wangsgard and others, including Bobby Cannon, the race director, sprung into action. Word quickly spread across the country and participants began to cycle in. With 50 plus women participating in the initial Cedar City Grand Prix, organizers are thrilled with the level of competition going to take place. Wangsgard stated that there even is a woman who took sixth at the inaugural women’s race La Course by Le Tour de France participating.

Wangsgard will also be cycling in the event with a highly decorated career as a professional cyclist. Beginning cycling while a doctorate candidate, she took to the trails to help brainstorm her dissertation, pondering on proposals and chapters while spinning.

She said, “I’d come home and after a big, long ride and I would write it all down and it would come out fairly smoothly. Getting my degree and becoming a professor was always my number one goal, however, in that process, I discovered cycling.”

By the time she arrived at SUU, cycling had become a vital part of Wangsgard’s life. “My colleagues were very supportive. Every day I would go on my daily bike ride, then all of a sudden I was racing and actually winning. My career came first and cycling was there as a healthy outlet.”

Soon after her first race, Wangsgard signed with national teams and her successes continued as she moved from race to race. In 2012, she beat Olympians and other fierce competitors, in the biggest race of her career, and then, to everyone’s surprise, retired the next year to start a family. Now the mother of twins, she continues to fight for women in cycling through organizing and promoting women’s races.

The Cedar City Grand Prix will occur in downtown Cedar City on Monday, August 4 at noon on historic Main Street. All are welcome to cheer on this pioneering event in women’s sports.

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